Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
Wondering about the best way to connect a few Macs to share files, a printer, or an Internet connection? Keep reading for Adam's notes on creating a basic Ethernet network. Also this week, Matt Neuburg explains why Conflict Catcher 8 has become his extension manager of choice, and we have news of an Internet Explorer security patch; Apple's iMac Update 1.0; and new versions of Anarchie Pro 3.0, Retrospect 4.1, DoorStop 1.0, Mailsmith 1.1, and SpeedDoubler 8.1.1.
Copyright 1998 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Comments: <email@example.com>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
Northwest Nexus -- 1 888-NWNEXUS -- <http://www.nwnexus.com/>
Internet business solutions throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Small Dog Electronics -- Special Deal for TidBITS Readers!
ATI Xclaim 3D 8 MB PCI Video Card (new) only $159!
UMAX Astra 610s 30-bit Flatbed Scanner (refurbished) just $79!
For Details: <http://www.smalldog.com/#tid> -- 802/496-7171
Cyberian Outpost -- The Cool Place to Shop for Network Stuff!
Hubs, cards, cables, routers, and bridges - they're all here!
Order online today for all your Mac or PC networking needs.
Disk Drive TuneUp & CD/DVD TuneUp 2.0 from Software Architects!
Accelerate hard disks, CD-ROM (especially old drives), and DVD.
Only $76.95 for TidBITS readers - save 52%! >>Download NOW!<<
Internet Explorer Cross-Frame Security Bug Patch -- Microsoft has announced a potential security problem affecting Internet Explorer that could enable a Web site operator to access the contents of your local disks. Dubbed the "cross-frame navigate" issue, the problem affects both Windows and Macintosh versions of Internet Explorer 3.x and 4.x. On the Mac, Internet Explorer 3.01, 4.0, and 4.01 are vulnerable although 3.0 is not; under Windows, any application (such as Eudora Pro) that can use Explorer's HTML engine could also be vulnerable. Microsoft has released a 2.3 MB updater for the Mac version of Internet Explorer 4.01 that fixes the problem; users of Explorer 3.01 and 4.0 must upgrade to version 4.01 and then apply the patch. Although little information is available, Microsoft claims to have no reports of anyone exploiting this loophole. [GD]
Retrospect 4.1 Backs Up Via FTP -- Dantz Development today announced Retrospect 4.1, the latest version of their powerful backup software. The most important new feature, support for Internet backup sets, enables Retrospect to back up to remote FTP servers over the Internet; it's ideal for iMac users. Version 4.1 also includes a new disaster recovery CD that can boot modern Macs, support for additional devices (including DVD-RAM drives), improved speed and reliability, and expanded email reporting. Upgrades to 4.1, which Dantz expects to ship on 01-Oct-98, are free to customers who purchased Retrospect 4.0 after 01-Sep-98; otherwise the cost is $29.95, which includes free updates to Retrospect Clients. [ACE]
iMac Update 1.0 Tweaks USB -- Apple has released the first software updates for the Bondi blue boxes. The first, a new CCL modem script, forces the iMac's internal modem to connect using 33.6 Kbps or slower speeds, possibly alleviating connection problems on noisy phone lines when the modem tries to connect at 56 Kbps. You need this script only if you have significant problems connecting to an ISP using the iMac's internal modem. The larger iMac Update 1.0 improves the compatibility of the iMac's USB drivers with third-party USB peripheral devices. Although Apple recommends that all iMac users install this update, only users with USB devices other than the iMac's keyboard and mouse should notice changes. The 2.1 MB iMac Update 1.0 replaces the entire Mac OS ROM file, and you can find it on Apple's well-done iMac Support site. [GD]
Stairways Releases Anarchie Pro 3.0 -- Stairways Software has released Anarchie Pro 3.0, the latest version of the widely used file transfer program. Anarchie Pro 3.0 now sports HTTP download capabilities including a snappy Finder-like view of links in Web pages and the capability to download Web sites for offline browsing or authoring. Anarchie Pro 3.0 also enables users to resume FTP and HTTP file transfers (provided the remote server can resume transfers), synchronize remote FTP folders, and edit remote FTP files transparently with BBEdit. Much of Anarchie's interface has been revamped, and it offers several clever new touches, including a measure of recent throughput so you can determine if a transfer has stalled, and audio feedback when transfers start and end. Anarchie Pro 3.0 can override Internet Config so other applications can hand common file types to Anarchie for downloading and includes Apple Internet Access Detector (AIAD) actions for handing links to Anarchie Pro from any program that supports AIAD. By popular request, Anarchie Pro 3.0 now saves passwords with bookmarks and supports Apple's forthcoming Keychain, which will offer a secure method of storing sensitive information. Anarchie Pro 3.0 is $35 shareware ($20 if you upgrade from an earlier version), and requires System 7 or higher and MacTCP or Open Transport; it's an 800K download. [GD]
