Profiles in Networking
The Macintosh Cube
Ah, the Mac Cube. It’s small, it’s easy to understand, and it’s getting really, really inexpensive. As of this writing, the intro 450 MHz model runs a trim $1299 from the Apple Store, which differs from the $1599 model only by less memory and the CD-RW drive. Buy the basic model, drop $99 on 256 MB of RAM (see RAMWatch for pricing and vendors), and you’ve got a heck of machine for $1400. From the network perspective, life is even easier (is that possible?) with the Cube’s built-in Ethernet and optional wireless networking.
The Mac Cube has two network options: one built-in 10/100BaseT Ethernet port and one AirPort card slot for wireless use. The potential of two network connections makes it possible to use the Cube as a software router for shared Internet connections, with some limitations (see the setups below). 99% of Cube owners will use one connection or the other, however.
Like most new Macs, the Cube is an easy network candidate through its 10/100BaseT Ethernet port. For my Cube, the first network connection was to my Power Mac 8500, as I made the transfer of files that signifies the passing of the mantle from one primary Mac to the next. A crossover cable is your cheapest option here, running $10-15 at most computer stores. Assuming the file sharing software is already installed and active on each Mac, you just need to connect their Ethernet ports with the cable and you’re ready to go. For more info on the complete process, see the Threemacs.com crossover network page.
If you use a hub or switch instead of a crossover cable, the connection is just as easy, as you use a single straight-through Ethernet cable to connect the Cube’s Ethernet port to a port on the hub. For more info, see the Threemacs.com hub network page.
If you prefer the chic world of wireless networking, you can spend $99 at the Apple Store on an AirPort card, then network through any local wireless connection (such as the AirPort Base Station). If you only have two wireless Macs, they can communicate with each other using the Computer-to-Computer wireless option, with each computer using its AirPort card as the connection.
The Cube as Software Router
Although a rather esoteric setup, it’s theoretically possible to run a Cube as a software Internet router using both network connections simultaneously. For security reasons, you should only share an Internet connection using two network connections. To do this with the Cube, you need to install an AirPort card and use its Software Base Station (free from Apple), which allows you to share the wireless network connection with other AirPort-capable computers. Because wireless bandwidth is limited, this is only practical for sharing with a few other computers. (You can also use a software router such as Sustainable Softworks’ IPNetRouter or Vicom Tech’s SurfDoubler, although they are not free like Software Base Station.)
To set up this shared connection, connect the incoming Internet connection (DSL/cable modem) to the Cube’s 10/100BaseT Ethernet port and use the Software Base Station to share the Internet connection across the wireless network. If you would like to share a wireless connection across many Macs, the hardware AirPort Base Station is a better option, since it can share a wireless Internet connection with any number of AirPort-enabled Macs without the same limitations of a software router like the Software Base Station.
Also in This Series
- Mac to Windows: Troubleshooting the “No Logon Servers Available” File Sharing Error · October 2004
- Using WEP Security on an AirPort Network · July 2004
- Whatever happened to…Threemacs.com? · September 2003
- Clandestine Wireless Networking and MacStumbler · July 2003
- Learning to Share With Others: Sharing Preferences Overview · April 2003
- Serving Files Using FTP in Mac OS X · December 2002
- Switching Between Networks in Mac OS X · November 2002
- The Audio/Video Quadras (660av, 840av) · September 2002
- Thoughts on Apple’s Xserve · July 2002
- Complete Archive