The Low End Mac Mailbag

Internet Sharing, Mac vs. PC Design, Low Income Macs, and OS X Migration

Dan Knight - 2003.06.06 - Tip Jar

Networking Challenge

Mark Rothlisberger writes:

I'm a Mac user with not much money but quite a bit of old equipment. I would like to network a couple of systems together, but my attempts have been stymied so far. If you could point me in the right direction or tell me if this is possible, I would be very thankful.

I have the following computers:

and the following equipment:

  • 3Com Superstack II ethernet hub
  • plenty of ethernet cords
  • an external modem

Is it possible to get all of these computers on a little home LAN? Can I somehow share a modem-based Internet connection between them?

Thanks for any help you can give me.

If you're running OS X on your iBook, you can use Internet Sharing to share your dialup connection with the two other computers - once you've got that network up and running.

It sounds like you have everything you need. It should be as simple as running a standard ethernet cable from the hub to each computer and then making sure each computer is using ethernet for both AppleTalk and TCP/IP.

And if you're not using OS X yet, there are a couple of programs for the classic Mac OS (SurfDoubler and IPNetRouter) that will let you do the same thing - but not for free.

Internet Sharing Questions

Max Troell wonders:

I read your article about sharing an Internet connection. I have some questions that I would appreciate if you could help me with.

I am connecting to the Internet using an analog modem, and I have two Macs connected through ethernet. I tried to do as you did but probably missed out something. I get from my Internet provider an IP (10.0.3.39), and then I set the IPs in the ethernet configuration for the two computers to 192.168.0.2 and 192.168.0.3. They have the same subnetmask. Their IPs are different from the one I get from connecting using PPP - is this wrong ?

What am I doing wrong here? I have searched the net for information, but I only get detailed information of how to set it up using a cable modem or using AirPort.

First, you'll probably find it easiest not to manually assign the address to your second computer. Use DHCP; the Mac connected to the Internet and using Internet Sharing will provide the IP address and other information that computer needs.

Likewise, you shouldn't need to manually assign an IP to the computer doing the sharing.

In both cases, your local network will have IP addresses in the 192.168.x.x range, which is explicitly set aside for local networks. Your Mac with the Internet connection will translate the local address and use the IP address assigned by your ISP via PPP while connected to the Internet.

Max Troell later wrote:

I managed to set up my computers successfully. The trick was to do the setting in a specific order:

Two computers connected either with a twisted TP cable or connected through a hub. One computer having a working modem connection to Internet provider.

  1. Set up the built-in ethernet for the computer having the modem: allocate an IP (e.g., 192.168.0.2) and a subnetmask (255.255.255.0)
  2. Start Internet sharing under Sharing
  3. Set up the built-in ethernet for computer 2 - chose "using DHCP"

That's it - now you can access the Internet on both computers.

I do not know if it matters if I have the modem connection up and running while I do the settings 1-3. I did but It probably work without.

Your article helped, but some information was left out that was crucial for me to get it right.

Glad to hear it's working. We already had all of our computers set up for a shared Internet connection using a cable modem, so I didn't have to make any changes to the client computer.

You do have to have an Internet connection active before you can enable Internet Sharing, but step 3 could go anywhere in the sequence.

Mac vs. PC Design

Randy Brutno writes:

Regarding PC design vs. Apple design. Your comment, "The Power Macs look far less cool than most Windows PCs these days," is a view I don't share, although everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Design is subjective.

However, at the CompUSA by me, I never see anyone ever actually touching a PC - but most in the Mac section are constantly touching and using them. Possibly these are potential switchers or Mac users trying new things, but I feel it is because Macs invite use, and draw customers in.

In the PC section, they talk to salesmen about specs - in the Mac section they speak to the Apple rep and actually try the machine with or without the rep. Buying a PC is a non-emotional purchase; the same cannot be said for many Mac purchases.

The chairman of Audi once said, "People shop horsepower but buy torque," meaning that the driving experience reigned supreme in selling Audis, despite the perceived shortfall of horsepower Audi experienced to its competitors at that time. In similar fashion, people shop processor speed, but if they ever chance a visit to the Mac side of the store, will soon learn about the Mac's advantages - by doing. Apple's designs help draw them in.