DoorStop 1.0 Released -- Open Door Networks has released DoorStop 1.0, a software-based firewall that promises to improve security on Macintosh-based Internet servers, particularly those providing AppleShare-over-IP services via Open Door's ShareWay IP. Operating only on the Macintosh on which it is installed, DoorStop enables you to block or grant access to specific TCP services - see "Open Door Slams Network Doors" in TidBITS-444 for more details. DoorStop requires a PowerPC-based Macintosh, Mac OS 8.1, and Open Transport 1.3 or later. Single copies of DoorStop cost $299 or $199 for education customers; other volume and site licenses are available. You can download a 680K evaluation version. [ACE]
Mailsmith 1.1 Released -- Bare Bones Software has released Mailsmith 1.1, a free update to the new email client. Mailsmith 1.1 sports significant performance improvements to the underlying database engine, more efficient use of space within the database, enhanced enclosure handling, user-defined labels, contextual menu support, a new Make Filter command for quick filter creation, optional nickname auto-completion, and mailbox maintenance tools. The updater for current Mailsmith users is a 2.8 MB download; there's also a 3.8 MB demo. [ACE]
Connectix Releases Speed Doubler 8.1.1 -- Connectix Corporation has released Speed Doubler 8.1.1, an update to the popular performance enhancing software. (See "Speed Doubler 8" in TidBITS-402.) Speed Doubler 8.1.1 works with the forthcoming Mac OS 8.5, improves compatibility with Mac OS Easy Open, StuffIt SpaceSaver, third-party file systems and storage devices, and utilities (like the shareware FinderPop) that allow items to be copied from places other than Finder windows. Speed Doubler's Keyboard Power feature - which enables users to navigate application menus via the keyboard - has also been completely written and is now PowerPC-native. Owners of any version of Speed Doubler 8 can download a free 750K updater from Connectix. [GD]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Recently in TidBITS, I've been writing about connecting peripherals to the iMac, since it lacks serial, ADB, and SCSI ports. What the iMac does have, though, is built-in 10/100Base-T Ethernet, which is useful for connecting to Macs and Ethernet-capable printers. All this has prompted questions about setting up a small Ethernet network at home. I did this with relatively little fuss or expense, and you can as well.
First, though, why would you choose Ethernet over LocalTalk, which uses PhoneNet connectors and standard telephone wire? Aside from needing to connect Ethernet-only devices, the simple answer is raw speed. LocalTalk runs at a theoretical maximum of 230.4 Kbps, whereas standard Ethernet can theoretically hit 10 Mbps and, with the appropriate hardware, 100 Mbps. In reality, Ethernet seldom achieves that speed on a Mac, but it's much faster than LocalTalk.
What are an Ethernet network's main uses? Fast file sharing, via the Mac OS's Personal File Sharing, is the big one, and printing large files can work much faster over Ethernet. Other uses are less obvious: controlling other Macs via Netopia's Timbuktu Pro, sharing a networked calendar and contact database via Now Up-to-Date/Now Contact (soon to be Eudora Planner), or connecting multiple Macs to a single Internet connection.
This final possibility - connecting several Macs to one Internet connection - bears additional discussion. With the increasing availability and popularity of high-speed cable modems and ADSL Internet connections, Mac users often want to share Internet access with multiple Macs. This requires two parts: an Ethernet or LocalTalk network and special gateway software. I know of three Mac-based possibilities right now, Vicomsoft's Internet Gateway, Vicomsoft's two-user SurfDoubler, and Sustainable Softworks' IPNetRouter. I haven't used these products, but the basic idea is that you run them on the Mac with the Internet connection, and they then convince other Macs (or PCs) on the network that the Internet connection is available.
