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ATPM 7.04
April 2001


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Profiles in Networking

by Matthew Glidden,

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.

Network Options

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.

Typical Setups

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 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 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.

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Reader Comments (6)

Steven · April 17, 2001 - 12:09 EST #1
What I want to know, is if you buy a Cube and have an old PowerPC, can you use the Ethernet network to run from the Cube to the PowerPC to use your SCSI devices, such as scanner, CDRW burner, Zip drive, etc.
anonymous · April 23, 2001 - 17:38 EST #2
To Steven: yes and maybe. That is, I got a Cube and wired it to my old PowerCenter Pro 210 with a crossover cable, and I can easily use the latter's 2 Ultra-SCSI drives and internal Zip. That's the "yes" part. I don't know about a SCSI burner (bought a firewire burner at the same time as the Cube), or scanner (got a fairly cheap USB scanner that outperforms my old Agfa SCSI scanner -- I mean in quality, not transfer speed of course). Hope this helps.
Harry · April 23, 2001 - 17:45 EST #3
As far as burning CD's across the network--for throughput reliability, this really isn't recommended, and getting Toast (or some other packet software) to recognize the remote drive would be a pretty major hack, if it can be done. The best way to handle old peripherals is to transfer files across to your SCSI-based machine, and back.
Eric Blair (ATPM Staff) · April 25, 2001 - 17:11 EST #4
Two thoughts on this subject--my main setup is a desktop machine, but I like to be able to move around the house withmy laptop. One approach I've used is remote control software like Timbuktu. After putting a blank CD into the drive, I can go back to the laptop, transfer any files to the desktop machine, then use Timbuktu to add the files to the CD and burn it. I suppose you could do the same thing with a scanner. Since you're moving between the machines to setup the copy or scan, however, I don't really see a huge advantage in this. The only real advantage is being able to check on the progress of a burn or scan from a different location. Second thought - I believe a saw a network scanner extension a few years back for my Umax scanner. I haven't heard much about htis feature since then, so I tend to doubt its very common any more. However, it couldn't hurt to check with your scanner manufacturer just to make sure. --Eric
S. Masero · May 30, 2002 - 02:31 EST #5
We had a power surge and now, when we try to start up, we get the little file flashing alternating question mark and happy Mac and it just goes on forever. There is a CD in the drive and we can't figure out how to get it out so we can try putting in the Cube's system CD to start up from. How do we eject a CD when we can't get the computer to start up? Do you think the machine is dead? What can we do? Help!
anonymous · October 21, 2002 - 02:38 EST #6
Masero - I don't now if you still are having this problem with your Cube but if you are, this is how to fix it: just press down the mouse and restart the Cube with the "restart" button under the core. The CD will automatically be relased.

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