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Curious about bandwidth? This week Adam looks at The Race for Bandwidth, a new book he edited for the late Cary Lu. Those installing Ethernet networks should read on for useful details and resources to add to last week's Ethernet primer. News this week includes a Macintosh mailing list database, USB devices from Keyspan, and Aladdin's Desktop Magician, plus upgrades for FileMaker 4.1, Web Confidential 1.0.2, Virtual PC 2.1.1, and Norton Utilities 4.0.
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FileMaker Pro 4.1 Does ODBC for a Price -- FileMaker, Inc. has shipped FileMaker Pro 4.1 for Macintosh and Windows, the latest version of its flagship database product. The most important new feature in version 4.1 is the capability to import information from industry standard ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) data sources, enabling FileMaker users to use information served via products like Microsoft Access 97, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft SQL Server, or Oracle 7. Users can create SQL queries by pointing and clicking through FileMaker's ODBC SQL Query Dialog, and experienced SQL users can enter SQL commands directly. Data from ODBC sources can be incorporated into an existing FileMaker database or used to create a new database on the fly. ODBC imports should be particularly useful for applying FileMaker's extensive reporting and printing capabilities to information stored in high-end database systems. FileMaker Pro 4.1 also supports special features of database solutions created with the FileMaker Pro Developer Edition (including Kiosk mode, custom Help and About items, and renamed Script menus) and recognizes the currency symbol for the euro (ECU).
FileMaker Pro 4.1 for Macintosh requires System 7.1 or higher, a CD-ROM drive, and at least 8 MB of RAM (16 MB or more strongly recommended). FileMaker Pro 4.1 costs $199, upgrades from previous versions of FileMaker (and a host of competing products including versions of Microsoft Access, 4th Dimension, and Corel Paradox) cost $149. Although FileMaker is still inexpensive as database products go, the upgrade price for version 4.1 is $50 higher than Claris charged for upgrades to FileMaker Pro 4.0. Also note that FileMaker Pro 4.1 requires ODBC drivers to import information from ODBC databases; it ships with 30-day trial versions of ODBC drivers from Intersolv, which are certified for use with FileMaker Pro 4.1. These drivers must be purchased separately to be used beyond the 30-day trial period; pricing is not clear, but Intersolv charges in the neighborhood of $750 apiece for its DataDirect drivers. Another option would be to use ODBC drivers from a different vendor, which should work in many cases even though they aren't certified for use with FileMaker Pro 4.1. Frankly, unless you need ODBC access from FileMaker (and can't use a third-party SQL plug-in with FileMaker Pro 4.0), the primary reason to upgrade to FileMaker Pro 4.1 is for bug fixes, and for those I'd just wait for the free 4.0v2 update FileMaker reps say should be available in a few weeks. [GD]
Web Confidential 1.0.2 Released -- Alco Blom has released a new version of his useful password storage program Web Confidential, reviewed in "Web Confidential: Securing Information of All Sorts" in TidBITS-441. Version 1.0.2 addresses some of our minor concerns, including support for arrow keys in the Note field and some confusing category labels. It also groups the categories for easier visual parsing, fixes a crash related to the Platinum appearance being off, and fixes a bug that sometimes caused changes to be lost on save. To update from a previous version, download the new 384K package, install just the application, and replace your previous application. [ACE]
Virtual PC 2.1.1 Update Available -- Connectix has released a free updater for Virtual PC that upgrades Virtual PC 2.0, 2.0.1, or 2.1 to version 2.1.1. (See "Virtual PC 2.0: Not Just a Minor Update" in TidBITS-433 for an overview of Virtual PC.) Version 2.1.1 fixes a problem in Virtual PC's emulated clock chip so that it now correctly understands leap years, and it corrects a problem that sent extraneous data to the COM ports when sharing Macintosh folders or using drag & drop. The Virtual PC 2.1.1 updater is a 740K download; users of Windows 95 or 98 also need a separate 770K Windows updater. [GD]
