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

cheesestraws

Well-known member
Thanks all for your interest!

I notice a lot of folks who have expressed interest here are new to the forum—welcome, all :). I have been generally contacting people via forum PM here when I have boxes available. If you would prefer me to email you instead, please PM me with your email address and I'll add a note to your line on my Spreadsheet Of Truth.

A couple of bits of administrivia:
  • I'm going to be away from home for a few days starting tomorrow. I'm going to get the remaining paid and addressed parcels out tomorrow on my way to the railway station; if you have an open conversation with me and you don't provide me your details by tomorrow morning, I won't be able to send your parcel out till next week.

  • We are running out of batch 2, which means that there are now nearly 100 of these out "in the wild", or on their way to being in the wild. That's quite a lot, and I'm really pleased with the positive feedback I'm getting from people who have got them so far. I will be ordering batch 3 either tonight or tomorrow depending on how life goes. There will be no meaningful difference between batch 2 and batch 3.

Out of curiosity, I wonder if the firmware could be capable of possibly speaking to Ethertalk networks, like netatalk on a Pi or an appleshare server.

There's no reason, in theory, it couldn't be made to. The main reason it doesn't is that a lot of end-user WiFi access points can't cope with Ethertalk and just silently drop it. So making a thing that talks Ethertalk but does so out of a WiFi interface is going to fail in frustrating ways for a lot of people, and I wanted this to be as near as possible plug and play.

There are Appletalk-side problems too, but they'd be possible to work around. But I can't do much about traffic silently being discarded :(

My next project, once logistics for this have subsided, is to build a new LT <-> Ethernet gateway (which will also do LToUDP)—I got as far as designing a prototype board and since then I've been busy. But have a look at this thread:

 

fatbits

New member
very Cool! I would also like a pair sent over here in Canada!

But is it powered only by ADB? Could be a problem for us Mac Plus folk.
 

badCaps

Well-known member
You can either use a standard Apple printer-type cable (8-pin male to 8-pin male mini-DIN with RX/TX swapped), which I think some people still make for some reason, or you can get a pair of LocalTalk boxes and a suitable cable, or a pair of PhoneNet boxes and a suitable cable. Anything you can use to connect two Macs over LocalTalk will work with this.

(Note this means that straight wired 8-pin cables won't work, but they won't work to connect two Macs either)

(Sorry, @Scott Squires, didn't mean to repeat you! that'll teach me not to read to the end before clicking 'reply'....)

Bought a few of these and had some time to test this week... but apparently all the serial cables I have are straight through, as I tested them and they don't successfully connect two macs over localtalk or work with Airtalk. I did have a few sets of phonenet adapters which worked fine to connect two macs directly, also work with Airtalk in this configuration:

Mac --> Phonenet --> rj11 cable --> Phonenet --> Airtalk

However, Airtalk does not show up in the chooser at all. Tried 3 mac's (os9.22, os7.6, os6.08) , two different phone net adapters, but no luck. I was able to configure them using the setup button and manually entering ssid info over the web interface, they work fine that way.

So my questions:

Do I need an actual printer cable (tx/rx swap) for Airtalk to show up in chooser?
Can anyone else try and see if they can see Airtalk in the chooser using phonenet adapters?
 

Danamania

Official 68k Muse
Bought a few of these and had some time to test this week... but apparently all the serial cables I have are straight through, as I tested them and they don't successfully connect two macs over localtalk or work with Airtalk. I did have a few sets of phonenet adapters which worked fine to connect two macs directly, also work with Airtalk in this configuration:

Mac --> Phonenet --> rj11 cable --> Phonenet --> Airtalk

However, Airtalk does not show up in the chooser at all. Tried 3 mac's (os9.22, os7.6, os6.08) , two different phone net adapters, but no luck. I was able to configure them using the setup button and manually entering ssid info over the web interface, they work fine that way.

So my questions:

Do I need an actual printer cable (tx/rx swap) for Airtalk to show up in chooser?
Can anyone else try and see if they can see Airtalk in the chooser using phonenet adapters?

