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ATPM 13.10
October 2007



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by Mark Tennent,

Need For Speed

All we need now is the Aston Martin. Then we’ll have nearly half of the top ten in YouGov’s survey of the coolest 500 brands. Apple brands appear throughout the list with three in the top 20. The rest are things we’ve used for years such as Google, Amazon, and eBay. We’ve even appeared in Tate Modern (in at number fifteen) when we created Simon Patterson’s JP233 in CSO Blue, now in the Tate Collection.

Is There Anybody There?

Something else we’ve been doing for years is connecting Macs together. It has always been easy since Apple included the AppleTalk printer network in its original 1980s Macs, even though it was never intended to transfer large files which, in those days, was done via floppy disk. Applications such as FileMaker databases could be linked, network games appeared, and speed-up and compression routines made the network run faster. Then along came 10Base-T, followed by 10/100 Ethernet—both of which transformed our work practices.

In the days before CD writers, instead of leaving Macs running overnight to transfer a few measly hundred megabytes over the serial network, Ethernet accomplished the same in an hour or so—which became minutes as Ethernet speeds rose. Since around the time it abandoned floppy disks, Apple has shipped Macs capable of gigabit Ethernet. The problem being that the price of gigabit routers stayed near £1,000 when 10/100 routers sank to £50. There are still no SOHO gigabit/DSL combinations (as far as I know)—until now.

Extremely Fast

The latest update to Apple’s £119 AirPort Extreme base station gave it gigabit Ethernet as well as IEEE 802.11n (draft). Tests show wired LAN to run at a steady 800 to 900 Mbps with Wi-Fi at 50 to 90 Mbps. The latter is likely to improve as the 802.11n standard is finally settled.

On the Other Hand

An alternative high-speed wired network has been built into all Macs since the turn of the century and made available via Mac OS X. Running at four times the speed of 10/100 Ethernet, the FireWire ports can be used to create a peer-to-peer, 400 Mbps network. Adding a hub for number 40 or so makes a star network for a small workgroup or to share FireWire devices. We use our thin iPod FireWire leads to go Mac-to-Mac if we ever need to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data. Just plug them into each Mac, daisy-chaining from one to another, and the Macs automatically do the rest of the configuration. The throughput speeds are the same as writing to a hard disk connected to the Mac. But to be honest, most of the time 10/100 Ethernet is all we need.

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