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ATPM 8.04
April 2002




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Profiles in Networking

by Matthew Glidden,


What is the face of sexy computing? Many would agree on Apple’s iBook—so silky smooth, it’s likely to make you feel like Gollum and retreat into your cave rambling about “my precious.” As of this writing, the baseline 12-inch, 500 MHz model will set you back a trim $1,199 from the Apple Store.

Higher priced models (up to $1,799) benefit from extra CPU speed, RAM, storage space, and a 14-inch screen. Add 256 MB of RAM to the baseline model, and you’re ready for just about anything. Connecting your iBook to a network is virtually a snap, as it comes with built-in Ethernet and an available AirPort (wireless) slot.

Network Options

The iBook 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 introduces the possibility of using iBook as a software router for shared Internet connections, with some limitations; see the setups below. Most people will use one connection or the other.

Typical Setups

As with other new Macs, the built-in 10/100BaseT Ethernet port provides the most convenient network option. For new iBook owners, your first network connection will probably be the transfer of files that signifies the passing of the torch from one “primary” Mac to the next. A crossover cable is your cheapest option here, priced around $10-15 in most computer stores.

Provided the necessary File Sharing software is already installed and running on each Mac, you just need to connect their Ethernet ports with the cable and you’re ready. More information on crossover-based networks can be found here.

If you want to use an Ethernet hub or switch instead of a crossover cable, networking is just as easy. Use a single straight-through Ethernet cable to connect the iBook’s Ethernet port to a port on the hub or switch (more info here). You’ll need a hub or switch to network three or more Macs, since a crossover cable only works to connect two together.

If you’d prefer the tangle-free world of wireless networking, you can spend $99 at the Apple Store on an AirPort card, then connect to any local wireless network (such as that provided by 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.

For more on sharing files, see the Mac file sharing page.

iBook as a Software Router

For security reasons you should only share an Internet connection using two network connections. To do this with an iBook, you need to install an AirPort card and use the Software Base Station program (free from Apple), which allows you to share the wireless network connection with another AirPort-capable computer.

Note that because wireless bandwidth is limited, this is probably only practical for sharing with one other Mac. You can also use a software router such as Sustainable Softworks’ IPNetRouter or Vicom Tech SurfDoubler, although they are not free like Software Base Station.

To set up this shared connection, connect to the Internet connection using iBook’s Ethernet port (for cable or DSL) or modem port (for dial-up) and use the Software Base Station to share the Internet connection with another wireless Mac. If you plan to share a wireless connection with more than one wireless-capable Mac, 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 limitations of a software router.

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Reader Comments (2)

anonymous · April 2, 2002 - 18:17 EST #1
Actually, there is no need for a crossover cable with the iBook. My experience indicates that it autodetects the type of connection (computer-computer or computer-hub) and works without a blip.
Robert · May 8, 2004 - 09:26 EST #2
Nice work!

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