Apple has been using the same basic Power Mac design since January 1999. They've changed from blueberry to various shades of gray, added strange little ports, and put mirrored drive doors on, but they're just recycling the same old case.

That's no longer true in the PC world. Apple has inspired PC makers to go beyond drab beige boxes, and the evidence surrounds you at CompUSA or any other computer retailer. After the initial response to the iMac - putting some brightly colored panels on bland PCs - the industry has embraced visual design. For the first time in memory the HP boxes are actually attractive. The Sony Vaios are also nice looking.

Granted, the PC boxes tend to be more utilitarian and design-for-design's sake (who really needs a window that lets you see dust accumulate inside your computer?), but there are some designs that Apple could learn from.

Design is subjective. I think the eMac is ugly, but that wouldn't stop me from buying one. I think the G4 iMac looks like a refugee from a bad science fiction movie; I'm not surprised it has not shared the success of the original "gumdrop" iMac design. The iBooks and PowerBooks are great, and the Xserve is gorgeous.

But the Power Mac has become pedestrian. The Cube, although it was a marketing flop, was a design masterpiece. If Apple could apply some Cube, Xserve, and 'Book lessons to the next generation Power Mac, it could become the kind of head turner it was four years ago.

I agree that buying Macs is more of an emotional experience. That's part of the reason we're hesitant to part with our old ones. And it's part of the reason we raved over the Cube and G4 iMac without buying either in droves. The whole thing has to work, and when function is compromised by form (the power switch on top of the Cube is a prime example), we reject it.

And people do play with the Macs. They watch the movie trailers on the Cinema Display. They interact with the demo machines. Nobody seems to do that with the Windows PCs; they just watch the autorun demos.

Handling is probably the Mac's strong point. It invites experimentation, while Windows tends to be intimidating. If only we could get more Windows users to try it, I'm sure more would buy it.

Low-income Macs

Ted Parks writes:

I belong to a couple of the Low End Mac discussion groups, Quadlist and 1st PowerMacs.

A Spanish professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., I am getting ready to teach a basic computer literacy class at my son's elementary school, which is about 80% Hispanic. Pepperdine donated some Macs, mainly pre-PCI and later, but all pre-G3, and I have slowly added other machines, mostly 68k, to my collection. I am going to give the parents who complete the class one of the machines.

Because of your experience as publisher of Low End Mac, I wanted to ask if you knew of other programs similar to the one I am involved in. My dream (at this point, admittedly, only that) is to have a nonprofit that would perhaps refurbish Macs for low-income parents, perhaps also buying the licenses to assemble a software library for the machines.

What is being done in this area? Is this kind of program common?

Thank you.

P.S. I have seen references in some of your postings to a Reformed web site. I am a Christian as well, though from a different tradition, the churches of Christ. We have Reformed roots, the founders having come from a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian background. Our polity still reflects our roots, but our theology, heavily influenced by Enlightenment pragmatism, contrasts Reformed thought.

I don't know of any organization that does what you're discussing, but I know a lot of teachers who collect, refurbish, and distribute older Macs, sometimes as loaners and sometimes as gifts.

As for ReformedNet, that got started even before Low End Mac. I enrolled part time in the M.A. program at Calvin Theological Seminary hoping for a degree in missions and church growth. I loved most of the coursework, shared some of my research on my personal website, and eventually decided that I just don't have the temperament for church work. I'm a geek. I'm great an number crunching and analysis, but my people skills are unpolished and my desire to deal with church politics is precisely zero.

I'm still Reformed in my convictions, but I no longer belong to a church in that tradition (directly due to an encounter with church politics at our last church in that tradition). I appreciate the diversity within the various Christian traditions; all churches cannot be alike because all people are not alike. There are some points that cannot be negotiated without denying the gospel, but on most other things there are honest disagreements that cannot be resolved by quoting scripture - otherwise they would have been settled once and for all ages ago.

