Come together

Bridging the MAC/PC divide once seemed like a distant fantasy, but these days it's not so difficult - as long as you pay attention to these useful networking pointers.

Once upon a time, the very thought of networking Macs and PCs was fantasy. Today things are different - not only can you freely exchange floppy disks (whatever they are) but it's now a piece of cake to hook up a mixture of PCs and Macs to the same network and let them share all resources such as servers, printers and Internet access.

Much of this change is down to the rise of the TCP/IP networking protocol, the lingua franca of networking. TCP/IP came late to Windows but even later to the Mac. It wasn't until the advent of Mac OS X that TCP/IP became the dominant networking protocol for Apple. It's now easy to network Macs and PCs.

Mac OS tweaking

Like XP, Mac OS X has pretty good cross-platform networking support. First up, it has the AppleShare File Protocol or AFP client, an SMB (Server Message Block) client for connecting to Windows file servers and an NFS (network file system) client for Unix servers. The former allows Macintosh clients to connect directly to Windows servers.

Mac OS X's Windows File Sharing allows Windows PCs to connect to Macintoshes. Similar to Windows XP, Mac OS X is a secure operating system and depends on such things as logins and passwords. So Windows users connecting to Windows Sharing on a Mac must have user accounts on that Mac OS X computer - "guest" access is simply not available.

Log on as Administrator on the Mac and create a user account for the Windows user: from the Apple menu, choose System Preferences. Then from the View menu, choose Accounts. Click New User (the "+" button if you have Mac OS 10.3 or later). Enter the Name and Short Name for the Windows user and concoct a password - see FIGURE 1.

If you're still running Windows 98, make sure the username with which you log in to Windows 98 is the same as the Mac OS X account's short name. If you're running Mac OS 10.2, tick the checkbox for "Allow user to log in from Windows" and click OK. Quit System Preferences.

Existing Mac user accounts may need some minor tweaking. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences. Then from the View menu, go to Accounts. Select the account and edit the User, ticking the checkbox for "Allow user to log in from Windows".

Users of Mac OS X 10.3 may not even have to do this. Note that if you're editing someone else's account settings, a password reset is required.

You then need to specify the Windows workgroup name. The default Mac OS X SMB and Windows workgroup name is, well, "Workgroup". Inventive, eh? If you're sharing files between Mac and PC, make sure your workgroup names are exactly the same on both computers.

Next, turn on Windows Sharing - from the Apple menu, choose System Preferences. From the View menu, select Sharing. The "Rendezvous Name" field will be used for the Mac OS X SMB host name. This is the name that appears in the Windows Network Neighborhood browse list.

Share and share alike

Click the checkbox for Windows Sharing (located in the Service column) - network preferences says: "Windows Sharing On". This will share out your entire home folder - see FIGURE 2.

When you highlight this selection, you will see some instructions at the bottom of the panel describing how you connect to your Mac from Windows. This same panel is where you can turn on Printer Sharing. Thereafter, Windows PCs can connect to Windows Sharing on the Mac as they would any other Windows SMB sharing service.

Some cross-platform caveats. When copying files from a Mac to a Windows computer, remember to use Windows-legal names. If a file name contains certain "illegal" characters such as "/" or "?" the file won't copy. And while you may be able to get Macs and PCs talking to each other, there are limitations on file sharing.

Common file formats, such as TXT, RTF, MP3, JPG and TIF are usable by lots of programs on both sides. Applications such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop create native files that are interchangeable between platforms. On the other hand, Intuit Quicken and QuickBooks Pro have very different formats on different platforms and you may need to use a conversion utility to get them to work.

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Roger Gann

PC Advisor (UK)
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