Embracing Obsolescence

File Sharing Nightmare with OS X and the Classic Mac OS

- 2006.01.20

Regular Low End Mac readers may recall my journey of two weeks ago, which resulted in me acquiring some great Mac items. In particular, you may recall the G3 upgraded Performa 6400 I was so excited about.

My plan was to make the Performa 6400 into a media center. Accordingly, I added a 120 GB internal hard drive and partitioned the hard drive into four volumes:

  • 8.2 GB HFS+ main boot partition
  • 89.8 GB HFS+ storage partition
  • 9.7 GB HFS storage partition (not really sure why)
  • 3.9 GB HFS+ backup boot partition

6400 Peculiarities

So far, the 6400 seems to be a great Mac on its own merits. There have been a few items to nitpick about on this otherwise very useful Mac. I figure by relaying the following information, I can garner some helpful tips, snarky insults, and maybe even provide a little guidance to other Low End Mac users wanting to keep their Macs useful.

First, the odd subwoofer issue. It seems I cannot disable the internal subwoofer, even while I'm using the 6400's audio out port. Head scratcher. Is there an option I missed in the Monitors and Sound control panel? I work around the constant added bass by running a line out through the head phone jack. I suppose this will work for now.

Also, I could not get any of my Comm Slot II ethernet cards to work. The computer would not boot while a CS card was installed. I waited 5-10 minutes, but the black screen never changed. I hadn't tested the CS II ethernet cards until now, so I'm not sure if the fault lies with the 6400 or the cards. I usually like to test my parts when I first acquire them, but I never had the right type of Performa/Power Mac to test these cards.

The lone major difficulty arose from trying to share files with a G3 iMac running OS X 10.2.8. Let me quickly dole out the specs in order to help anyone reading get a handle on the situation.

Performa 6400

  • Mac OS 8.1
  • 400 MHz G3
  • 136 MB RAM
  • 10/100 ethernet card
  • 120 GB internal ATA drive (3 HFS+ and 1 HFS partitions)

Snow iMac G3

  • Mac OS X 10.2.8 and 9.2.2 on separate partitions
  • 500 MHz G3
  • 256 MB RAM
  • built in 10/100 ethernet
  • 30 GB internal hard drive (2 HFS+ partitions)
  • 30 GB external FireWire hard drive (2 HFS+ partitions)

File Sharing Failuire

Not knowing the easiest way to proceed, I enabled AppleTalk and file sharing on both the iMac and 6400. Some of the files I needed were on the iMac's internal hard drive and some were on the external FireWire hard drive connected to the iMac. The two Macs were connected by a simple ethernet crossover cable.

Here is my problem: File sharing over AppleTalk was not up to the task of transferring the 7 GB of files from the iMac to the 6400. I think much of the fault falls on OS X and its inability to network with the classic Mac OS via AppleTalk. The iMac could see the 6400 when I connected to it. However, the iMac could only see 2 GB of free space instead of the almost 90 GB.

Unfortunately, if I tried to transfer the files to the 6400, an error would appear, noting not enough space was available to transfer the files.

My next thought was to connect to the iMac from the 6400. Although, in hindsight I could have tried to transfer smaller chunks of files at a time. Maybe disconnecting and reconnecting after each smaller transfer would have alleviated the 2 GB issue.

The good news: The 6400 could see the iMac. The bad news: When an attempt was made to log into the iMac, an error message would appear describing an inexplicable connection error. I decided the easiest way to proceed was to boot into Mac OS 9 and not worry about any possible AppleTalk issues from within OS X.

I truly believe this attempt would have succeeded if an odd quirk had not derailed my carefully planned course of action. My rationale was simple: It didn't matter if there were only 2 GB of free space on the iMac's shared volumes. The needed files would still be displayed, and the transfer was from the iMac to the 6400.

Making sure there was enough room in the 6400 was easy, since the drive was freshly formatted. There were maybe a handful of files on the storage partition. Unfortunately, after more than a handful of minutes waiting for file sharing to start on the iMac, I realized a new plan was needed.

