A Primer on Mac Networking

I have been asked to post some on-line instructions for how to access the Net for Mac users. Of course, if you can read this, you probably don't need any instructions! ;-} It's also hard to know how much you know. So please excuse me, if I go into too much detail.

Revised January 21, 1998

There are several things that you need to get a Mac hooked up online: A modem, an account with an ISP (Internet Service Provider, like the WCNet) and some software. There are different "layers" of software that you need. First, is the basic, structural system networking software. For recent macs, that would be Open Transport. The networking used by older Macs is called Classic Mac Networking. Then you need TCP (Transfer Control Protocol) software. On older Macs this is called MacTCP, on Open Transport systems this is called TCP/IP (Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). Then you need a form of PPP (Point to Point Protocol.) For either type of networking you can use FreePPP. OT/PPP was developed "from the ground up" by Richard Ford of Apple, specifically for use with Open Transport. FreePPP is freeware (as its name implies) which was written by a Mac Patron Saint named Steve Dagley (who now has a "day job" at Netscape.) He also wrote MacPPP, which is still available, although I recommend one of the other two. Some older versions of MacPPP will NOT work with modern Internet software.

This information cannot be consider as definitive for every possible system configuration. There are so many different Macs in use (especially Performas) that it impossible to exactly predict what would be the ideal on-line software configuration for every user. So please understand: “Your mileage may vary.”

First you will need to know what CPU (central processor unit) is installed in your Mac. The choices are: 68000,68010, 68020, 68030, 68040, 68LC040 and then the PowerPC series: 601, 603, 604 and G3 (or PowerPC 750). This information came with your computer, but if you can't locate it, open the program named TechTool, (available for free use) click on the button that says “Hardware” and look for “CPU type.” I regard Techtool as an essential program for Mac users.

Second, you will need to know how much RAM (random access memory) is installed in your computer. This refers to “real” memory, not what you have after installing a program like Ram Doubler or Apple's Virtual Memory. To find this, click on the Mac desktop, then under the Apple menu on the upper left hand corner of your monitor, drag down to “About this Macintosh.” We're looking for the number that says “Built-in memory.” This figure is displayed in kilobytes (K). To convert this figure to megabytes (MB) just drop the last three digits. So 16,000K is 16 MB (approximately). While in “About this Macintosh” also note the “System software” version number at the upper right hand corner of the screen.

If you have any of the PowerPC series of CPU you should install the software called “Open Transport Networking” (OT) This is a new networking technology from Apple that is faster and more stable that the older “Classic networking” based on MacTCP. Open Transport is also more tightly integrated to the Mac OS (operating system) and is an “open” standard which is more compatible with international protocols such as TCP/IP (Transfer control protocol/Internet protocol.)

Two caveats: if you have less than 16MB of RAM you are likely to encounter problems running the recent releases of either Netscape Communicator or MicroSoft Explorer. Fortunately, RAM prices are at a historic low. Until you can obtain more RAM, I would suggest using either an older version of Navigator (2.02) or the Mosaic browser. Also, Netscape has started offering a "stand alone" version of its browser (Navigator) which does not offer mail or news group capabilities, but is smaller and needs less RAM than Communicator. OT does use more RAM than the older MacTCP.

If you have a 68040 based computer (typically the Quadra series) and at least 16mb of RAM, you should also use Open Transport (OT). If you have a 68030 machine you can use OT if you have enough RAM. A 68030 will not be able to utilize all of the features of OT, but it will use up more of your system RAM.

Also, if you are using operating system software versions 7.5.1 or 7.5.2, please take the time to update your system to Mac OS 7.5.3 and then on to at least version 7.5.5. If you have a Mac with a 68LC040, 68040 or any PowerMac, I strongly urge you to get System 8.1, which has just been released. These updaters can be obtained from Apple (800-293-6917), from the Mac Connection (800-800-2222), from local retailers or from Apple's web site. If are using Open Transport versions prior to 1.1.1 (noticeably OT versions 1.0.6 or 1.0.8) you should update to OT 1.1.1. or later. THE EARLIER VERSIONS OF OT ARE BUGGY AND COMPLETELY UNRELIABLE.

And if you own certain models of the Performa series (such as the 6300 or 6400 series) your machine may be defective. Not all machines in these series are affected. If you try to install OT 1.1.1 and you have one of the defective machines, the “installer” program will notify you. Apple will send a technician to your home or office to install an entirely new logic board at no cost. You can call Apple at 1-800-767-2775 (800-SOS-APPL) for complete information.

Finally, if you have an older Mac with a 68000, 68010 or 68020 processor, (or most 68030 systems) you will have to use MacTCP (Classic Networking) and probably the Mosaic browser.

Now you can proceed to either the Classic Networking Page or either the Open Transport via OT/PPP page or the Open Transport via FreePPP page.

©1998 Earl M. Britt I am solely responsible for the contents of this tutorial. And I'm not responsible in any way, for anything that happens as a result of your efforts to use this FREE tutorial. I assume no liability whatsoever. Any reproduction for anything other than YOUR personal use requires my permission or else is a violation of Federal Law.

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