At home, I have what is considered to be a reasonable network – consisting of a PowerCenter, a Duo 2300 with Docking Stations, two SE/30’s and occasionally a few other machines,
- All connected via Ethernet.
- All share data and files with one another.
- All share the LaserWriter.
But, only one could use my Internet connection and modem at a time.
This could cause problems if two people wanted to browse the web at the same time, or if the PowerCentre which has the most RAM, Hard Disk space and the modem on it was been used for something else
So, what was I to do?
I could have added yet another phone line, purchased another modem and second internet account, but seeing as I am the only computer user who actually lives in the house, this option seems a bit excessive.
From my involvement with the BBS Admin Team, I knew that if I had a Unix system setup, I could use that to “gateway” the internet data across the network, through the modem, out to the Internet and receive stuff the same way.
Sure there are other solutions, including Windows NT and Vicom Internet Gateway for MacOS, but I don’t own a PC to run NT on, and the trials I performed with VIG left a lot to be desired in terms of performance.
Seeing as I could free up one of my SE/30’s I thought I would try setting up a NetBSD system and give it a try.
NetBSD is a fully featured version of Unix that runs on a variety of 68k based Macintoshes (ie: Not PowerMacs – there are other versions of UNIX available for them)
Some of the Macs supported include most of the Mac II series, the SE/30, some of “middle” LC range and some of the lower Quadra’s. A complete listing of supported machine is available from the NetBSD webpage.
A minimum of 8 megs of RAM and 100meg Hard drive is suggested, but in both cases if you want to actually do something more useful than booting the machine, the more you have the merrier you will be.
What can it actually do?
As mentioned, NetBSD is a fully fledged implementation of Unix, so it can do anything that a “normal” Unix can.
I have mine running Apache (the same web server AUSOM PA runs), I have multiple email accounts for the various mailing lists I subscribe to – which Eudora reads just as if reading my mailbox on Premium Access I will have Squid – the internet standard web proxy system. I will ultimately install netatalk and samba which adds standard AppleShare and Windows file sharing.
What is performance like when two users are accessing the web at the same time?
Considering the fact I am using an SE/30 which is about eight years old and is regarded as slow by today’s standards, the performance is actually better than that of my direct modem connection on the PowerCenter.
Sure when I have a couple of file transfers from FirstClass or from an FTP site, performance drops, but that more of a bottleneck of my 33.6k modem, not the machine.
Can you do this yourself?
A group of people, including Ian Henderson, Stephen Welker, Matt Irwin and James Ng, as well as myself, are already in the process of setting up their own NetBSD systems at home. After obtaining the Installing the operating system itself is reasonably simple, but time consuming – a basic install on my SE/30 took about 3 hours. The harder part is configuring the system to actually work as the gateway, but we have this fairly well–down–pat having done three separate systems at time of writing with two different service providers (plus mine has been done a couple of times itself while we experiment).
On the other machines on the network, you just need to re-configure TCP/IP to work through the gateway and then all your internet programs will work as per normal.
I have Internet Explorer, Eudora Pro, rnMac (a news reader), Telnet, IRC, AUSOM FirstClass and Anarchie FTP all working through the gateway.
Internet SIG this month
This month we will have an abridged version of my network on display to show you how easy it is use a NetBSD system to allow all your machines to access the Internet, and AUSOM FC, through a single central modem.