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Connecting Mac OS X to Windows PCs
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Besides this method, two alternative ways to share Mac files with PC users would be to use Web Sharing and FTP.

To use Web sharing (using the built-in Apache Web server), check the Personal Web Sharing item under the Services category (see Figure 4) in your System Preferences window. Likewise to allow FTP access, check the FTP Access checkbox. By default, the folder exposed by the Web server is Sites (under the user's home directory).

Screen shot.
Figure 4. You can use Web Sharing and FTP to share files.

The FTP services, though, exposes the user's home directory. Hence, to share out any files on the Mac, you simply copy them to the respective folders, and they can then be accessed through FTP or the Web.

Screen shot.
Figure 5. The user's home directory.

To access the Mac files using FTP, you can use the command window in Windows and issue the following command:

C:\>ftp <IPAddressOfYourMac>

You can find out the IP address of your Mac in System Preferences --> Network --> TCP/IP

Screen shot.
Figure 6. Using FTP in the command window (Windows).

For Web sharing, you can use a Web browser, such as IE and enter the IP address of the Mac, followed by ~/username/.

Screen shot.
Figure 7. Accessing Mac folders using Web Sharing.

Controlling the PC Remotely from a Mac

Screen shot.
Figure 8. Using the Remote Desktop Connection to connect to Windows.

Sharing files between the Mac and the PC is good, but not enough for me. It would be better to be able to run my favorite PC applications on the Mac. While running a Windows application directly on the Mac is not technically possible, there are a couple of ways that come close to that. The first way is to pump out the display of a PC to the Mac. Microsoft provides the Remote Desktop Client (RDC) for that purpose. The second way (discussed in the next section) is to run a software emulator that emulates the Windows Operating System.

The RDC allows you to hook up your Mac to the network and remotely control your Windows system. To test drive RDC, I downloaded it and used it to connect to my Windows 2000 Advanced Server (W2KAS). To use RDC, you need to run Terminal Services on the Windows machine before the RDC can connect to it.

Screen shot.
Figure 9. Specifying the Windows server to connect to.

On the RDC connection window (see Figure 9), you can specify the login information, screen size, key mappings, etc. You can use the IP address, fully qualified machine name or netbiosname to connect to the Windows machine. As RDC is dependent on Terminal Services, you can connect to all Windows versions that supports Terminal Services, such as:

  • Windows 2000 Server
  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server
  • Windows XP

If it connects successfully, you should see the familiar Windows screen:

Screen shot.
Figure 10. Using RDC to connect to Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

The nice thing about RDC is that you can create multiple instances of Windows using a single Windows machine. Although RDC will only make one connection at a time, there is a trick you can use: duplicate the Remote Desktop Connection application, and use the original for one session and the copy for the other:

Screen shot.
Figure 11. Duplicating the RDC.

In Figure 12, I have two separate instances of Windows 2000 Advanced Server running. One is running Visual Studio .NET, and the other is running Adobe Acrobat:

Screen shot.
Figure 12. Running multiple instances of Windows using RDC.

Performance-wise, RDC is relatively fast. It translates keystrokes between the Mac and PC efficiently, and I have no problem in using my regular Control and Alternate (using the Option key on the Mac) keys when controlling my Windows PC. Running CPU-intensive applications like Visual Studio .NET has no effect on the performance on the Mac as all the processing is done on the Windows PC itself. I also have no problems running my regular applications like Word, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, etc.

However, when two or more instances of Windows are created, the performance degrades drastically. But this is really the problem with the Windows server, as multiple clients connecting to the Terminal Services chalk up a lot of resources. Nevertheless, my notebook equipped with 512MB RAM and a 1GHz processor does not seem to digest the workload well.

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