The iMac is out, and retailers are reporting record demand, including sell-outs and orders for more iMacs. Feedback has begun to trickle in, and seems positive (one TidBITS Talk participant, who shall remain nameless, claims to have tattooed a tiny iMac on his rump – we won’t ask for proof). Service technicians have grumbled at the amount of time needed to add memory to the iMac (20 minutes or so), which is the most common modification. The question on everyone’s mind is how to connect the iMac to other Macs and existing peripherals, so we thought we’d summarize the main choices. For additional information, check out Apple’s iMac Connectivity Guide and iMac Support Page, plus MacFixit’s iMac Page and MacInTouch’s iMac FAQ.
File Transfer — Anyone upgrading from an older Mac probably needs to move files to the iMac. Possibilities vary, depending on the older Mac’s configuration and the hardware at your disposal. Also, some resellers are offering a file transfer service for iMac customers, and I’d encourage user groups to offer a similar service, perhaps as a membership incentive.
If the old Mac is on an Ethernet network, use personal file sharing built into the Mac OS to transfer files from one machine to another.
If the old Mac supports Ethernet but you don’t have an Ethernet network, there are two ways you can make a simple network. The first way is to buy an inexpensive Ethernet hub (about $50), which might prove useful in the future for connecting an Ethernet-capable printer to the iMac. Second, the cheapest way of connecting two Macs via Ethernet is with a crossover cable, which is a specially wired Ethernet cable that can connect two machines directly. They cost between $4 and $15 from numerous online vendors (search for "crossover cable"), or you can make one if you’re handy with a crimper and have RJ-45 connectors and cable. (Jeff Carlson passed on instructions back in TidBITS-393.) Note that some Macs need Ethernet transceivers to support 10Base-T.
If the old Mac lacks Ethernet capabilities, you can use a LocalTalk-to-Ethernet bridge to connect the two. 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 and microPrint/12. Prices and availability vary, but these devices should be in the $100 to $250 range, and some are available from TidBITS sponsors Small Dog Electronics and Cyberian Outpost.
If your old Macintosh has a modem, you can connect the two modems then use a communications program like ZTerm or ClarisWorks to transfer files. Apple has provided some instructions for doing this. It will undoubtedly be slow and clumsy, but it’s a one-time task. You could also upload and download files via FTP or email files to yourself, but that would be even slower than connecting two modems together.
If you have access to a CD-R drive, burning a CD-ROM of all your files and then copying them over using the iMac’s CD-ROM drive would work well, plus provide an archival backup of the older Mac.
It’s not clear how many USB-based removable storage devices are actually shipping. However, if you can buy one, you have three options for swapping files back and forth. First, if the device supports normal floppies, like Imation’s SuperDisk, you can use floppies to copy important files, although I recommend using a backup program to handle the dirty work of fitting everything neatly onto floppies. Second, if it’s a USB-based Zip drive (which are expected to ship toward the end of the year) and you have access to a SCSI-based Zip drive, you can copy files to the SCSI-based Zip drive from the old Mac, then move the disk over to the iMac’s USB-based Zip drive. Third, if you plan to keep your old PCI-based Mac (this option probably isn’t worthwhile otherwise) you could buy a Keyspan PCI card that provides two USB ports, then use any USB-based removable storage device on both computers.
Finally, if you’re extremely comfortable with a soldering iron and don’t mind voiding your warranty, you can solder a floppy connector onto the iMac’s motherboard. This falls squarely into the "kids, don’t try this at home" category, but hey, it’s a major hack. Finding a floppy drive to connect is a different challenge. Kudos to Stephan Ehrman of c’t magazine for this tweaky tip.
Connecting Printers — The next major iMac question involves printers. Again the possibilities vary widely.
If you own an Ethernet-capable printer, then an iMac can use it with either a hub or a crossover cable.
If your printer supports LocalTalk, buy one of the LocalTalk-to-Ethernet bridges mentioned above.
If you have an old StyleWriter or other printer that plugged into your printer port, you need a USB-to-serial converter. Although Newer Technologies announced one, they’ve since cancelled it. Mac-specific converters are available from Momentum, Inc. – the uConnect enables you to connect any serial device, including printers, and the uConnect for Printers is targeted primarily at printers. The two $84 products ($69 street price) include different software, but they share the same hardware and support most serial devices, though not the Canon BJC-4550, LocalTalk devices, or MIDI devices. For MIDI connections, check out Opcode Systems’ recent announcements.
Consider passing that old printer along to someone with an old Mac, then purchasing a new Epson Stylus or HP DeskJet printer with a USB cable kit. These printers are inexpensive, with prices from $200 to $300. The best option would seem to be the new Epson Stylus 740, which supports both USB and LocalTalk and will be available soon from TidBITS sponsor Small Dog Electronics (see this issue’s sponsorship area). The USB cable kit for the Epson Stylus Color 600 is available, and Epson is reportedly working on one for the Stylus Photo 700. On TidBITS Talk, Joe Finnegan passed on word that HP’s USB cable kit will ship in September.
Connecting Other Stuff — Although most people have wondered about connecting Macs and printers, other devices come up as well.
If you want to connect a joystick, mouse, keyboard, trackball, or other ADB device (though not copy protection dongles), check out the iMate from Griffin Technologies, covered in "Griffin iMates USB and ADB" in TidBITS-439.
Last week in "iMac Hoopla" (TidBITS-443), I mentioned Stalker Software offers several utilities for sharing SCSI devices like scanners and serial devices like modems over a network. In retrospect, I picked the wrong utilities. ScanShare and SCSIShare do much the same thing, but ScanShare is specific to Apple scanners. Instead of LineShare (which lets applications share a single serial port) I should have recommended Stalker’s PortShare Pro, which enables Macs on the same network to share serial devices. Sorry for the confusion, and note that Stalker is offering some iMac specials.
Finally, MacWEEK has uncovered a secret expansion slot on the underside of the iMac motherboard. Apparently it’s reserved for Apple internal use but could be used in the future to add FireWire or DVD to the iMac.