• Hello, Guest! Welcome back, and be sure to check out this post for more info about the recent service interruption and migration.

Introducing (and interest check) AirTalk: Wireless plug-and-play LocalTalk dongles

cheesestraws

Well-known member
I think this is the moment to unveil something I've been working on for the last few weeks. This is AirTalk (thanks to @Cory5412 for the name). It aims to allow wireless LocalTalk networking (over WiFi) that feels like LocalTalk: so, no necessary configuration (aside from selecting the WiFi network). It's a visitor from an alternative future.

66058640012__3E8A7A30-E0DF-4B07-9CE5-32A7344E5C44.JPG

It also uses the same LocalTalk-over-UDP transport that Mini vMac does, so it can be used to network between Mini vMac and real hardware:


What little configuration there is is done (or will be done when it works properly) through the Chooser (now you know why I have been writing RDEVs):

Picture 7.png
As you can probably tell from the board, this is currently in a "late prototyping / just pre-alpha" stage where I'm using an esp32 dev board. I'm intending to produce a slightly more practical revision of the board (e.g., smaller, using SMD components, having ADB power as an option as well as USB) if there is interest. Not sure at this point quite how that'll be happening, since I'm not a product engineer and I don't really want to have a product, but I'm sure I'll work something out.

This only exists because of previous work by @tashtari who build the TashTalk LT transceiver and @demik whose Quack project taught me a lot about FreeRTOS. Major thanks to both of you.

What do people think?


IFAQ:
  1. Is this a new LocalTalk to EtherTalk gateway?
    Nope. Instead think of this as a long LocalTalk cable that just happens not to physically exist. LT to EtherTalk bridges are hairy things; they are either routers which require configuration or bridges that don't work in the presence of routers and which are very picky about how the network is configured. I'm going to plug one of these into my AppleTalk router to do routing from LToUDP to EtherTalk, personally.
  2. Can this be used on a LocalTalk segment with multiple computers on it?
    Yes, although I haven't stress tested this yet. It isn't like a USB wifi dongle which plugs into only one machine, you can use it to bridge a whole network to WiFi. Any computer on the LocalTalk segment can configure it through the Chooser.
  3. How does it perform compared with LocalTalk?
    Once again, I haven't properly tested this yet, but initial results are: transferring bulk from Mini vMac to a LocalTalk client on a segment on its own (so just the computer plugged into the dongle), I was getting close to the theoretical maximum throughput for LocalTalk. When both ends of the connection are on WiFi, sustained transfers are good, but latency is noticeably higher compared to "real" LocalTalk, simply because WiFi latency is higher than LocalTalk latency. This noticeably affects things like how quickly folder windows populate, because there's multiple roundtrips involved in getting that information.
  4. What does it require from my network?
    Not much. All you need is a WiFi AP that can shunt IP multicast around properly. Most of them can, and if zeroconf/mDNS/Bonjour work on your network, then it'll be fine.
  5. Will there be a version with wired Ethernet instead?
    Maybe. Do you want one?
  6. Are you looking for alpha testers?
    I will be looking for a couple of alpha testers on the order of weeks. If you've got a good variety of LocalTalk peripherals or a largish LocalTalk network and would like to do some testing for me, let me know.
  7. When will this be finished?
    When it's finished. I'm not going to hold myself to timescales here; I have a dayjob and other things in my life as well and I'm not intending to turn this into work. But I'll try to keep people updated as it goes.
  8. Does the back of the board say 'eeeese' on it?
    Yup:​

RenderedImage-1.jpg
 

CircuitBored

Well-known member
think of this as a long LocalTalk cable that just happens not to physically exist

Brilliant, and exactly the sort of wit I expect from a cheesey post!

Will there be a version with wired Ethernet instead?
Maybe. Do you want one?

Yes, please!

This is a hugely exciting project and it has been so much fun watching the developments as they've rolled in. I am offically registering my interest on the record.

Congratulations on creating a very nice little gadget for the community. I can't wait to get my hands on one!
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
Um…how can I say this?

YESSSSSSSS!

Do you know how awesome it would be to get my Printer Port-only equipped Macs on my network, on the fly, when I need it? Get my kids’ Quadra 630 to print to the AppleTalk ImageWriter? Not need the phone net to Ethernet to AirPort express setup to hook up said IWII to the network?

I would totally do this!!

Edit: do these micro network together, or join an existing network?
 

tashtari

Well-known member
I'm shocked, you didn't even mention the gumdrop LEDs!

This is great, I'm super excited to see what people can do with LocalTalk and TashTalk.
 

ronan

Well-known member
Super excited to try this at home !

Very good job, and I love the silkscreen message "if you can read this the bord is upside down" 😋
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
Thankyou all for the enthusiasm!

Edit: do these micro network together, or join an existing network?

They join an existing WiFi network, so you can extend your "LocalTalk" network wherever your WiFi network is. Detailed version: all the AirTalk dongles and anything else speaking LToUDP on the same IP subnet will be on the same virtual LocalTalk network.

I'm shocked, you didn't even mention the gumdrop LEDs!

That's true, I should have, because those huge LEDs are incredibly satisfying.
 

mg.man

Well-known member
Way cool! Put me on the wantone (or three, four, five...) list! 😀 Which reminds me... I still need to sort out that 400k floppy exchange with you! 🙄
 

TimHD

Well-known member
Another amazing product coming out of some great collaboration and support on these forums! Can’t wait for this, and the next amazing product someone here produces. I will be getting a lot of these!
 

CC_333

Well-known member
I wouldn't mind one of these!

I've never really had the means or the opportunity to try a "real" LocalTalk network, and the various bridges are too expensive to justify for the rare file copy task I'd likely be using it for, so if I can have a dongle that I can plug in to a Mac that is as easy to set up as a modern WiFi card, yet speaks fluent LocalTalk to the Mac it's plugged into (thus requiring no extra software or configuration, at least for simple setups), then I'm interested!

c
 

gcp

Well-known member
This is very cool :). I'm sure you have no shortage of testers, but I'd be interested in picking up a few; I'd be interested in deploying them across a IIci / 8500 / Q650 network. Could add a virtual machine or two into the mix if useful as well.
 

stepleton

Well-known member
Fantastic! I'm moving house now so I wouldn't be able to help alpha-test, but once it's ready to go I look forward to using it on a couple machines of my own.
 
Top