Ethernet Cabling -- Now that we've established what you might want to do with an Ethernet network, let's get down to the details. The first decision you must make is the sort of cabling you want to install. There are essentially two choices, although many networking people might disagree. Let me explain. There three basic types of Ethernet cables: 10Base-T (sometimes referred to as twisted pair), 10Base-2 (also known as thin Ethernet), and 10Base-5 (also called thick Ethernet). 10Base-2 and 10Base-5 use coaxial cable, and 10Base-2 uses a round BNC connector that looks like connectors used for cable television and TV antennas. 10Base-T uses cabling that looks a bit like standard telephone cabling but has an RJ-45 connector that's larger than telephone RJ-11 connectors.
10Base-T is the unchallenged standard in Ethernet networking, and many would argue that you should never use anything but 10Base-T. I haven't heard of anyone using 10Base-5 recently, and it's difficult to find hardware that supports it. 10Base-2 is the odd one, and I mention it because it can be easier and cheaper to use for small, static networks than 10Base-T. Here's why:
10Base-T typically uses a star configuration for the network, with a hub at the center of the star. A cable leads from the hub to each computer on the network, or to another hub, thus linking multiple stars. Hubs are relatively inexpensive these days - in the $50 range. However, at our house we have four widely separated sets of computers - my office, Tonya's office, our server room, and the kitchen - so we'd need four hubs. When we installed our wiring, buying multiple hubs seemed excessive, so we went with 10Base-2, which you can daisy-chain like LocalTalk. Each end of a 10Base-2 network must be terminated with a 50-ohm resistor, but otherwise you can keep adding devices to the chain wherever you want.
The advantage of 10Base-T is its flexibility and robustness. If a cable breaks, only a single machine drops off the network. Plus, it's easy to add or remove new devices quickly, which is helpful in a dynamic office situation. In comparison, if something happens to a cable in a 10Base-2 network, the entire network fails. Adding a new device also interrupts network traffic until you restore the chain. However, since our computers seldom move, and since our cabling is well-installed, 10Base-2 made more sense at the time and saved us a few hundred dollars.
In general, I recommend 10Base-T, since it's easier to find devices that work with it. However, if you have a specific situation like ours and you have a friend who knows about networking, a 10Base-2 network may cost less. The two aren't mutually exclusive, and we have a hub in the kitchen because our recently burgled PowerBook 5300 and its PowerBook G3 replacement support only 10Base-T. The hub has a single 10Base-2 port, so it's just another device on the 10Base-2 cable, and from the hub, we can attach up to eight 10Base-T devices.
Ethernet Hardware -- It's important to decide on your Ethernet cabling, because that affects the choice of hardware you buy to connect your Macs (or PCs - Ethernet is platform-agnostic) to the network. Be careful to make sure to match any hardware with the cabling you've chosen. Although a variety of manufacturers sell Ethernet hardware, you're unlikely to go wrong with the main Mac networking companies, such as Asante, Dayna, Farallon, and Sonic Systems. In most cases with Ethernet hardware, you can shop purely on price.
10Base-T built in: Recent Power Macs and PowerBooks have RJ-45 jacks for 10Base-T cabling. They need no additional hardware, and if you want to connect only two devices, you can use a cheap 10Base-T crossover cable.
Ethernet transceivers: Many 68K Macs and earlier Power Macs have an AAUI port for Ethernet access. That port accepts an inexpensive (about $25) transceiver, which in turn provides either 10Base-T or 10Base-2 connectors.
PC Cards: PowerBooks with PC Card slots can accept Ethernet PC Cards. Since PC Cards are so thin, most come with a dongle that attaches to the edge of the PC Card and provides an RJ-45 or BNC connector. It should be possible to find a PC Card that supports BNC connectors, but the vast majority of Ethernet PC Cards connect only with RJ-45 jacks. You can also find combination modem/Ethernet PC Cards, though they're twice as expensive as the $100 - $150 Ethernet-only PC Cards.
PDS, NuBus, CommSlot, or PCI Ethernet cards: Most Macs accept some form of internal expansion card - even compact Macs like the venerable SE/30 with its Processor Direct Slot (PDS). Depending on the age of the Mac, it may be difficult to find an Ethernet card. These cards are inexpensive - generally under $50. If you want to connect a PC into your network, you'll need a similarly inexpensive Ethernet card (PCI for newer PCs, ISA for older ones).
