Switch Side Story Pt 2

Written by Jason Cundall

June 9, 2004 | 01:00

Tags: #apple-store #gimp #imac #mac #network #osx #powerbook #powermac #printer #switch #windows

Companies: #apple

The networking aspect of getting the new arrival to talk to the outside world was pretty straightforward. Into the network settings, give it an IP address and tell it where the router was and away it went. Similarly, setting up Mail was just as easy as it is in XP – give the app the details of the accounts you want to hook up to and that’s that. Not only was the networking aspect easy to get to grips with, it’s got a nice ‘location’ based setup – you can save several networking configurations for different places. For example, I use static IP addressing it home – but if I’m round my mates house who lets his router hand out the IP addresses, and I want to leach some bandwidth, I select a profile I set up for that location which uses DHCP. You can switch between the locations quickly via the Apple menu. You can also set what method of access and what networking hardware is active in the profiles as well, so you can (as another example) choose to turn off the modem at home when you’re on the fat pipe, but have it available when you’re out on the road.

So far, so good.

Network shares got me scratching my head though. My server has several drives that I connect to - Music, docs - the usual stuff. And by using the finder, I could browse the network and find the shares, and mount them. However, trying to automate this task so that my favourite drives where available on start-up seemed impossible. OSX doesn’t remember what was mounted last time, and there’s no ‘My Network Places’ equivalent to easily get at the shares - so I had to remount them every time I booted.

And it would always ask for the server’s username and password, even though I’d already saved these details in the Keychain (OSX’s password vault). To try and get round this, I dragged the Icon of the mounted drives into the startup items list of my user account. This didn’t work, so I made aliases of the drives when they where mounted, and included them in the start up instead. Which was a waste of time, as this didn’t work either*. In the end I used the same aliases and dragged them into the dock. Now when I want to access a share, I just click on the icon in the dock - and voila – the drive mounts and the finder window pops open and shows me the contents.

Networking the printer was a bit of a chore as well. Because it’s set up as a windows printer shared from the server, I can’t use the OSX setup disk or any of the utilities on it that came with the printer. I had to do it all manually (well, through the OSX print setup dialogue at least) using the OSX built in printer drivers, which are actually Unix based using CUPS CUPS (Common UNIX Printing System) and GIMP-Print.

And wouldn’t you know, my Epson C84 wasn’t listed. I have got it working, using the driver for the C82. But the output quality isn’t great. It’ll do, but I won’t be printing any pictures out across the network. If I have to do any work that requires decent output, I’ll just plug the printer directly into the PowerBook. That or hunt around for tips on the CUPS and GIMP sites.

I’m sure all of these little ‘issue-ettes’ are because I’m not being a “typical” user. If I just had the PowerBook, or it was operating in a complete Apple environment I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem. But Apple make out that these things are easy to integrate, and whilst it isn’t rocket science, it certainly isn’t as straightforward as they’d like to make out.

So there we are – It’s here, it’s running. So far the transition has been, on the whole, OK. I was surprised at how easy it was to set-up the machine itself, and get it talking to the outside world, but not particularly blown away by the Windows integration or the network printing. We’ll see how I get on, and whether or not these niggles will disappear once my knowledge of the dark side grows - as I\'ve barely scratched the surface of OSX.

Anyway – Tune in for Part 3: Where GOO tries to find some software, without resorting to dark rituals involving pentagrams, candles and virgin sacrifices…

* Since writing this instalment, Apple have thoughtfully released OSX v3.4, which has cured this problem. My network shares mount automatically on start up using the method I outlined above. Now if only I could get the buggers to stop opening up finder windows on mounting…
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