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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...




New Networking Nightmares
August 12th, 1999

Greetings, everyone! I'd like to thank all of you for your comments and praises for my feature article on high speed Internet access in September's issue of MacAddict print magazine. What?!? You haven't read it yet? Well, I'll forgive you. When you're done reading here, you can go on out and get it. But until then... read on! We've got some juicy info today, with tidbits on emulation software, iMac updates, and this first one about sharing your Internet connection in your home or small office:

Dwayne R. Watson writes, "I am attempting a SECOND try, to get the worst phone company in the world, (we won't mention G any T names E except subliminally ; ) to install DSL to my home Mac only network! The first attempt was through them as ISP and DSL provider; answer - "you have too many line loops (?) to your house from the Central Office, but we make a record of those that do not qualify. Thank You." This time my attempt is through an ISP called FLASHCOM in the southern California area. They say I'm 2.5 miles from the C. O. and have contracted with GTE to provide DSL. SO . . . . can I get some insight on WHAT to tell them when they install or IF they install? Can I have the main CAT 5 cable from the "street" go to the "Uplink" plug of my ethernet hub and share to all my Macs? They say I will have one static IP address assigned ; where do I put this in? (Open Transport, Network, etc.) Do I need to worry about a physical or software based Firewall?"

Dwayne -- Hopefully you are able to get your DSL installed. Generally when an ISP "signs you up" for service, they're just going to pass your request off to the phone company. If the phone company told you in the past that you weren't eligible for service, chances are that may happen again. But let's hope not and move on to your question, shall we?

Depending on the level of service you get from your ISP, you will have a couple of different options. If you contract with them for enough IP addresses for each of your computers, then you will be able to just plug the DSL Modem into the Uplink port of your hub and you're good to go. However, if they only provide you one IP address (which is typical of many cable and DSL providers), then you'll have to explore different options of "masquerading" all your computers under that one IP address that you've been assigned.

The easiest solution is a hardware-based router that will do all the routing work and (most of the) configuration for you. There are two solutions out right now, the SOHO2000 from Beadle*Net and the Netopia's R9100 Router. They both work the same way -- plug the DSL (or cable) modem into one port on the back of the unit, and plug your computers into the others (it acts as a hub as well). Then fire up your favorite web browser, go through the routers' simple configuration screens, and you're all set. If you only need to connect 4 computers or less, you can find both of these routers in the ~US$400 price range. They both offer upgrades for people who need to connect more computers.

If that's too much for you to spend and you're willing to spend a *little* extra time configuring things, then you can go for a software-based solution. IPNetRouter from Sustainable Softworks and SoftRouter Plus from Vicomsoft will both perform this same task via software on your Mac. While both recommend that you put *two* ethernet cards in your Mac (one to connect to your DSL/Cable modem and one to connect to the rest of your network), they'll work with just one. There is some merit to having two cards, however, for ease of setup and efficiency. The software packages themselves will cost you less than US$100, and adding another ethernet card should still easily put you in the less-than-$200 range, which isn't bad when you consider what you're getting.

Hope that helps!

Tim Goral writes, "I recently installed the MacOS 8.6 upgrade on my iMac (loaded with plenty of memory, in case it matters to your reply) and almost instantly started having problems. When I tried launching some applications I got a message: 'System Error International Utilities Not Found', forcing me to restart and try again. Sometimes the restart solved the problem, sometimes it didn't. I also rebuilt my desktop and ran Norton Utilities and a version of TechTool to see if anything turned up. Nada. After two days of fooling around with this, I did a clean install of the MacOS 8.5 software, and have had been working great under the error-free system I know and love. I would like to go to 8.6, but I wonder if I missed something. Any idea what went wrong?"

Well, the first thing that comes to mind, Tim, is the various iMac firmware updates that are available out there online. From what I've seen of these, you *must* upgrade before you'll have any success at all with MacOS 8.6. It would be nice of Apple to inform every user every time an update comes out, but they don't do it automatically unless you sign up on their iMac update mailing list (or just read The Mac Observer every day and we'll keep you updated as well!). With that, I'll point you towards Apple' s iMac Support Area where, among other things, you can download all the necessary iMac updates.

If that doesn't help, I recommend resetting your PRAM with TechTool to make sure that there's not some legacy settings out there that would be causing you grief. MacOS 8.6 has run fairly smoothly on all the iMacs I have seen, so odds are good that the Apple update will do it for ya!

Steve in Texas writes, "This weekend I talked my mom into buying an iMac because unlike my mother I am aware that MacOS rules! Anyway, to get to the point, she has to work with PC's at her job so she needs Microsoft Office but when she realized Office 98 was nearly $500 she almost killed me so I thought maybe a program like Virtual PC or Soft Windows may work for her and she could use software she already owns. Finally I guess the real question is which would you recommend for running a Windows version of Office on her iMac and what problems may we run into."