Symantec Ships Norton Utilities 4.0 -- After a lengthy period of public beta testing, Symantec Corporation has released Norton Utilities for Macintosh 4.0, featuring support for both Mac OS 8.5 and the HFS+ disk format introduced more than six months ago with Mac OS 8.1. (See "All About Macintosh Extended Format (HFS Plus)" in TidBITS-414.) Along with a revised user interface, Norton Utilities components are now PowerPC-native for improved performance, and Norton Unerase can attempt to recover entire folders as well as individual files. Of course, Norton Utilities still features the widely used Disk Doctor and Speed Disk utilities for disk repair and optimization, and a bootable data recovery CD-ROM. Norton Utilities for Macintosh 4.0 should be priced around $100, and requires System 7.5.5 or greater and 16 MB of RAM. Although Symantec's initial press release claimed the new version would work with 68040-based Macs, Norton Utilities 4.0 is available only for PowerPC-based Macs. Symantec says owners of previous versions will be able to upgrade for $50. [GD]
More USB Support from Keyspan -- Keyspan has announced the expansion of its USB product line with the addition of a USB hub and a USB serial adapter. USB hubs enable iMac users to attach more USB devices to their iMacs - although the iMac has two USB ports, one must be used by the keyboard and mouse, and daisy-chaining too many USB devices can cause problems. The Keyspan USB hub will provide four additional USB ports for a list price of $69 in late September of 1998. Keyspan's USB serial adapter, which is scheduled to ship in October of 1998 for a list price of $79, makes it possible for iMac users to connect serial devices like graphics tablets, PalmPilots, and some printers. [ACE]
Macintosh Mailing List Directory -- Apple Computer's Mail List Gnome and noted List Mom, Chuq Von Rospach, recently announced the availability of a totally revamped list of mailing lists related to Apple and the Macintosh. The Apple Mailing Lists site includes both lists that Apple operates and those that are independent and should prove a useful resource for anyone trying to find a list related to a Macintosh topic. If you have a list that's not currently included (Chuq's trying to make this a canonical directory), take a look at some of the currently included lists, then send your entry to <email@example.com>. [ACE]
Aladdin's Desktop Magician Saws Desktops in Half -- Is your Mac's desktop as cluttered as your real desktop? If so, check out the new Aladdin Desktop Magician from Aladdin Systems. It enables you to create project-based sets of files and folders that can be moved to or from the desktop at any time. Plus, Aladdin Desktop Magician can restore the positions of icons on your desktop, which is handy if you change resolutions, fiddle with a video card, or boot from a hard disk that doesn't know about your monitor setup. Other uses of Aladdin Desktop Magician include different desktops for multiple users and improved privacy by hiding sensitive items. Aladdin Desktop Magician costs $20; a free 30-day demo is available as a 476K download. [ACE]
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Not surprisingly, readers deluged us with additional comments, questions, and details surrounding my article "Creating a Simple Ethernet Network" in TidBITS-446. Much of the discussion has taken place on TidBITS Talk, so to review more than I've summarized here, look at recent posts in the TidBITS Talk archive.
Additional Resources -- We received a number of pointers to sites containing additional information on Ethernet networks, including Robert Woodhead's tips-filled tale of installing an Ethernet network, a site containing information on structured cabling, the Three Macs & a Printer site, Ambrosia's Networkable Mac Games Networking 101 page, and John's Closet. All are worth investigating.
Fast Ethernet Backups -- Kudos to Peter Jones <email@example.com> for suggesting a great reason for choosing Ethernet instead of LocalTalk. If you back up a several-gigabyte hard disk over the network, LocalTalk may prove too slow. Add several Macs with large hard disks to your network backup system, and backups may take too long to complete overnight. This is probably more of a problem in a small office situation than a home, where backup speed matters less. For more information on backups, see my series on the subject.
Did We Need Hubs? A number of people argued with our choice of 10Base-2 in our home, saying that we wouldn't really have needed hubs since we could just have run more 10Base-T cable, which is cheap. That's generically true, but our specific situation involved long cable runs that utilize three holes in the outer walls. Running more than one or two wires simply wouldn't have worked physically, which is why I commented that we would have needed a hub at each location. If you're in a situation where the wire is exposed or easily strung over a drop ceiling, say, then you could avoid multiple hubs.