Migration to OS X

Responding to Thinking Too Different: Why Mac Users Are Slow to Adopt OS X, John Konopka writes:

I will agree in part, the open and save dialogs in OS X are primitive. I miss the Action Files which was only for OS 9. Other than that I am very happy with OS X. When I have to use a computer running OS 9 I kind of stumble around, feeling my way. I'm glad to leave it behind.

For me OS X offers a lot. Faster and more useful contextual menus, much faster AppleScript, AppleScript Studio, faster networking, connecting to a server is much easier now, you can move windows with the content showing, you can move windows behind windows (hold down the apple key and click and drag a window behind the front window), Mail app, Safari, preemptive multitasking, rock solid stability, and I love the Aqua appearance of OS X.

For me, OS X just works. I used to crash OS 9 a couple times of week, and it took special care to do that. I knew not to do certain things at the same time. If I was downloading a file or email, then I didn't touch the keyboard. I didn't run more than a couple programs at a time.

Now I freely burn discs, download files, and run other programs, and it never crashes. On a Cinema Display I can have open windows for a spreadsheet, a database, a text editor, and a word processor all at once and drag data between them - and it just works. This is really great. I could never go back to OS 9.

I don't know what the issues are. I guess you'd need an anthropologist to work it out. In our little world we support about ten Macs; the six newer ones all run OS X. The older ones we rarely used. (I did manage to fire up my PB 140 the other day and get a file out from it!)

I'm kind of tired of the debate. If someone is running OS 9 and is happy with it, I'm supportive of them. But to me it sure seems like they are giving up a lot. I will concede that OS X is not as much fun on older hardware. You really need a large display and fast GPU and CPU and a broadband connection to get the full benefit.

I'm not trying to debate; I'm trying to understand (and help others understand) why some people stick with Mac OS 9 even after they've tried OS X. I dabbled in OS X for a year before I got a copy of Jaguar. Then I switched for good.

"The good is the enemy of the better." The classic Mac OS was very good, and it evolved over nearly 20 years. In many ways OS X is better, but it's still growing to maturity. The Unix underneath may be mature, but the interface - the way we interact with the operating system - remains immature.

I'd never go back, but hearing my son gripe about Jaguar on his iMac 333 (192 MB RAM, fast Seagate Barracuda hard drive) and my wife on her iBook 600 (256 MB RAM, stock hard drive) brings back memories. There are real efficiencies in OS X - from the rare need to restart (usually caused by an Apple update) to the fact that you can work in one program while another is plugging away in the background - but the first reaction of someone installing OS X is, "It's so slow."

And then they discover the other differences. They trip them up. Or make it difficult to be productive right away. Or they break something that's worked for years, like the Sabon font on my wife's iBook (which works fine on my TiBook).

I'll never go back. In the long run the trade offs are worth it, but I can understand why the early frustrations keep some Mac users from adopting OS X.

BSD and OS 9 better than OS X

After reading the same article, Dave Goodrich comments:

I read your recent article on Mac OS X with quite a bit of interest. My last place of employment was all Macs (I'm been a Mac user a long time, though I now use FreeBSD almost exclusively). I've caught a lot of flak from friends on why I'm rolling our personal machines back to OS 9.

I was very excited to see Mac switch to OS X, and I looked forward to it. My beloved FBSD and my Mac UI all rolled into one. I use almost no UI on Unix, staying mostly with the command line, as I just can't see where Gnome or KDE are anything close to useful. If I can't have a Mac UI I'd rather do without one completely.

I was quite disappointed once I got OS X installed. I've setup more than my share of Unix servers and compiled and installed KDE, Gnome, Afterstep from source. But finding out how to do things in OS X was a lesson in frustration. While Apple has much text telling you how easy things are to do in OS X, there is little written on how to actually do it.

I have still not connected to my NFS share at home. Having had to setup Netatalk access for my wife. My wife is a designer and has used Macs since 1994. She tried OS X twice and has never booted back into it since. She simply said, "If I want to learn Unix, I'll use your machine." She has much money invested in Freehand, Illustrator, Photoshop, Live Picture, and really doesn't want to have to repurchase to run an OS she has to learn over again. Her biggest gripe is she wants her desktop back and her Finder back.

