Network Basics: Macintosh Network Facilities

Every Macintosh ever built, even an original 1984 model, includes networking support. Of course, newer Macintosh computers have better built-in networking features than older Macintosh computers. The newest Macs include gigabit Ethernet adapters and sophisticated networking support built in to the operating system — similar to the networking features that come with Windows. Because the network support is built in, you don’t have to fuss with installing and configuring the network.

Originally, Macintosh computers used a set of networking protocols collectively known as AppleTalk. In the mid 1990s, AppleTalk was supplanted by a networking scheme called Open Transport.

The current generation of Macintosh computers uses industry-standard TCP/IP networking. The only protocol left over from the AppleTalk days that is still in widespread use is AFP, used to enable file sharing.

AFP is an abbreviation for AppleTalk Filing Protocol. It’s the part of AppleTalk that governs how files are stored and accessed on the network. AFP allows files to be shared with non-Macintosh computers. You can integrate Macintoshes into any network operating system that recognizes AFP. NetWare and all versions of Windows since Windows 95 use AFP to support Macintoshes in their networks.

Apple offers a dedicated network operating system known as Mac OS X Server (the X is pronounced “Ten,” not “Ex”), which is designed for PowerMac G3 or later computers. Mac OS X Server is based on a Unix operating-system kernel known as Mach. Mac OS X Server can handle many network-server tasks as efficiently as any other network operating system, including Windows 2000, NetWare, and Unix.

Mac OS X Server is the server version of the Mac OS X operating system, which is the current operating system version for client Macintosh computers.

The Mac OS X Server includes the following features:

  • Apache web server, which also runs on Windows and Linux systems

  • NetBoot, a feature that simplifies the task of managing network client computers

  • File services using AFP

  • WebObjects, a high-end tool for creating websites

  • QuickTime Streaming Server, which lets the server broadcast multimedia programs over the network