Ethernet-capable docks: The PowerBook Duo series lacked onboard Ethernet but could connect to docks that provided Ethernet. It's difficult to find a Duo dock with an Ethernet port today, but you might find a used one.
SCSI-to-Ethernet connectors: It's possible to run Ethernet through a Mac's SCSI port, but since this is the slowest and clumsiest method, hold it as a last ditch effort. The only company still making SCSI-to-Ethernet adapters that I know of is Dayna, with the Pocket SCSI/Link.
Making the Connection -- Once you install your hardware and hook up the cables (hubs and Ethernet cards often come with booklets explaining the basics of networking), you're ready to configure software.
The Mac OS includes all the software you need. First, open the AppleTalk control panel (or the Network control panel if you aren't using Open Transport) and set it to use Ethernet rather than the printer port. If you plan to hook your network to the Internet, you also must tell the TCP/IP control panel to use Ethernet - the rest of the settings depend on your specific situation. If you plan to share files, turn on file sharing in the File Sharing control panel (Sharing Setup before Mac OS 8).
I've found that the easiest way to share files on a personal network where you own all the Macs is to log in as the owner. To do this, use a single Owner Name and no password when filling in the Network Identity settings for all your Macs. Then, when you connect to a remote machine using the Chooser, you won't have to type a new name or password. Better yet, it doesn't matter if you've shared any volumes or folders by selecting them and choosing Sharing from the File menu. If you want to restrict access, first configure user names and passwords in the Users & Groups control panel, and then set up access privileges for individual items in their Sharing windows.
After file sharing is active, or if you've connected a printer to your network, in the Chooser click either AppleShare or LaserWriter 8, as appropriate. The remote Mac or printer should appear in the right-hand pane, and double-clicking it will select it for mounting or setup. If nothing shows up in the Chooser, check that the remote Mac is set to use Ethernet and has file sharing active, that any printers are on, and that the cables are plugged in securely.
Adding a PC to a network is easy on the hardware side of things, since you just install a card and plug in cables. Software is more difficult. Windows should detect card's presence and install the drivers or prompt you for a disk containing them. Then you must enter the correct settings in the Network control panel. It's beyond the scope of this article to explain how to do that, but concentrate on TCP/IP components, since TCP/IP is a protocol common to Macs and PCs. With it properly configured, you could run a Macintosh FTP server, for instance, and connect to it using a Windows FTP client. Other products you may find useful for sharing files and printers between Macs and PCs include DAVE 2.0 from Thursby Software Systems, PC MACLAN from Miramar Systems, COPSTalk 2.1 from COPS, and Timbuktu Pro 32 from Netopia.
Most of the time, networks, particularly simple ones, work right away, though, so it's likely that you'll be up and running within minutes of plugging in the cables and configuring the proper control panels.
by Matt Neuburg <email@example.com>
Perhaps not everyone has, as I do, dozens of icons marching across the screen at startup and a system heap hovering around 23 MB, but concern for extensions must be universal. Who has not wondered what strange System Folder denizens a software installation will engender? Who hasn't been mystified by "ODBC Setup" or "jdgw.ppc"? Who hasn't installed a fresh system and groaned at the prospect of migrating extensions into it? Who hasn't blamed a crash on some "extension conflict?" Who hasn't feared to add or remove an extension, lest this upset the delicate balance of a working system?
I think I've made my point. Extensions - everyone's extensions - need management.
For years, I managed my extensions with Now Startup Manager, until it began to cause trouble instead of averting it, sending me back to Apple's Extensions Manager. Now I use Jeff Robbin's Conflict Catcher 8.0.1, from Casady & Greene. How it compares to its predecessor I can't say, though the program has long been a favorite amongst other members of the TidBITS staff (see our reviews of previous versions). This I do know - nothing will remove Conflict Catcher from my Mac any time soon.
Sees All, Knows All -- Conflict Catcher can manage everything in your Extensions and Control Panels folders, including Chooser extensions, shared libraries, QuickTime components, and faceless background applications. It can also, if you desire, manage fonts, Apple Menu items, contextual menus, Control Strip modules, browser plug-ins, or anything whose effectiveness depends upon presence in a particular folder. And Conflict Catcher distinguishes between files that actively load during startup and those that do not, and lets you change the loading order of the former.