My complaint is I tried OS X; it had problems. They said 10.1 fixes them! I had to purchase 10.1, then 10.1.x, now to really fix the issues we have, I must purchase Jaguar. I'm not purchasing again until it works; it seems Apple took a lesson from MS here.

I think they could get more users to switch if they,

  1. hide the Unix junk, just show the user what is in their home directory. The rest is confusing to non-Unix users.
  2. make the save dialogs work like OS 9
  3. give back the desktop, it should be the top of the file hierarchy "to the user...". the desktop should act exactly like OS 9.

Just my rants. Though I will say we have delayed making the purchase of a new PowerBook and G4. I've discovered I cannot replace OS X with OS 9, and until OS X works like a Mac, we will wait and keep using our Beige G3 and 6100.

Thanks, and keep writing.

There's an incredibly powerful operating system beneath the Aqua interface of Mac OS X, as you already know from your experience with BSD. I once had BSD running on a Mac IIcx, so I know there's nothing in the core OS that requires a G3 or even a PowerPC processor. It's the interface that slows OS X to a crawl on older hardware, and the only ways to improve it are switching to 16-bit color and reducing the size of the screen. And these only help a bit.

The interface was what made the Mac. It was the one thing that Microsoft really couldn't duplicate - nor could NeXT, nor the folks behind KDE or Gnome, nor IBM with OS/2, nor BeOS. Unfortunately, the same can be said for OS X. It pretends to be the offspring of the classic Mac OS, but it's a stepchild. It's learned some things from its new family, but it retains its genes.

Jaguar is a huge improvement over 10.1; I couldn't make OS X my normal OS until I got Jaguar. And I suspect Panther will be an equally big improvement. I sure hope so, because we all know that OS X has some very rough edges.

That said, Apple has hidden all "the Unix junk." I've only used the terminal once to type a single command. For the average user, it's something they'll never have to deal with.

Giving us the option of making Save work like it did in the classic Mac OS would be a big improvement, and there's no reason the desktop shouldn't appear at the top of the file hierarchy - even if it resides somewhere else in reality.

It's a shame that Apple has abandoned so many good parts of the classic Mac OS as they attempted to turn NeXTstep into a Macintosh OS. They still have a ways to go, and they don't seem to be content with what they've done so far.

Oh Please

Dr. Joseph Ballo writes:

She knows how to use the Chooser, but where the heck do you choose your printer in OS X? And how the heck do you connect to the file server? Both are much harder to figure out in OS X - I've been using X full time since January, and I still find it hard to remember where some of these settings are. And I'm the family Mac geek.

I really try to be polite in these circumstances. I do! But this tries my patience. How do you choose your printer? Is selecting the printer of choice from the print dialog all that difficult. How do you connect to the server? Is selecting Connect to server from the menu bar all that difficult? Manners forbid me to make any further comments.

I have two adult daughters who use OS X with no problem, and my experience is that virgin Mac users find OS X far easier to use than they do OS 9.x. If you want to attribute difficulties with OS X as due to inertia, stubbornness, or some other non-techy motive, that is fine with me but I do bristle when non-issues such as "How to you select the printer" are raised in these discussions.

I bristle when I read letter like yours. The point of the article wasn't the experience of "virgin Mac users," but why seasoned Mac users are slow to migrate to Mac OS X. I use my wife as an example, because she has been using Macs for a decade.

While there's nothing intuitive about using something called the Chooser under the Apple menu to choose a printer or server, it's something Mac users know how to do. When my wife wanted to print something, OS X hadn't automatically picked up the printer configuration from OS 9. Instead she was told that no printer was selected - and there was no simple "click here to set up or select a printer" option displayed. So her question was how to set up the printer, and then how to configure it so she could use the third tray.

I'm shocked that you would call choosing a printer a non-issue; it's something that most computer users do their first day. If that tries your patience, imagine how not knowing where to choose a printer or server must try the patience of seasoned Mac users who are trying to see if OS X is for them.

