Mix-and-Match Those Pesky Macs

Apple's Macintosh computers embody the idea behind the cliche, "always a bridesmaid and never a bride." Certainly, no one can claim that Macs dominate America's corporate desktops. At the same time, however, no one can dispute that Macs claim an important place in data processing. As I've reported, Macs continue to perform valuable functions for many mainstream applications, including graphics, digital photography, video, animation, multimedia production, pre-press production, and of course, desktop publishing.

The continued need for Mac computers means that Windows NT Server must, like Novell NetWare, be able to integrate Macs. Microsoft obviously agrees because the company provides two good ways to integrate Macs and NT Server. First, Windows NT Server includes Mac file and print services, which let you integrate an NT Server into a Mac network. Second, TCP/IP services provide an intranetwork solution that lets Mac clients access key NT files and services.

Make Like a Mac
Mac file and print services are integrated NT Server components that conform to Apple's AppleTalk network architecture. Once you install and configure Mac file and print services on your network, any Mac client on the same network can access the NT Server as a native Mac file server or print server--no additional software is necessary on Mac clients.

Windows NT Server's Network applet in the Control Panel lets you add support for these Mac services. You select Services for Macintosh from the list box that appears when you press the Add Software button. The installation process prompts for some basic Mac networking information and installs two new services, File Server for Macintosh and Print Server for Macintosh. Next, the installation process creates a MacFile applet in the Control Panel and adds a MacFile option to the standard File Manager menu.

The File Server for Macintosh service lets the Windows NT Server appear as a native Mac file server on the network. The MacFile option in the File Manager lets you declare logical volumes on your NT Server. These volumes will be available over the Mac network. The implementation of volumes is similar to how NT emulates NetWare volumes: You map a logical volume to a specific directory point on an NT File System (NTFS) disk partition (File Server for Macintosh requires an NTFS partition; it doesn't support File Allocation Table--FAT--or High Performance File System--HPFS--partitions).

You must also define the security level. The MacFile Control Panel applet lets you set up server-level security; you can force Mac users to supply usernames and passwords to access the server, you can allow guest access (which does not require a logon name and password), or you can mix the two levels. Also, through the File Manager MacFile menu, you can establish file-level access permissions on a per-user or group basis.

After you configure the NT Server, Mac clients connect to it using the standard Chooser desk accessory. You start the Chooser and click on AppleShare to get a list of available servers, including any NT Servers running the File Server for Macintosh service. To access the server, select it from the list and go through the usual AppleShare logon. Again, this is the same procedure you use to access Mac file servers on the network--no special Microsoft extensions are necessary.

The Print Server for Macintosh service differs from the File Server for Macintosh service in that you can use the Print Server service for two different applications. First, PC clients can directly output to AppleTalk (network-based) PostScript printers, and second, Mac clients can directly output to NT-based printers.

To enable the first option (PC-to-PostScript printing), create a shared NT Server printer definition that describes the appropriate printer driver, such as the Hewlett-Packard (HP) LaserJet IIISi PostScript, and associates that driver with a permanent AppleTalk network connection. Trust me; it's easier than it sounds. After you define the printer, PC clients can print to the PostScript printer as they print to any shared NT Server printer. But one complication is that the NT Server system owns the printer when acting as a print server--Mac clients cannot directly send output to the printer over the network and must instead route print through the NT Server.

To enable the Mac-to-NT printing, all you have to do is... well, nothing, actually. When you install Mac print services under NT, any shared printers are automatically available to the Mac network. Mac clients see each NT-based shared printer as a network-based Apple LaserWriter. To access an NT-based printer, a Mac client starts the Chooser desktop accessory and selects the LaserWriter icon. A list of available printers appears, including the names of shared NT Server printers.

Interestingly, this Print Server for Macintosh option automatically converts incoming PostScript information to a format the attached printer will accept. For example, I can print from my Mac over Ethernet to an HP LaserJet IIP attached to my NT Server via a parallel connection. The PostScript-to-PCL conversion (in this case) is surprisingly good, but certainly not perfect. (I have kerning problems with some fonts on the Mac.) The conversion is acceptable for most business applications.

The Mac file and print services are an excellent integration solution--if your Macs are networked to the NT Server over a direct LAN connection or through a LAN bridge (including LocalTalk-to-LAN bridges) or a LAN router. But if you need simple dial-in connectivity to NT Server resources, you have to look further, because NT Remote Access Service (RAS) does not transport the AppleTalk protocol.

Your Own Personal Internet
One benefit of the Internet explosion is the wide availability of quality TCP/IP client and server applications for mainstream platforms. For Mac-NT connectivity, you can use these tools to build a local or wide-area intranetwork for information transfer needs. It can be as simple as an NT-based File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server for Mac clients or as complex as a multipurpose NT Server that offers Web, FTP, Gopher, and even printing--Line Print Remote(LPR)/Line Print Daemon(LPD)--services to Macs and other clients.

Mac and NT Server TCP/IP interoperability is robust. Most Mac client tools work well with NT Server tools. Mac client tools include the popular Mac Fetch for FTP access, TurboGopher for Gopher access, and Mac versions of the Mosaic and Netscape Web browsers. Printing through LPR/LPD is more complicated because no printer emulation is provided, in contrast to Print Server for Macintosh. This omission means that to use LPR/LPD, you need a PostScript printer or other Apple-compatible printer attached to your NT Server.

Another advantage of the TCP/IP intranetwork is that it easily accommodates both local and wide-area connections. The MacTCP service with a LAN card (or with a LocalTalk-to-LAN bridge) gives you high-speed connections to the NT Server. With the standard NT RAS TCP/IP service, MacTCP with a Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) extension lets you dial in to an NT Server. Also, the NT Server needs no special configuration settings, so PCs and other clients can use the same local and wide-area connections.

This approach's downside is that integration isn't as seamless as with Macintosh file and print services. You can't, for example, access the NT Server disk to store folders or launch Mac applications. Nor can you mount an NT printer as an AppleTalk printer. For that level of integration, you need Macintosh file and print services.

On the other hand, a TCP/IP intranetwork solution lets you develop an attractive, client-independent front end for business information. FTP or Gopher can easily handle data transfer. With a little work, you can even use Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) forms data entry.

TCP/IP is a solution that's much different from Mac file and print services, but that doesn't mean one solution is better or worse. In a Mac-dominant environment, you'll want to use Macintosh file and print services to get native look-and-feel. If, however, you have a mixed bag of client platforms and a range of local and wide-area connectivity needs, TCP/IP provides greater flexibility.