Sharing an ISDN Connection -- Several readers noted that the Sagem Planet ISDN GeoPort Adapter can provide Internet services to all the Macs on your network, much like Vicomsoft Internet Gateway, Vicomsoft SurfDoubler, and Sustainable Softworks' IPNetRouter. Also, Sagem has announced a USB-based ISDN terminal adapter for iMac users. However, Erik Buelinckx <firstname.lastname@example.org> commented that he'd found the performance to be slower for the other Macs on the network.
LocalTalk Printers on Ethernet -- In our recent iMac coverage, we looked closely at putting LocalTalk printers on an Ethernet network, so I didn't think to revisit the topic again. Even so, the topic confuses many people, so here are the possibilities.
Download and install Apple's free LaserWriter Bridge software on a Macintosh that is connected to both your old LocalTalk network (which might be just the printer and that Mac) and your new Ethernet network. LaserWriter Bridge takes the print traffic from the Ethernet network and sends it out via LocalTalk to the printer. Remember that you won't see any speed increases in printing because the LocalTalk network is still a bottleneck. Some people have had problems with LaserWriter Bridge, although it's worked fine for us. Since it's free, there's no harm in testing it. Note that the file linked below also contains an updater for Apple's LocalTalk Bridge, which enables you to share all LocalTalk devices on an Ethernet network. However, LocalTalk Bridge isn't free, and I doubt you can find it for sale.
Buy a hardware LocalTalk-to-Ethernet bridge. A number of companies make these bridges - including networking vendors like Asante, Farallon, and Sonic Systems - and they're often used to make LocalTalk printers accessible to an Ethernet network. Look for Asante's Micro AsantePrint; Farallon's EtherMac iPrint Adapter, EtherWave Printer Adapter, and EtherWave MultiPrinter Adapter; and Sonic Systems' microPrint/2, microPrint/12, and microBridge TCP/IP. Prices and availability vary, but these devices should be in the $100 to $400 range, and some are available from TidBITS sponsors Small Dog Electronics and Cyberian Outpost.
Finally, Stephen Peilschmidt <email@example.com> recommended free print server software that accepts print jobs from a Mac on the network, then sends them on to the printer, freeing the Mac doing the printing from processing the print job. Print servers offer other capabilities as well; if you're interested in off-loading print job spooling to another Mac, check out the 1.6 MB Printdesk Lite 1.5.6 from Nine Bits.
Dayna's Dead -- In my list of well-known Macintosh networking companies, I included Dayna Communications, which is unfortunately now owned by Intel. Worse, Dayna officially closed its doors last month for future product sales. Intel has left Dayna's Web site active (which is misleading, since there's no disclaimer on any of the pages about how Dayna no longer exists) and promises to provide technical and warranty support. You might be able to find some cheap prices on new Dayna hardware for a while, but if the prices are the same, I encourage you to support companies that are active players in the Macintosh market.
Crossover Cable Conundrum -- Several folks observed that crossover cables can be a pain for regular usage. The problem is that unless one Mac is on when you turn on the other, AppleTalk won't sense the existence of the network. The problem is primarily annoying, and Travis Butler <firstname.lastname@example.org> informed us that you can work around it by switching the AppleTalk control panels on both Macs to something other than Ethernet, closing them, and then switching them back to Ethernet. Travis recommended Tim Kelly's $3 shareware FruitSpeak control strip module to simplify this switching. You could also use Apple's Location Manager (which ships with Mac OS 8.1, and is available for PowerBooks running earlier systems) to accomplish the same thing.
Network Security -- When I wrote about sharing files between computers, I should have mentioned that if you're also connecting your network to the Internet, you should be careful to use passwords. Although it's a bit less likely to affect Mac-only networks, I've heard of situations where PC users with cable modems can access their neighbors' files over the Internet connection.
Long Cable Runs -- 10Base-2 networks can have a maximum of 185 meters (607 feet) per segment, whereas 10Base-T networks max out at 100 meters (328 feet) per segment. These limitations seldom come into play, but they're worth keeping in mind if you want to network multiple buildings (something we've considered doing with our neighbors). Data Comm Warehouse has a decent chart showing the variables.