The more obstacles Apple puts in the way of current Mac users, the less likely they are to migrate. Apple should be doing everything they can to ease the transition for Mac users. A simple tutorial that pops up when you first run the computers - like the old Macintosh Basics - would be a huge step in the right direction. But Apple is more concerned with bouncing icons than easing the transition.

And that was another question my wife asked last night, "How do you stop the icons from bouncing." Sorry, Apple won't let you turn that off.

Is it any wonder so many who try OS X put it on the back burner and switch back to what they know works?

Moving Mac users to OS X

Chris Kilner writes:

Many basic OS 9 users (AppleWorks, browsers, iApps) would switch if Apple made a GUI mode that replicated OS 9 for OS X. For example, provide all the corresponding functions in the same places - like sleep, shutdown, and empty trash in a "Special" menu. Apple could license all the haxies that do this stuff today and roll them into an officially supported "Classic-GUI" mode. While they are at it, they could do a "Windows-GUI" mode for switchers. Each of these modes would also include the native OS X GUI elements so that users could learn X over time (and reduce interface clutter).

I think that another issue holding people back is poor scanner, printer, and USB driver (game pads, etc.) support from Apple. If OS X had VueScan, GimpPrint, and USB Overdrive functionality built into the OS, that would help many to switch.

The stability of Unix with the familiarity of OS 9? That's exactly what most of us hoped OS X would offer; instead we got Aqua. Other than being a bloated, slow GUI with excessive eye candy, Aqua is a great interface, but between the slowness and the differentness compared to OS 9 on the same hardware, Aqua has become a stumbling block to adoption by Apple's core market - current Mac users.

The biggest problem with your proposal is that Apple want everyone to have the same interface and work the same way. (Remember when they were the company for creative people, nonconformists, rebels?) Allowing users to migrate while using an interface that they're already used to apparently offends Apple. "My way or the highway" seems to be the attitude.

I don't expect Apple to change their attitude there, but I do hope that Panther will include more of the kind of support you mention.

Thinking Too Different

Mark Hooker writes:

This was a great piece. I hope that Apple is listening.

You hit the nail right on the head when you invoked Pournelle's First Law of Computing (at least one CPU per user) and pointed to the server mentality of Unix, which is the core of Mac OS X. My first computer was a Unix machine as big as a house with a "bleeding edge" 64 KB of memory. I feel like, having taken 9.2 giant strides forward with the old Mac OS, I suddenly have to take five giant strides back toward the computer I first met and learned to hate for its rigid structure and high maintenance overhead.

As you so insightfully point out, breaking many of the "Classic" Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines was a big part of that. The dock is one of my biggest complaints: I don't want to give up any of my desktop real estate to it. It gets in my way.

You can class me as a "Hard-niner" (i.e., someone who is very resistant to the idea of switching to OS X). I fall under your first reason for not wanting to switch (I don't have any incentive to. The classic Mac OS works just fine for me. Why mess with success?). It is not only the investment I would have to make in dollars and cents to buy new peripherals and software, but the investment that I would have to make in time - which I have a better uses for - to learn the new system.

Pay attention, Apple! Like the man said: "In short, if Apple wants to gain converts, they need to make OS X as easy, as elegant, as simple, as powerful, as friendly, and as comfortable as the best OS [I] have ever used - the classic Mac OS."

I like the dock. I'd started using application launchers and application switchers in OS 9, and it's nice to have a single place for both. But that's a personal preference. For those who don't like the dock, Apple gives you no option of turning it off. (You can hide it, but it's always lurking there, waiting for your mouse to get too close.)

I have no problem with those who don't need to switch or don't want to. I do have a problem with those who would like to switch finding OS X so opaque. My wife would really love to try iCal, and I think she'd love using iTunes to make her own CDs for the car, but OS X is so alien. That said, she's continuing to experiment with it. She's switching her business font from Sabon to one that works on OS X on her iBook. She'd like to switch.

