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I'm struggling to set up an RJ-11 AppleTalk network - what am I doing wrong?


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I'm trying to set up a 2-node AppleTalk network between my Performa 5400 (Mac OS 9.1) and my Macintosh Classic (System 6.0.1), with the 5400 acting as an ethernet bridge. I'm using RJ-11 adapters. 

 

I've connected the machines to each other yet when I open the AppleTalk control panel on the Performa I see "No zones available" and seemingly no way to set one up. On the Mac Classic end of the connection I can't even find a way to configure AppleTalk besides turning it on and off in Chooser. I've read multiple accounts of how AppleTalk "just works" but I am not getting that immediate impression. I feel like I'm missing something stupid and obvious. Is there a manual or a user guide somewhere? I tried using the assistant built into OS 9 but it got me nowhere. A web search didn't yield anything useful. A small terminator RJ-11 came with one of the adapters but I was under the impression that you didn't need to terminate these connections - what's the deal with that? 

 

If anyone with experience could help me out with getting this set up I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!

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Hmm, just off the top of my brain: Do your machines have the AppleTalk control panel? That control panel (*esp on the OS9 side of things) sets what interface AppleTalk uses, because Classic Mac OS can't, by default, multi-home. You may need to set it to the port you're using.

 

If you don't have that, put the LocalTalk cabling on the Printer port on both machines, which is the default in machines that don't have the preference and I believe before it was possible to pick.

 

After that, hmm, the next thing I'm tempted to say to check is the chooser itself to make sure AppleTalk is on on both machines, it might not find a zone unless one of your machines has named it, zones is more of a "big networks with routing" kind of thing.

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20 hours ago, PowerMac_G4 said:

I see "No zones available" and seemingly no way to set one up

 

That's expected.  Zones are a way of organising large networks; if you don't have any AppleTalk routers on your network you won't have any zones.  That's fine.  Appletalk will still work without them, your network is just one big zone.

 

You should just be able to do the following steps:

  • Turn on AppleTalk in the Chooser on the Classic
  • In the AppleTalk control panel on the 5400, choose one of your serial ports.  It'll say "No zones".
  • Attach the PhoneNet boxes to the printer port on the Classic and to whichever port you chose on the 5400.
    • You should terminate these; I don't know how much difference it practically makes, I ended up with a drawer full of Apple wiring which is all self-terminating.  You need a terminator at either end of the bus, just like SCSI, to reduce signal reflections.
  • Turn on file sharing on the 5400.
  • It should appear under AppleShare in the chooser on the Classic.

If it doesn't behave, try doing the same just with a printer/serial cable between the two computers.  You only need the boxes if you're connecting more than two computers on one network.

Edited by cheesestraws
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Wow! Fastest help ever! Thank you so much.

 

@Cory5412 I switched to the printer port on the Classic and it immediately found the Performa!

 

@cheesestraws I followed your advice and it all worked except I get a "divide by zero" error when trying to mount the Performa's HD as a volume on the Classic. I'm assuming this is due to my only having one terminator, no? Time to buy some RJ-11 connectors and get crimping... I'll have a go with just a serial cable tomorrow and see if the error persists (fingers crossed). 

 

It really does "just work", I was just being dozy! What an utterly incredible bit of ancient tech, eh? My dream of networking my horde of old Macs is finally within reach.

 

 

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I'm not sure it's the terminator so much as it could be incompatible versions of AppleTalk.  If I try to mount an OS 9 machine on my System 7 machine, it won' work.  But I can mount my System 7 on my OS 9 without any issues.  That's where having an AppleShare server is very useful.

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On 4/30/2021 at 5:23 AM, PowerMac_G4 said:

I get a "divide by zero" error when trying to mount the Performa's HD as a volume on the Classic

 

I don't think I've ever got a divide by zero out of AppleShare before, so that's interesting :-) it could be an incompatibility introduced sometime between 6 and 9; I doubt many people were needing to file share from 9 back to 6, so perhaps something broke.  It might be worth installing the upgraded AppleShare (Workstation 3.5) that @History_SE30_Dude mentioned; that runs on 6 and implements a noticeably newer version of the protocol.

 

On 4/30/2021 at 5:23 AM, PowerMac_G4 said:

What an utterly incredible bit of ancient tech, eh? My dream of networking my horde of old Macs is finally within reach.

 

AppleTalk is a very rare thing: it is a network stack that is optimised for user experience in many ways.  When you add to this that the hardware is built into every Mac from the 128 (though admittedly by accident, they were hoping to build something more like USB with it), it's really startling how much easier networking Macs is than other computers at the time.  Local service discovery via mDNS on modern IP networks was originally an attempt to replicate AppleTalk's service discovery behaviour over IP, and even after all this time it still doesn't work as well.  Don't get me wrong, there are many things wrong with it—but there are with IP, also—but it deserves more credit than it often gets.

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On 4/30/2021 at 7:18 AM, History_SE30_Dude said:

According to this http://www.applefool.com/se30/#afpnetwork you need AppleShare Work Station 3.5.

 

Thank you so much for this invaluable link! Now I just need to actually track down a copy... it seems that 3.5 is not available on MacintoshGarden or MacintoshRepository. Do you happen to know where I can find it? 

 

1 hour ago, cheesestraws said:

it could be an incompatibility introduced sometime between 6 and 9

 

According to the link from @History_SE30_Dude there is an incompatibility between 6 and 9 (unsurprising really), plus I was trying to mount a 40GB volume – well beyond the 2GiB limit mentioned in the link above! That probably explains the "divide by zero" error. 

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P.S. I just tried connecting to the Performa via 7.5 on the Classic and it works perfectly! The mounted volume only shows as 4GB, which aligns with the info from the AppleFool page. I definitely need to track down this illusive AppleShare Workstation 3.5 software for 6.0.8. Mac OS 7.5 is glacially slow on these machines.

Edited by PowerMac_G4
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4 hours ago, PowerMac_G4 said:

Thank you so much for this invaluable link!

 

Be a bit careful here; that page has useful tables in it but the author uses terminology quite wrongly in some places (like AFP in general, which they seem to conflate with the entire protocol stack, rather like calling everything from Ethernet up "http") and in other places is just confused.  If you uncritically believe what it says, you will get in a great deal of confusion.

 

4 hours ago, PowerMac_G4 said:

That probably explains the "divide by zero" error. 

 

Oh, yeah, that might account for it.

 

3 hours ago, PowerMac_G4 said:

AppleShare Workstation 3.5

 

Could well be the one on here: https://macintoshgarden.org/apps/some-system-701-essentials or here https://macgui.com/downloads/?file_id=19325

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