Worth mentioning just in case is you need to have the AppleTalk control panel set to the port the AirTalk is connected to, or the AirTalk chooser extension won't see it.
 

badCaps

Well-known member
Worth mentioning just in case is you need to have the AppleTalk control panel set to the port the AirTalk is connected to, or the AirTalk chooser extension won't see it.
Thanks for the suggestion. Both machines I'm using have the the printer port set under the appletalk or network control panel, which is the physical serial port im using on both, so it all appears correct. Airtalk is currently configured and working on both but neither list it in the chooser. Beige G3 9.2.2, Power Mac 5200/75 7.5.1.
 

mdeverhart

Well-known member
Airtalk does not show up in the chooser at all
Did you install the AirTalk extension? At least, I’m assuming that installing an extension is a prerequisite for AirTalk showing up in the Chooser (just like there are extensions for different Chooser printer drivers and AppleTalk).
 

badCaps

Well-known member
Did you install the AirTalk extension? At least, I’m assuming that installing an extension is a prerequisite for AirTalk showing up in the Chooser (just like there are extensions for different Chooser printer drivers and AppleTalk).
Funny, before I even plugged these in I searched for the extension only to come up with nothing. I've read this entire thread and can't find any references to it. Everything I've read suggest it's plug and play.

Is there a chooser extension and I'm just completely missing it??
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
Is there a chooser extension and I'm just completely missing it??

Yes, sorry! I think a few in the first batch I sent out I managed to omit to send people the 'Getting Started' doc, which is very embarrassing and totally my fault. This is the document:


And the chooser extension, which is linked from it, is here:


I'd have loved to not need any extension at all for setup, but there's no way for a network device to tell the Mac how to represent it in the Chooser, you always need to install something on the Mac to do it. It is only for setup, though, so hopefully 'plug and play' is still a reasonable descriptor!
 

badCaps

Well-known member
Yes, sorry! I think a few in the first batch I sent out I managed to omit to send people the 'Getting Started' doc, which is very embarrassing and totally my fault. This is the document:


And the chooser extension, which is linked from it, is here:


I'd have loved to not need any extension at all for setup, but there's no way for a network device to tell the Mac how to represent it in the Chooser, you always need to install something on the Mac to do it. It is only for setup, though, so hopefully 'plug and play' is still a reasonable descriptor!

It all makes sense now! Got the chooser extension added, works like a charm, phonenet adapters work fine too. Awesome work on this project, Airtalk is such a cool device.
 

halkyardo

Member
Hi! I know I'm a newcomer, but this coincides very well with me getting back into the vintage-mac hobby after many years out of the game. I'd love to buy a pair of them, with shipping to the USA.

As far as testing ability goes, I can test against a PowerBook 180c, an SE, an SE/30, and once I get around to recapping it, a IIfx. I've also got an AsanteTalk LocalTalk-Ethernet bridge that I can try it out with.

A while ago I started writing a little Linux program to bridge between Mini vMac's LocalTalk-over-UDP protocol, to ethernet. Never got around to getting it into a working state, but this is a great motivation to get back to work on it!
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
Hi! I know I'm a newcomer, but this coincides very well with me getting back into the vintage-mac hobby after many years out of the game. I'd love to buy a pair of them, with shipping to the USA.

Are you happy to be contacted by PM here when some are ready? :)

A while ago I started writing a little Linux program to bridge between Mini vMac's LocalTalk-over-UDP protocol, to ethernet. Never got around to getting it into a working state, but this is a great motivation to get back to work on it!

I think a lot of people here, myself included, would be very happy if you did! :-D
 

Wheeties

New 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.


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):

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:​

Are you going to sell any of these?
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
Are you going to sell any of these?

I already am! I'm currently waiting for a new batch of boards to arrive. When I have stock, I am going through this thread (and my PMs) in the order that people expressed interest and contacting them. This process is rate-limited by the number I have and the rest of my life :). Would you like me to contact you when I have some?
 
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