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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

DSL Speeds W/AirPort, Remote Administration, & RAM Limitations
June 2nd, 2000

Greetings, folks, and welcome! Today we have an especially saucy offering for you! We discuss the relative speed of Airport connections when used for Internet access, remote management of far away Macs, and RAM requirements for newer machines! If you have a question of your own, feel free to e-mail me or ask in the forums. Otherwise, it's a good one today, folks, so read on!

Eric Corwin writes, "I recently had a DSL connection put in my house, and with the great help from the folks at Apple, they got me up and going with Airport. Earthlink DSL doesn't officially support Airport, so I can't tell you how appreciative I am of the Apple techs who worked over 6 hours with me on the phone until they got it going. Anyway, one question for you: My DSL with Airport lets me surf the Internet at quicker speeds than a dialup connection. Is the DSL with Airport as fast as if I used the DSL with a ethernet connection? If not, how much slower. I just wanted to find out if I'm truly experiencing DSL speeds. Thanks for the courtesy and keep up the great work for us Apple fans."

Eric -- You're probably getting the best speeds you can out of your Airport-based connection to your DSL line. Let me explain. Ethernet runs at one of two speeds nowadays (typically) -- 10 Megabits per second and 100 Megabits per second. This *roughly* translates to theoretical maximums of 1 Megabyte and 10 Megabytes per second, respectively. Airport runs at 11 Megabits per second (so a little faster than the slowest Ethernet). However, those are all theoretical maximums. In reality, you'll probably never get that out of any of the aforementioned connections, at least not sustainably. Ethernet is affected by hub quality, cable resistance, and the like. Airport is affected the most by distance from the base station and interference from other sources. The connection will slow down the further you are from the base (or the more interference you have). Airport also uses transmission protocols that are commonly described as "chatty." This means there's a lot of data-flow overhead to make the connection happen that takes away from your available bandwidth. That said, your DSL line most likely doesn't even come close to reaching speeds that would challenge the theoretical maximums here. Most DSL connections run between 384k/s and 1500k/s, depending on the distance you are from your provider. For reference a 1500k/s connection is approximately 1.5 Megabits. So it's barely reaching 10% of the theoretical maximum of the Airport or Ethernet connections. With that, I don't think you'll see any difference in speed moving between Ethernet and Airport for your DSL line.

"Razor" writes, "My company is setting up an office in another state and I was wondering if there was any remote management software I could use on the Mac's we will be setting up there."

Razor -- Depending on what you want to do, my recommendation would be to use something like Timbuktu or VNC. Both of these packages offer "remote control" capabilities for the Mac. You set up one Mac as a "server" and connect to it with another "client". Upon connection, the screen from the remote Mac is presented to you (in a window or full-screen mode), where you can see what's on the other Mac. In addition, your keyboard and mouse work as though you were sitting in front of it! It's very handy, and allows you to change settings, help users (by working with them or "showing" them on the same machine), and even restart if you have to. However, I recommend using something like Autoboot in the event the machine actually crashes and you can't get in via remote.

Timbuktu is more full featured than VNC, but it costs money while VNC is available for free. VNC only provides for remote control over the Internet, while Timbuktu allows for dialup connections as well and will also perform file transfer, chat, and many other useful functions between the two machines.

Greg Norman writes, "I'm hoping you can help me with a question I can not find an answer to in my documentation. I have a B&W G3 with 2 x 128 (256megs) ram . I would like to add anther 256megs of ram. Can I add just one 256 chip card to the existing ram, or do I have to add 2 - 128's?"

Greg, the Blue & White G3s allow you to add RAM one module at a time without any trouble at all. So long as you have slots, you can add any size RAM you like and it will see it in addition to whatever you already have in there. Your instincts aren't unfounded, though -- many older Macs required RAM to be installed in pairs, and it was only until recent years that we were able to install chips one at a time. Do make sure, though, that the RAM you buy for your B&W G3 is PC100 compliant, otherwise you'll have more problems than you ever imagined!

That's it for today, folks. Have a great week, and feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] or ask in the Forums if you have a question of your own!

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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