Timbuktu Strikes Out

File sharing was obviously broken on the iMac's OS 9.2.2 partition, but I'm not sure exactly why the file sharing protocol was broken. Trashing preferences did not help, and other network activities, such as connecting to the Internet and using Timbuktu, worked fine.

After running Timbuktu through its paces, I had an epiphany, or so I thought - Timbuktu has a file transfer feature!

Timbuktu could actually make the connection, and the transfer procedure seemed to start without too much trouble. Well, seemed is certainly the correct term to use. Dropped Connectionville here we come, followed by a quick trip over to Frozen Mac City.

Please note that I tried this procedure under both Mac OS 9 and X. Either way, bad mojo. I can't remember if I connected from the 6400 to the iMac as well as from the iMac to the 6400. I know I did the former, but after multiple failures, I sort of gave up on this scenario. I attempted a single large transfer of the files as well as multiple smaller groupings, ranging from 200 MB to 1 GB in size.

I went so far as to retrace the preceding steps with a Mac OS 9.0.4 install on the 6400's backup boot partition. I used the iMac Software Restore CD and copied the disk image over to the 6400. (Sure, some of the features or settings were quirky. The sound not working was a big problem. But the networking still made it through.)

Mac OS 9 on the 6400 allowed the iMac to see 4 GB of available space, but the iMac continued to be unable to file share to the 6400. The iMac's OS 9 file sharing was still broken, and the disconnect problem in OS X persisted.

Luckily, the light bulb, while previously flickering and dim, finally brightened to the point of illumination. The solution came hither: I would enable the built in FTP service found in the OS X Sharing system preferences pane. Now the iMac could circumvent any weird file sharing protocol shenanigans.

Internet Explorer?

Not having an FTP client, browser based or otherwise, installed upon the 6400's main partition, I was lucky I had made an OS 9 boot partition. The iMac's default system restore included Internet Explorer 5. (I know, I lambasted Internet Explorer in previous articles, but I simply wanted to get the darned file transfer over with.)

Internet Explorer 5 includes a decent FTP client. Besides, I intended to wipe this partition after the transfer was completed anyway. Some may wonder what I so desperately needed from the iMac to begin my Media Center project or why I did not have the iMac already configured for these file sharing duties.

I keep my music and podcasts on the iMac because it remains the sole OS X Mac I can routinely access. In order to keep my iPod updated, I could use my Ubuntu NEC box, but I like the ease of use enabled by the iPod/iTunes integration.

Mom's iMac

The G3 iMac was my faithful companion for almost five years, but it's now my mother's trusted computer. Because I have spent so many years working with Macs, not to mention I truly enjoy fiddling with computers, I am tasked with keeping the iMac running smoothly. Since I am the administrator, I keep things tidy, but I customize the settings for my mother's use, not my own. I keep the external FireWire hard drive attached to the iMac to back up my mother's files and store my audio files when I need to update the iPod.

When all my music was in the MP3 or AAC format, I was happy to use my iPod as my primary audio device. Yet I have become increasingly fond of the Ogg Vorbis and FLAC codecs, which the iPod does not support. True, Mac OS 8.1 doesn't support FLAC either, but there is the very basic, yet impressive, JustOgg music player.

I fully plan to explore JustOgg and its cousin MpegDec in future articles. Also, on account of Internet Explorer 5 proving so handy, I decided to install a copy on the Performa 6400's main boot partition. I still love iCab, but the version 3.0 beta will not run on Mac OS 8.1.

There are still things I absolutely detest about Internet Explorer, but there are a few great features that deserve a closer look. Don't worry, I'll be here to tell you all about my Internet Explorer experiences in a future installment.

Until next time, continue to put those "obsolete" Macs to good use.

  • Timbuktu, remote access and control application, my old copy crashed and burned for this specific use, but generally Timbuktu is secure, reliable, and relatively easy to configure.
  • MpegDec, basic MP3 player, 68k Mac support.
  • OggDrop, basic Ogg Vorbis player, 68k Mac support.
  • Ogg Vorbis, a digital audio compression codec (lossy).
  • FLAC, an open source lossless codec.

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