Poor Windows 98 Network Performance. The MTU once again reared its ugly head at work yesterday. A 1.5 meg file was taking five minutes to copy. Forget about copying anything of respectable size–we’re talking about an all-day affair here. A perplexed colleague called me and asked why. Once again I suspected MTU tinkering. After setting the MTU back to the default of 1500 (the best value to use on a LAN), we were able to copy a 53-meg file in about 30 seconds, which was of course a tremendous improvement.

Once again, don’t run the MTU optimizers on computers that’ll be used on a LAN. The slight increase in modem speed isn’t worth crippling your network performance.

Basic Mac/PC networking. A friend passed along a question about how to build a network either a Mac or a PC could talk on. That can become a complex subject (I wonder if it’s worthy of a book?), but here are the basics.

If all you need is for the Macs to talk to Macs and PCs to talk to PCs, go to the local computer store and pick up a 100-megabit hub with enough ports to accomodate your machines, cables for your Macs, and network cards for your PCs if they don’t already have them. Get a quality hub and cards–the only really inexpensive brand I trust anymore is Netgear, and the general consensus is that 3Com and Intel are better still, though they’ll cost you more. I’ve been bitten by enough failures to decide that $15 network cards and $25 hubs just aren’t worth the trouble.

The Macs should just start talking via the AppleTalk protocol once you direct AppleTalk to the Ethernet port through the AppleTalk control panel. The PCs will need network card drivers installed, then they can use TCP/IP, NetBEUI or IPX/SPX to communicate. Best to use TCP/IP to limit the number of protocols on your network. Assign your PCs and Macs IP addresses in the 192.168.1.x range, with a subnet mask of You don’t need to worry about the gateway or router settings unless you’ll be using the network to provide Internet access as well.

If you want Internet access, you can add an inexpensive cable/DSL router for about $150 that will serve your PCs and Macs without any problems. Assign your router to

Most mid-range HP and Lexmark laser printers will accept a network card capable of talking to both PCs and Macs.

If you want to share files cross-platform, you’re looking at some bucks. You’ll want a Windows NT or 2000 server (AppleShare IP will talk to both, but it’s not as reliable as NT unfortunately), which will set you back about $1000 for the software. Alternatively, you could install DAVE ( www.thursby.com ), a product that makes Macs speak SMB over TCP/IP like Windows boxes will, so they can use Windows file shares and Windows-hosted printers.

I also see that Thursby is offering a program called MacSOHO, at $99, to accomodate PC/Mac networks. This isn’t suitable for large networks but for a small-scale LAN in the home, small business, school computer lab or church, it should suffice. You can download a trial version before you plunk down the cash.

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