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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Using Old Peripherals With A New Mac; An Update On Freezing Mice!
March 10th, 2000

Greetings folks, and welcome to this week's edition of Ask Dave! Sometimes one person will write in with a slew of related questions that make sense to answer all at once. Such is the case with today's column and a series of questions from Lori Viens. We also have an update on the "frozen mouse" issue from last week, with some fantastic reader feedback. If you have a question of your own, either visit the Ask Dave! Forums, or e-mail it directly to me. For now, we move on to Lori's issues.

Lori Viens writes, "My question concerns hooking up an iBook to a non-USB printer, namely the Laserwriter 360. I have found several USB to serial adapters, but none seem to support LocalTalk devices. What is the difference between 'LocalTalk' and a serial connection, and why don't these adapters support LocalTalk? Is there any way to make this setup work short of buying a new USB printer?"

Lori -- LocalTalk is actually an extension to the normal capabilities of a standard serial port on the motherboard. Not all serial ports support LocalTalk, and on older Macs, LocalTalk would often only work on the printer port and not the modem port. So a USB to serial adapter does just what it says it will do, but unfortunately, USB-based Mac's aren't wired to run a network via the USB ports. Thankfully, though, all USB-equipped Macs are also Ethernet-equipped Macs, and there's a solution here. At least two companies are currently offering Ethernet to LocalTalk solutions. Farallon has their EtherMac iPrint Adapter, and Asante offers this solution via their AsanteTalk adapter. These will plug into your Ethernet port (or existing hub), and allow you to connect to your printer. Once you have one of these devices, just set your Appletalk Control Panel to "Ethernet," open up the Chooser, select LaserWriter, and the printer(s) should appear. These two products also have the added bonus of allowing all the computers on a given network to access the same printer.

and Lori ALSO writes, "I'm also trying to adapt a SCSI Color OneScanner and a SCSI Zip 100 to work with my new iBook, and I have found a USB to SCSI adapter made by Entrega that claims to be compatible. Do you think this will work?

Well, Lori -- you're right. Entrega certainly does offer their USB to SCSI converter, as does MicroTech with their USB XpressSCSI and Adaptec with their USB Connect 2000, among others. I have had experience with some of these devices (though certainly not all of them), and compatibility is limited, at best. You need to make *sure* someone has tested one of these with your particular scanner, software, and operating system combination before getting involved. I should mention here that it is often cheaper to go ahead and replace your scanner with a USB-native device. You can get a great quality scanner these days for less than the cost of many of these adapters, so I would only recommend choosing a USB to SCSI adapter if you have a scanner that's worth quite a bit more (in today's market!) than the adapter you'll be buying to use with it.

and she finally wraps it up with, "Also, is there any way to link-up (network) an old Performa to the iBook?"

Yes, Lori, there is! You have a few choices here. You can add Ethernet to the Performa (assuming it doesn't have it already), or you can use the Performa's LocalTalk port in conjunction with your newly purchased EtherMac iPrint or AsanteTalk adapter that we discussed above. In addition to letting you see printers on the "LocalTalk side" of things, both of these adapters also let you see computers running LocalTalk as well. Definitely a handy solution to a very real problem in today's Mac world!

Freezing Mice - Could RAM be the problem?

After my mention last week of Ryan Lundin's "mouse freezing" problem (see "Frozen USB Mice, Adding ATA Controllers & Florida Vacations!"), I received the following advice in a letter from James Sorenson:

"There is a possibility that RAM is the problem. Ryan says the mouse locks up, but does he know if it isn't just the entire OS locking up? Besides, the problem started right after he added RAM (he committed the fatal mistake of making two changes to his system at once). Adding RAM of different speeds or of lower quality can cause all kind of hard-hangs. Have him try pulling the memory chip and see if that solves the problem."

James is absolutely right here. The cardinal rule of troubleshooting is to only make one change at time! Then test it and only when you are happy with the results should you add something else to the mix. My guess here is that James is probably right -- bad RAM can make your life unbearable! Take it out and see what happens! (See my comments in regards to a similar problem that Melinda had some time ago).

That's it for this week, folks. Enjoy! If you have a question of your own, feel free to head on over to the Ask Dave! Forums and ask everyone, or direct your question to me directly at [email protected].

P.S. Have a Nice Day

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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