Setting up Macintoshes for Peer to Peer Networking

Most Mac users probably already know how to do this. I put it together mainly to show how simple and intuitive it is.
  1. Determine which network you want to use: Ethernet or Localtalk. Most newer Macintoshes have built-in Ethernet. All Macintoshes with 1 or more Megabyte of RAM (Mac Plus or better) have built-in Localtalk. If you want to use Ethernet, then get or make a cross-over cable, and plug it into the 10baseT connectors on the back of each Mac. If you want to use Localtalk, then get 2 Phone-net connectors (cost about $10/pair), plug them into the printer port on the back of each Macintosh and use standard phone cables to connect between them - the same cable you'd use to hook your phone to the wall jack.

    This is a 2-computer example, but if there were multiple machines, Ethernet requires a hub (typically around $65 now). Localtalk just daisy-chains. You run ordinary phone lines from one phone-net connector to the next. You can network a small building that way if you want.

  2. Put the AppleTalk protocol onto the chosen network. If you're running system 7.6 or newer, go under the Apple Menu to Control Panels, and select "AppleTalk". When the control panel opens, select either "Ethernet" or "Printer Port", depending on which way you hooked it up. There are no other choices to make in this control panel. Changing AppleTalk between LocalTalk and Ethernet does not require you to restart.

  3. Turn on File Sharing. Go under the Apple Menu to Control Panels, and select "Sharing Setup". (Or "File Sharing" if you're running System 8; they look pretty much alike.)

    Put your name in the "Owner Name" box; put a password in the password box, and put whatever you want your computer to be called in the "Computer Name" box. Most likely the names will already be filled in, but you can change them if you want. The password is what you'll use to gain access to your entire computer if you connect to it from another machine.

    Turn on File Sharing. Click the "Start" button in the Sharing Setup window. Then close the control panel.

  4. If there are only two computers involved, you really don't need to get involved in User and Groups. Whatever is shared, is shared only to the other machine. You do need to enable "Guest Access" however. This lets the other user get to shared files as a "guest", without having to log in with a user name and password.

    Go under the Apple Menu to Control Panels, and select "Users and Groups".

    Double click on the "Guest" icon, and check the box labeled "Allow guests to access this computer". Then close the control panel.

    If you want to set up userids and passwords you do that here as well. A Group is a collection of users; you create a group by clicking "New", naming the group, and then dragging user icons into it. When you set up access privileges, you can assign privileges to a single user or to a group. You also can assign privileges to Everyone. If you do that, then users can connect without having to supply a userid and password.

  5. To share any particular folder or file, or even a whole disk, just select it in the Finder (Desktop) and the go under the File Menu and select "Sharing...". When the Sharing window opens up, go to the line for "Everyone" and then select whether you want read only or read and write access. Similarly, you can select a user or group, and designate privileges for them as well.

  6. Access information from the other Macintosh. On the other Macintosh, go under the Apple Menu, select "Chooser". When it opens, click on the AppleShare icon. You will see a list of all the Macintoshes connected on the network, in this case, only one. Click on it and you will get a list of all the shared folders, disks, etc. on that machine. If you click on one of them, it will appear on your desktop, and you then treat it like any other folder or disk.

What you didn't have to do

Comparing it with the Windows 95 setup, here's what you got to skip...
  1. You didn't have to select a network card. In most cases you'll use built-in networking, and you only have to select whether it's Ethernet or Localtalk (Printer Port). (If you don't have Ethernet, you don't even have to do that; Printer Port will be selected automatically at startup.) Even if you added 3rd party Ethernet card to a Mac that didn't have one, you'd just select "Ethernet" here, no matter who made the card.
  2. You didn't have to go see what was already installed in the network control panel to make sure you didn't duplicate anything. You can't duplicate anything. You didn't install anything anyway.
  3. You didn't have to run a wizard until it detects a network card. Macs detect all installed hardware on startup, and they automatically load the associated drivers.
  4. You didn't have to install any network protocol. AppleTalk is built into every Mac and has been since the Mac Plus. There's nothing to install.
  5. You didn't have to install any "service". All you did was start up file sharing.
  6. You didn't have to set up any user accounts. You could have defined users if you wanted to, but it doesn't make any sense on a 2-computer system, and usually isn't needed in small offices or homes either.
  7. You didn't have to restart your machine.
  8. You didn't have to define a Workgroup name. Macs don't have them. Maybe huge corporations need them, but I sure don't.
  9. You didn't have to map drives from remote machines to the client machine. Macs don't "map drives". You just see the drive with whatever name the user gave it. If you want to simplify connecting the in future, then once you have the shared volume mounted on your desktop, make an alias of it. In the future you can just click on the alias and it will open right up without all the fuss of finding it on the network.
  10. You didn't have to go through a bunch of stuff to set up a "network queue" to share a printer. Most Laser printers and many inkjets printers have AppleTalk connections, so you just stick them on the network, and they are immediately accessible to all Macintoshes. Macs do their own spooling; no network queue is required. In other words, the way you share a printer on a Mac network is plug it in and turn it on. It's been that way since the first Laser Printer back in 1986. Certified Netware specialist not required. If you have a printer that doesn't do AppleTalk, there is a printer sharing control panel that will let other network users print to your printer.

I continue to be amazed that anything as kludgy as Windows came to be the dominant way of running a computer. I guess I can see why big corporations like it, as it has lots of complex management stuff in it, but why anyone else tolerates it remains a mystery.

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