I think what Apple needs to produce is an OS X Basics program that can walk new users through OS X step-by-step. It could come in three versions - one for newbies, one for Windows folk, and one for classic Mac users. It could explain how to choose printers and actually walk them through setting up their printer. It could explain how to connect to a remote server. It could explain the whole multiple users thing.

Apple used to provide Macintosh Basics with their computers as a way of familiarizing people with the mouse, single clicks, double-clicking, dragging, and so forth. Something similar for OS X adopters would be a big step forward.

re: Thinking Too Different

Brian Marsh writes:

The early iMacs (233 to 333) and the beige G3s are all limited to booting Mac OS from within the first 8 GB. Potentially you could format a larger hard drive and install a fresh 8 or 9 onto it and not having problems, but if you put a bunch of data on, then updated the OS, if any of the core OS files ended up outside the initial 8 GB, the iMac is rendered unbootable.

Mac OS X won't even let you try to install onto a partition outside that initial 8 GB

It does take an adjustment time, and some things could probably be easier still. Overall myself and many customers I deal with daily, average computing is easier in Mac OS X.

Rant 1) Printing: Being able to switch printers on the fly once they are setup in the print center most people find much easier and more efficient. Most new USB printers automatically set themselves up in print center when connected and powered on, again much easier than 9. Some do require software to be installed, or updated.

AppleWorks: I have no idea why AppleWorks had this problem (dictionary). I haven't seen this issue with any AppleWorks 6 I've worked with when a user switches between 9 and X on the same machine. I've run into that in Mac OS 9 before when ClarisWorks had it's preferences corrupted. The starting points issue you need to go into AppleWorks Preferences -> General then "on startup" switch to "Do nothing" or another option if you want it.

Fonts: where are the fonts stored that she is attempting to use?

Rant 2) no comments on this one.

Rant 3) While many longtime Mac users do find the new open/save dialogues more difficult, many first time Mac users find them easier to figure out where they are compared with Mac OS 9. With a few tips most are up and running quickly with the new style. (The Mac reseller I work for includes training time with all new Macs because of the differences.) Most people find the default setting of saving to the documents folder very hand, and it's much easier to set favourite folders, and then use those favourite folders from the open/save then it was in 9 for most users (everyone uses computers differently).

I know a couple of longtime Mac users that seem to finally be understanding where their files are located on the hard drive, compared with 9, where they only knew where their files were when they were in that specific program and easily lost files accidentally into the System Folder.

I'm familiar with the need to partition drives over 8 GB on tray-loading iMacs, beige G3s, and WallStreet PowerBooks. Been there. Done that several times. I do find it frustrating that Disk Utility will actually change the number you type in, so if you create a first partition of 8.0 GB it ends up as 8.07 GB. That's inexcusable.

Mac OS X does take some adjustment time. It was a year from my first installation until I got Jaguar and migrated from 9 to X. I think Jaguar is good enough for most people with faster Macs to comfortably make the switch - but with the warning that they'll probably feel quite disoriented for a few days as the become accustomed to the OS X way of doing things. Almost everything from OS 9 is there, but finding it can take some doing.

We have a shared HP LaserJet 2100TN on our network, and it has the optional third tray installed. Jaguar didn't automatically recognize it, and we spent some time figuring out just where we could turn on the first tray. I suspect Rendezvous will simplify a lot of this in the future, for both printers and servers.

The fonts are where they've always been, in her OS 9 System Folder : Fonts. Just like on my TiBook, which does recognize Sabon. Weird.

My wife has developed a very straightforward filing system. At the root level she has a folder called Family Matchmakers. Inside that she has a folder for each client. I'll have to add that folder to her Favorites and teach her how to use it, something I've just started using myself.

Yes, it is nice that Apple is trying to prevent users from leaving their files all over the place - in the System Folder, the application folder, or whatever folder they saved the last document in. But I still miss the elegant simplicity of navigating folders in the old Save dialogue. OS X does the same thing, but it's much more cluttered.

Apple has got to make it easier for OS 9 users to migrate. With so many differences, it's too easy to become confused and frustrated and simply go back to what they know. If Apple really wants this to be the Mac experience for all of us, they've got to help old timers make the transition.

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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