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The Penny-Pinching PowerBook 1400 Goes Wireless
Pages: 1, 2

The configuration of the wireless component is pretty much completed at this point. You will now be prompted for network specific information. The next window is the Protocol Configuration. The basic network is a Linksys router with a Cisco Access Point. Devices in my network are assigned an IP address using DHCP. I selected "Create a matching TCP/IP configuration using DHCP" (see Figure 5). Click the right arrow to continue. This configuration is your standard, run-of-the-mill wireless network connected to a broadband (cable company) network setup. Nothing up my sleeve.

Figure 5. Setup Assistant Protocol Setup window.

And finally, the last Setup Assistant window is Name the New Configuration (see Figure 6). This setup is necessary if you plan to take your penny-pinching PowerBook to the office. Make an office configuration later, but for the time being create a home config. As a side note, I have been tempted to take it down to a local McDonald's to try out their new wireless network, This isn't a cheap plug; I mention this because I intend to use this network with the penny-pinching PowerBook when I take it on the road in the family RV. I know the penny-pinching PowerBook has at least one known wireless access point when traveling. Now while I am on the road I can pull into MickieDee's for a McFlurry and a MapQuest query.

Figure 6. Name the New Configuration window.

Now back to the regularly scheduled program. You only need to create one network in this window. The ORiNOCO control panel will allow you to add more networks. Figure 7 shows the ORiNOCO control panel and the signal-strength bar. I don't know how accurate the signal-strength bar is. The penny-pinching PowerBook 1400 has never achieved signal strength, according to the meter bar, greater than 50%. This includes when the PowerBook is sitting right next to the access point. No matter, the wireless works superbly!

Figure 7. The ORiNOCO control panel.


Goodies to Pickup

If you're going to add wireless to your penny-pinching PowerBook you may want to download some other software components. MacSSH for Mac Classic is available from This client supports SSH2, which most Internet-accessible servers use nowadays. The ftp application Fetch 4.0.3, which used to be a shareware application from Dartmouth University, is now a commercial application from Fetch Softworks. Fetch becomes extremely handy when transferring files between the G4 and the PowerBook 1400. I also installed TclTk8.4.2 and Emacs-20.6 from These applications take a few seconds to load in the seemingly slow memory environment. So what's up with the Emacs and the Tcl interpreter? I am a computer geek. Sometimes I just have to write a script for no reason at all.

These software tools made the penny-pinching PowerBook extremely useful; they were, of course, in addition to the software I already had lying around in the old Apple software closet. When all the dust settled and all the extensions were added for Office 98, Mac OS 9.1 was only consuming a whopping 16M of memory. Realistically, as I mentioned earlier, the penny-pinching PowerBook will operate with Mac OS 9.1, wireless interface, and Microsoft Office 98 with only 24M of memory. Upgrading the additional 32M allows me to run development software, such as CodeWarrior, which requires 32M to run on.

Figure 8. Mac OS 9.1 memory utilization.

What's the point to adding another chapter to this saga? Well, you computer science students out there on a tight budget take notice. The penny-pinching PowerBook will get you connected to the university's labyrinth of UNIX systems for $200. Dude, that's cheaper than a Dell! The penny-pinching PowerBook, with it's WiFi capability, makes it an extremely versatile little laptop to take with you on the go. My system is set up with tools to access UNIX machines, software development, and word processing.

I plan on taking the penny-pinching PowerBook on the road to use for my writing projects this year and tackle writing the great American novel. I have an idea that takes place in the future. A couple of vintage Apple G4 cubes are set up in a massively parallel environment. They end up going to war with the human race and enslaving them in a virtual world. All the while the physical human bodies are used as batteries to power the system. Throw in a couple of hackers with super kung fu powers and I got a hit. I better go type these ideas down.

Michael J. Norton is a software engineer at Cisco Systems.

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