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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Will there be a version with wired Ethernet instead?
Maybe. Do you want one?
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.
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.
Does the back of the board say 'eeeese' on it?