Grades of Twisted Pair Wiring -- When you buy cable for a 10Base-T network, pay attention to the grade of the cable and the components. High-speed networks require higher grades of cable and components than voice or low-speed networks (Kee Nethery of Kagi once ran a LocalTalk network on hot and cold water pipes). Category 3 is the minimum for 10Base-T networks, and Category 5 (called "Cat5") is the minimum for 100Base-T networks. If you're installing new wire, you should use Cat5 cabling, since it's the most likely to work for any future networks.
Multiple Operating Systems -- Peter Wood <email@example.com> asked if there's any problem networking Macs running different versions of the Mac OS? The simple answer is no, there's no problem at all. You might run into a situation where creating the network engenders a situation requiring a new version of the Mac OS, though. For instance, installing LetterRip Pro on our SE/30 was the only reason we bothered to upgrade to Mac OS 7.5.5 and Open Transport (which LetterRip Pro requires).
PC Cards, Older System Versions -- Peter Adams offered two minor points. First, PowerBooks using PC Cards (and possibly Macs using other less common Ethernet devices) to gain access to an Ethernet network may have "Alternate Ethernet" in their AppleTalk and TCP/IP control panels rather than "Ethernet." Don't be confused - if you have only one choice that mentions Ethernet, that's the right one. Second, Peter commented that if you run an older version of the Mac OS, you may need to install Ethernet drivers for your Ethernet card. Those drivers should be included, but if not, download and run Apple's Network Software Installer 1.5.1 (note that it's a disk image and requires either Apple's DiskCopy or Aladdin's ShrinkWrap to mount). If that doesn't work, you'll need to call tech support.
Wireless Ethernet -- Finally, although no one mentioned it, I'd like to throw in a quick comment about wireless Ethernet. A company called Digital Ocean makes several wireless networking products for the Macintosh, but the products have suffered from high prices and poor performance. Digital Ocean's Web site doesn't respond, and I can't find anyone selling these products (Manta and Starfish for Ethernet, Grouper for LocalTalk). However, on the bright side, Henry Norr's MacWEEK news report for this year's WWDC contained a comment that Apple might be working on wireless Ethernet modules for a new Comms Module slot in future Macs. There's no telling if and when this product will come to pass, but in the meantime I'd like to register my vote for an inexpensive wireless Ethernet solution for home networking. I wouldn't even object to seeing it in Bondi blue.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Almost a year ago, Cary Lu, noted technologist and Macintosh author, died after a nine-month bout with cancer. In "Cary Lu Remembered" (TidBITS-399), I tried to convey who Cary was and a feeling for the memories he'd left for many of us.
In that article, however, I didn't mention one final gift Cary left behind - a partially completed book about bandwidth that he was writing for Microsoft Press. He had completed much of it before his cancer was diagnosed, and although the radiation treatment and chemotherapy sapped his strength, Cary clung to the idea of finishing. His energy level visibly increased when he discussed the book, but despite valiant attempts, even Cary couldn't finish a book while battling cancer.
Toward the end, I and Cary's friend Steve Manes, then writing for the New York Times and now for Forbes, volunteered to finish the book. Although we harbored no illusions of being as qualified as Cary, we figured that between us we could tie together the final pieces. Steve spent hours talking with Cary and going over the notes for the chapter about Internet bandwidth, and Cary explained some of the finer points of audio and video bandwidth to me. In the end, though, we were on our own with a manuscript that might have been 80 percent done for Cary and his original schedule, but which was closer to 60 percent done for us, coming in as we did over a year after Cary had set down some of the chapters.
But Steve and I persevered, and digging deep within the Internet, we ferreted out details surrounding the history of bandwidth, satellite radio, and the many standards for television around the world. We merged and moved, edited and extended, and eventually we turned a manuscript into a book - The Race for Bandwidth ($19.99, Microsoft Press, ISBN 1-57231-513-X). Our editors at Microsoft Press came up with illustrations and summaries. And Cary's wife Ellen W. Chu provided a humorous and touching foreword along with acknowledgments for all those who had helped not only with the book, but also with keeping Cary company during his illness.