Steve -- As wonderful as emulation programs are, and as fast as computers have gotten, I just don't think we're there quite yet. For me, I see emulation software useful only if you need to run Windows software occasionally, and only if there's no Mac version available. If you need to run a piece of Windows software constantly, either get the Mac version, or get a Windows machine. It's the only way she'll truly be happy. Emulation software introduces a whole new layer of complexity to the process, and also slows things down quite a bit. If you truly want your Mom to reach the state of awareness in which the "MacOS rules", you'll need to give her the best experience she can get. Running the Windows version of Word slowly through emulation on her iMac isn't necessarily going to be the medicine she needs. In fact, it may send her running back to her Windows machine because "the Mac's just too slow!" Software costs money, unfortunately, but it's well worth it in the long run to get the stability and performance she wants.

Kerry Inman writes, "I just bought a new G3 PowerBook. I live in two business worlds - the oil and gas industry, which unfortunately is mostly PC and the art world, which is thankfully mac based, mostly.

I am carrying this PowerBook around, and doing both art related and oil and gas related activities. First day at a new consulting job I realized (duh) that my internal CD-ROM can't read any of the CD s that I need it to read to do my research.

Is there anything I can do to get the CD-ROM drive to read the PC formatted CD-ROMS? (these companies don't issue Mac formatted CDs!)"

Well shame on those companies for not issuing Mac-formatted CDs! Unfortunately, though, this is commonplace, especially in niche markets, like the one you speak of. With that said, though, your PowerBook's CD-ROM drive should be able to read the PC-formatted disks with ease. If you're reading Mac CDs then you most certainly have your Apple CD-ROM extension loaded, but to read PC disks, you need a few more extensions loaded, specifically "Foreign File Access", and "ISO 9660 File Access". Without these, your machine will not be able to read the data on the drive. If you do have these loaded and it still doesn't work, try another Windows CD (something off the shelf like MS Office 97). If that reads and these others don't, then there's something in the way these specific CDs were mastered. But you shouldn't have any trouble once you've got those extensions loaded.

That is, you shouldn't have any trouble reading the CD. As far as RUNNING the software that's on it, well, your Mac won't do that all by itself. To do this, you're a perfect candidate for Connectix's VirtualPC or Insignia's SoftWindows -- both of which provide Windows/PC emulation on the Macintosh. My personal favorite is VirtualPC, but either one should work for you in this case. Be aware (as I said in my last answer here), that you may find things don't run as quickly or smoothly as you'd like. This is a fact of life with emulation software, and consider yourself forewarned!

Eugene D. Sawan writes, "Dear Mr. Hamilton: I can not read any 'Read me Files', because I keep getting a dialogue box that says, 'The application, Simple Text, has accidentally quit due to a type 2 error'. How can I correct this problem?? I have done everything, running Norton Utilities and Tech Tool Pro. I have a PowerMac 8600, and am using MacOS 8.6."

Well, I almost forwarded this message off... when I read "Dear Mr. Hamilton," I thought it was for my father! Thankfully, I kept reading... :-)

In any event, this should be a relatively simple problem to solve. There's two possibilities happening here. One is that you've got an older version of SimpleText on your machine that MacOS 8.6 doesn't like, two is that your version of SimpleText is damaged, and three is that you might have multiple copies of SimpleText out there, which isn't good for anybody!

With that, I recommend performing a few steps. First, fire up Sherlock and do a Find File on all local disks for "SimpleText". Delete every instance of the "SimpleText" application that it finds, and empty the trash. Then put in your MacOS 8.6 CD, do yet another Find File for SimpleText on that CD, and copy it over to your hard disk. This way you'll solve all possible problems - the only version of SimpleText left on your machine will be a clean, working copy of the latest version, which should eliminate any confusion!

That's all we have for this week, folks. Tune in next time to see what goodies we have in store. If you would like one of those goodies to be an answer to YOUR Mac question, send it on over to me and we'll see what we come up with!

Until then...

Have a Nice Day.

(This column was composed while listening to MP3s using SoundJam MP).

is President and CEO of The Mac Observer, Inc. He has worked in the computer industry as a consultant, trainer, network engineer, webmaster, and a programmer for most of the last 10 years. During that time he has worked on the Mac, all the various Windows flavors, Be, a few brands of Unix, and it is rumored he once saw an OS/2 machine in action. Before that he ran some of the earliest Bulletin Board systems, but most of the charges have since been dropped, and not even the FBI requests that he check in more than twice a year.

Ask Dave is here to answer all the Mac questions you have. Networking, system conflicts, hardware, you ask it, he can answer it. He is the person from whom all Mac knowledge flows....


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