Conflict Catcher also tells you the purpose of each startup file - it includes a user-modifiable database of such information. The database is extensive, though you shouldn't throw out your copy of Dan Frakes's InformINIT.
Conflict Catcher comes preconfigured with a number of "groups" - collections of "linked" extensions to be enabled or disabled together, or pairs which must not be enabled simultaneously, or which must load in a certain order. Conflict Catcher lets you modify these groups, and construct your own. When you have many extensions, this feature is essential for tracking what you use and why, and for making changes in a consistent manner.
The main thing I don't like about Conflict Catcher is the interface through which you manage groups. In a pane of its main window, Conflict Catcher lists the files in any selected group. But you can't click a name in that pane to learn more about that file, or drag names into or out of the pane to change what belongs to the group - and only "link" groups are shown. To create or modify groups, you must shuttle between a horrible modal list of group names and a crippled, non-resizable version of the main window. This part of the interface needs serious rethinking; it's infuriating, and worse, it may discourage users from taking full advantage of groups.
Conflict Catcher also comes preconfigured with various "sets" - a set being the entire suite of files present at startup time. It knows the default set for your specific system version, so you can revert to a clean setup. And of course you'll be making your own sets: the set you use most of the time, a minimal set for installing software, a set for finicky games, and so on.
Conflict Catcher's knowledge of which files go with which system version forms the basis of its system merge feature. When you install a new System Folder, either for upgrading or for maintenance purposes, Conflict Catcher takes the pain out of migrating files from the old System Folder to the new. I have not tried this feature yet, but it looks promising, and Casady & Greene promises an update when Mac OS 8.5 goes final.
Keeping Your Eye On the Ball -- Conflict Catcher reports how much memory your extensions occupy. Unfortunately, this information appears to be unreliable. For instance, Conflict Catcher thinks the Open Transport groups occupy no RAM at all, whereas experimentation shows they take up as much as 1.5 MB. TattleTech's report is better but still not accurate; possibly some system limitation inhibits tracking such information internally.
Conflict Catcher records the installation date of new startup items; this simplifies learning what was just installed. It also lists type and creator codes, how long each extension took to load, and even, in most cases, which company is responsible for the extension.
In viewing a list of startup files, you can sort on these types of information and others, which is incredibly useful. You can also generate reports which can be printed or saved. Reports are the only place where you learn certain other TattleTech-like details, such as which patches are being trapped by which extensions.
Among its many other capabilities, Conflict Catcher lets you "bless" a particular system folder (so you can keep more than one in the same partition). It can treat aliases as originals, meaning that some of your startup files can be mere pointers, with the actual items living elsewhere. And it helps you do a true desktop file rebuild, by trashing your invisible desktop files for you.
The manual, written by long-time Mac author David Pogue, is fine (and the fact that Casady & Greene hired him to write the manual lends credence to Adam's suggestion in "The Death of Documentation" in TidBITS-428 that professional authors are one solution to our current dearth of decent manuals). David's style is not my personal cup of tea, but many people like it, and he makes you want to read the manual. The manual is well worth reading, especially since it includes many troubleshooting tips, some having nothing to do with Conflict Catcher.
Catching Conflicts -- After rearranging my monitors recently, I started seeing a graphical glitch in some documents. So I decided to try the feature from which Conflict Catcher derives its name. In case of trouble caused by an extension or an incompatibility between extensions, Conflict Catcher helps automate the process of restarting repeatedly, intelligently loading subsets of your extensions in a binary search that eventually isolates the source of the difficulty. After about eight restarts, ten minutes, and one cup of coffee, Conflict Catcher isolated my second monitor's graphics accelerator card driver as the source of the problem. I might have guessed this (and Conflict Catcher's Intuition feature can take advantage of such guesses), but I have better things to do.
Even if I hadn't experienced this conflict, Conflict Catcher immediately did five things for me that made my life better.
Every time I start my Mac, I know I'm in good hands with Conflict Catcher. And if I ever need to weed out a troublesome extension or migrate to a clean system, I know that Conflict Catcher will help out. I love it, and I bet you will too.
Conflict Catcher 8 costs $80 and consists of an 8K extension, a 1.2 MB application, and the 1.1 MB database. Owners of previous versions can take advantage of a $30 mail-in rebate that expires 01-Jan-99, and those using other extension managers can try a 1.1 MB demo version.<http://www.casadyg.com/products/conflictcatcher/8/>
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue