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Ask Dave
by Dave Hamilton

He from whom all Mac knowledge flows...

Networking And Mac-to-Stereo Hookups
August 5th, 1999

Good day! Welcome... come in... come in... This week we're back to our usual menagerie of questions, ranging from networking to backups, with something about stereo's thrown right in the middle. It promises to be a great week, folks, so read on! Of course, if you have a question of your own, you can have it answered here by sending it to [email protected]!

Bill Mackesy writes, "We have two (soon to be three) Macs at home under two different roofs (main house and garage/office) that are physically 30+ feet apart. Can I hook up a simple phone-net network using my existing phone lines? (We have two phone lines that both ring under both roofs.) It would come in handy instead of copying to zip and walking outside to the other house. Would rather not use Timbuktu (extremely slow file exchange via modem) or e-mail."

Bill -- Yes, this is now possible thanks to the good folks at Farallon with their HomeLine product. HomeLine allows you to do exactly what you want -- connect your Macs (and PCs, for that matter) with standard telephone lines. It does require an available PCI slot in each machine, so it rules out older Macs and iMacs, but it transmits data at 1 megabit/sec and will also allow you to share a single internet connection amongst all your machines. While it won't work for everyone, it's certainly an alternative to retrofitting your house with network cabling.

Tim Mickus writes, "I have an amplifier with an auxiliary connection port (takes regular stereo cable), and I was wondering if it were possible to connect the audio output of my iMac into that port. Have you heard of anyone doing this?"

Tim -- I do this on almost all of my computers here. It makes life SO much better to listen to music with real stereo speakers and play games with room-shaking sound. That, and there's a few programs out there that even support Surround Sound if your stereo receiver is capable of processing those signals. All you need to do is go to Radio Shack and get yourself a cable that will connect the 1/8th inch stereo output port on your iMac to the RCA ports on your stereo amplifier. Once you've done that, get ready to rumble!

Donald Crawford writes, "I have been trying to get my desktop Mac, a 7500 with a 300 Mhz G3 upgrade, connected to my PowerBook 1400cs with a 217 Mhz G3 upgrade via an ethernet crossover cable. I have things connected and configured correctly, as best I understand: AppleTalk is turned on and is set to 'Connect Via: Ethernet', TCP/IP is set to 'Connect Via: Ethernet', and FileSharing is turned on. I use the 'Book at the office on an ethernet network and it works fine. Am I missing something?"

Yes, Donald, it seems like you are missing something. First off -- with a crossover cable, get one that's built for 100Base-T (I know your computers don't support it, but it makes life easier). Then, even with File Sharing enabled, you still need to tell the computer to share each hard drive. To do this, you must click on the drive itself, go to the File menu and then choose Sharing (or, in recent versions of the OS, Get Info->Sharing). Click the "Share this Drive and all of its Contents" box and you should be good to go. Now go to the other computer, open up the Chooser and click on AppleShare (you must have the AppleShare Extension loaded on each machine). Once you click on it, you should see the name of the shared computer listed. Choose it and away you go.

Of course, that's only going to use AppleTalk, which is slow. For more info on sharing via TCP/IP, see the answer to the next question.

Mark Vescio writes, "I'm dying to learn how to connect two macs via TCP/IP and so far know one is giving me enough information. I have a G3 Laptop and a Blue G3 (both with built in ethernet). I can connect via AppleTalk no prob. I have two healthy patch cords and a friendly net hub. My last try I used & 2 respectively with a subnet mask of Any more info would be greatly appreciated."

The problem here, Mark, is that the Mac OS does not support peer-to-peer file sharing with TCP/IP. The only Apple product that will do so is Appleshare IP, which is expensive and requires basically a dedicated machine. It's too bad, too, because TCP/IP is MUCH faster than AppleTalk, especially when it comes to 100Base-T. With that, Open Door networks sells Shareway IP, a product that adds TCP/IP-based peer-to-peer file sharing to the MacOS. It makes things just as easy as sharing via AppleTalk, and has been around for quite a while. If you're doing peer-to-peer, I highly recommend this or something like it.

Stephen R. Diamond writes, "Everyone sings the praised of Retrospect and Retrospect Express, but I find it deters me from doing regular backups. It is just too expensive to purchase the number of cartridges required to do the kind of backup it wants you to do - keeping files that have been replaced on your hard disk backed up on the cartridge. Its alternative, a full backup, is too time-consuming. I understand the arguments for its backup strategy, and I know that the kind of backup I want to do (replacing files that have been moved or changed, rather than keeping them) is inferior in reliability. But the main thing about backing up is to do it, and users ought to have the option of using the inferior method.

Can you recommend a backup utility that replaces changed and removed files, one that is reliable on its own terms. I am wary of using shareware for backup, at least without a recommendation, and Retrospect seems to exhaust the field today for commercial back alternatives. I hope I am wrong about that - or that a truly reliable shareware alternative is recommendable."

Well, Stephen, most backup software is going to work the way you describe Retrospect working -- it's either going to do a completely fresh backup each time, or it's going to do an incremental backup where it saves new copies of the changed files out there. The reason for this is pretty simple -- most backup software is built to work with tape drives, and you can't really "replace" data on a tape like you can on a disk. You just keep adding and adding to the end. Tapes are not built as "random-access" devices, and therefore do not lend themselves to doing backups that delete and replace files.

That said, there is software out there that will let you do what you want, but it's not necessarily backup software -- it's synchronization software. Using a product like Qdea's Synchronize! will let you automagically replace older versions of your "backup" with newer versions from your hard drive. You just set the folders you wish to synchronize, and let it do its thing!

Once again we come to the end of another round of Ask Dave! This column wouldn't be here without your support, so please feel free to e-mail me your questions and I'll answer them right here!

Thanks, folks!

PS. Have a Nice Day.

(this column written to the blistering sounds of Mother Nature's Thunderstorms.)

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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