About Bandwidth -- The book itself contains eight chapters, the first four of which are essentially devoted to background information. It starts by describing what bandwidth is and why it's crucial to our information age, then steps back to trace the history of bandwidth. The "Thinking about Bandwidth" chapter then looks at common misconceptions surrounding bandwidth, such as the fact that a slow boat has a higher raw bandwidth than a fast wire. That's because bandwidth is the measure of the amount of information that flows from one place to another in a given amount of time, and sending a cargo ship with CD-ROMs from New York to London provides far greater bandwidth than the best Internet connection, even though the ship may take more than a week to make the crossing. The fourth of these background chapters delves into analog and digital bandwidth, looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each. In today's increasingly digital world, many people think that digital is "better," whereas in fact, it's difficult even to compare the two. For example, it's easy to say that an audio CD sounds better than an analog cassette tape, but that comparison looks not at digital and analog but instead at examples of high and low bandwidth methods of carrying audio information.
Broadcast bandwidth, both audio and video, occupies the next two chapters, and coming at this from an Internet background, I found researching, editing, and updating these chapters to be fascinating. Cary covered existing types of broadcast bandwidth, as well as those that we're likely to see in the future. For instance, digital satellite radio will start supplanting standard analog AM and FM radio in the next few years. In the United States, the FCC foresees perhaps 4 percent of the population being able to receive digital satellite radio broadcasts in the S band (2310-2360 MHz) by the year 2005. Just north of the U.S. border, however, Canada also plans to move to digital satellite radio but in the L band (1452-1492 MHz), with all existing analog AM and FM stations moving to digital satellite radio by the year 2010. Interestingly, Canada uses the S band for aeronautical telemetry applications, whereas the United States uses the L band for that purpose. It remains to be seen how this conflict will play out, but future radios may not work across the border.
Those interested in the Internet may find the final two chapters the most compelling. First, Cary looks at point-to-point bandwidth - standard telephone lines, dedicated Internet connections, cellular telephones, pagers, and faxes. Perhaps the most important lesson in this chapter is the difference between circuit-switched and packet-switched communications. In circuit-switched communications, such as a standard telephone call, you "own" the virtual circuit the telephone company creates for you: the full bandwidth of the call is devoted to your call. That ownership is important, because with voice communications, silence in the form of, say, a pregnant pause, has meaning. But when you're transmitting and receiving digital data, the communications are inherently bursty: you receive a Web page, spend some time reading it, and then move on to the next one. In this situation, silence has no meaning, so it makes much more sense to share the bandwidth to even out the usage patterns. Such equality is achieved by breaking all communications into packets and sending each packet separately. The problem comes when you attempt to piggyback a packet-switched network like the Internet onto a circuit-switched network like the public telephone network.
Having described the background of how the wires work, Cary looks at how bandwidth works on the Internet itself. In many ways, this chapter is the linchpin of the entire book, since it seems that everyone wants to know more about how the Internet works. That said, I suspect that many Internet aficionados among the TidBITS audience may already know most of the good points Cary makes in this chapter, such as the numerous places in a standard Internet communication transaction that can act as bottlenecks.
Legacies -- Steve and I volunteered to finish Cary's book not just because of our friendship with him but also because we both felt strongly that the information in the book was too valuable to fade away into a dusty legal estate. My suspicion is that everyone will come to the book with some small amount of expertise - perhaps thanks to an interest in shortwave radio or the Internet. My hope is that everyone will leave the book having acquired at least a deeper appreciation for the issues surrounding information transfer in today's world. I know I did: at times while researching some topic I'd stumble into Tonya's office and quote a classic Far Side cartoon: "Mrs. Johnson, may I be excused? My brain is full."
Finally, as a gift for Cary's children - Nathaniel Chu and Meredith Lu - some of us set up a Web site last year so that those whose lives had been touched by Cary could contribute their thoughts and remembrances. Our plan is to print the collection on acid-free paper for the kids. After a year, the time has come to work on the final output, but we want to give everyone a last chance to contribute before we commit to paper. The database itself will remain accessible as long as we can reasonably serve it and as long as Ellen desires, since, along with The Race for Bandwidth, his other books, editorial work, short films, and research, it has become yet another addition to Cary's legacy.
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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