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AppleTalk over the Internet

Networking Mac OS X machines that sit behind routers By Dave Nagel
It's been a while since I've provided tips on Mac OS X, and I thought I'd drop you a quick one today. I get this question occasionally from pros who need to transfer files between their home and work machines when one or more resides behind a router. It's a quick process, but one that isn't immediately obvious for those who don't do much networking.

Today we'll look at two ways to do this using a Mac running OS X and either AppleTalk or FTP. AppleTalk, as you know, is a simple networking protocol that can link Macs on a local network or over the Internet, and it's my preferred method. Even when running over the Internet, you can mount Mac volumes and use them as if they were local drives, though you might want to think twice before launching an application from a remote volume. (I've done it; it's slow!)

But what if one or more of the machines sits behind a router/firewall? No problem. Just follow these steps. (For this example, I'm going to assume you're trying to connect to your home machine and that you use a personal router at home to connect multiple machines to the Internet.)

Setting up the home machine
1. Open up you System Preferences, which are located under the Apple menu.
2. Click on the Network button, and then select the AppleTalk tab.

3. Now in the System Preferences, select File Sharing, and click the "Start" button.

4. Now click on the "Application" tab in the same Sharing pane, and select "Allow remote login."

That's all you have to do in terms of the computer itself. However, the only way you will be able to log in at this point is as an administrator. If you're uncomfortable with sharing your admin password with people at work, you might want to create a new identity just for transferring files. So, in System Preferences again, select "Users," and create a new user. Type in the identity and the new password for this user, and make sure you do not check the "Allow user to administer this computer" option.

Setting up the router
If you have a router that's been purchased in the last few years, you probably have one that allows you to change settings via a Web browser interface. Mine does. This is important because in order to be able to access an AppleTalk machine from outside your local network, the router needs to know what to do, so you have to be able to configure it to tell it what to do.

You accomplish this by modifying the way the Virtual Server built into the router behaves.Your router, which hopefully has a built-in DHCP server, assigns IP addresses to each machine on your network. These IP addresses are for local use only and can't be accessed from outside your network directly. But they do help the server determine which machine on the network receives which traffic.

1. To find your local machine's IP address, look in your Network pane located in your System Preferences, as pictured below.

2. Now open up your Web browser and go to your router settings page. You will find your router's local IP address in your router manual or in the Network pane of your System preferences, as pictured above. Enter in this address in your Web browser to access the settings.

3. Now you want to locate your virtual server settings. The terminology for this varies by manufacturer, but, basically, you're looking for something in your router settings that allows you to set ports and direct incoming traffic to a specific machine in your local network. This might be called "forwarding" or "virtual server" or "port assignment." Something like that.

4. Once you've found it, enter "548" into one of your "port" fields. And then enter the local IP address of the computer you want to network. In the example below, I'm directing "service port 548" to to machine on my network with the local address of I've also made sure to check the "enable" option. Then I just save my settings and reboot the router. (Some routers can assign ports on the fly without rebooting.)

I am now completely done in terms of the setup on the home end.

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