Connect a mac to the web using 802.11

As one of the Mac users within range of the GoldenHillFreeWeb.org access point (and using this great public service as a backup method to access the web), here is a basic tutorial with lots of gory details on how to connect and secure your computer using OS 9.x.

Note I will also do a tutorial on how to connect using OS X, as soon as I get around to reloading OS X on my Ti 400 MHz powerbook (I kind of screwed everything up playing with OS 10.3.2).

Back to the main point, to use Golden Hill Free Web Access the only additional hardware you will need to buy is a 802.11b receiver for your Mac.

Apple sells its own brand of 802.11 receivers marketed under the airport monicker. The drawbacks are it is the most expensive option and in some cases the Apple airport card is a poor choice because the antenna is mounted within the case of the computer which effectively blocks the signal (one of my Macs is a Ti Powerbook which is notorious for having a problems receiving 802.11 signals from a base station using an airport card).

Another option is to buy an external 802.11 receiver such as the one available at influx. The drawback to this setup from what I can see from the picture is you need to have an external power supply, and if you are using a laptop this setup might be somewhat inconvenient.

The cheapest solution I found for Mac 802.11 receivers in the San Diego area were purchased at Fry Electronics. The first option is a PCMCIA card by Macsense (price at Fry was $69.99) which is what I am using on my Ti Powerbook, and a USB adapter (price at Fry was $59.99) which is what I am using on my beige Power Mac.

Aside from being the lest expensive option to connect Macs to Golden Hill Free Web Access, these two Macsense products were very easy to install and configure using OS 9.x.

To surf the web all ya have to do is place the Macsense CD in the drive, install the drivers (there was a minor issue with typing in the registration key but a quick call to tech support solved that problem which according to Macsense tech support is a known issue in OS 9.x), then reboot the machine, slide the PCMCIA card into the side of the Powerbook wait a few seconds to see the signal indicator, then configure the computer to connect to the web (total time to install and connect, less than five minutes).

After installing the 802.11 software and hardware, you need to configure your computer to connect to the web. Set your TCP/IP control panel (found under the Apple symbol) to DHCP or (Dynamic Host Control Protocol), select your 802.11 receiving device (i.e. airport card, PCMCIA card, USB device, etc.) and you are pretty much good to go (just type in a URL like Google, wait for disclaimer page and that is it).

To connect an older mac such as my beige to the web, I used the USB adapter (if you do not have a built in USB port then you must first buy a PCI USB card and run OS 8.5 or later). FYI if all you use a computer for is to write simple letters and browse the web then you might not need to buy a new Mac. You can read howto articles at LowEndMac.com and buy components at other world computing as a cost effective alternative to keep older hardware in the game.

Given a choice between a Macsense PCMCIA card or a USB adapter, I would choose the PCMCIA card because from what I have observed the software seems more stable (with the USB adapter on my power mac the signal on occasion sometimes dropped out, with both computers pretty much in the same location while I was testing). Note, the software that came with the USB adapter worked right out of the box in OS 9.x (no registration key was required).

An even cheaper solution might be to buy ubiquitous PC hardware and use open source drivers, but this method requires just a bit more playing around with than buying a Mac specific product.

Securing a mac in OS 9.x

On a public network such as GoldenHillFreeWeb.org you should assume that your computer is insecure (by that I mean it is possible to get infected with a network or macro virus) or even worst which is revealing passwords and account numbers of financial institutions or shopping sites because of the open nature of public networks if you connect with "http" which can be sniffed instead of "https" which is secure.

Aside from that general warning since you are lucky enuf to be using a Mac, you can take some comfort in the fact that since most people use windows there is a in a sense security through obscurity!

To secure your Mac the first thing you should do is turn off file and program linking.


Make sure both the enable file sharing clients to connect to tcp/ip and allow guests to connect to this computer (under users & groups) boxes are unchecked.


Because of the way OS 9.x is constructed you can further secure your mac by eliminating the file sharing extension found in the system folder (this is a pretty easy work around that plugs a possible security hole).

Next it is a simple matter to turn off the auto start feature which is how the only wildly known mac worm spread (and that was a few years ago).

A second measure of security might be to uninstall apple script (which can in theory be used to hack a system and cause damage much like any ubiquitous Microsoft macro language virus, but in practice the threat of this exploit is very low.

A third measure of security might be to install IpNetSentry which is an easy to use firewall of sorts. Firewall software on your computer doesn't really block crackers from getting into your machine, but it allows you to prevent the outside world from accessing certain services. For example it will tell you if someone is trying to access FTP or "File Transfer Protocol," mail server requests, or other ports. Since OS 9 does not have these capacities built in per se, there will be no responses to these queries (hence OS 9 users are safe from these traditional avenues of computer attack). To check the effectiveness of firewall software there are other utilities such as Peek-A-Boo and IpNetMonitor which can show that everything is running and pretty darn secure.

There are lots of other measures one can do to really bullet proof a system, but if ya follow these basic guidelines using OS 9.x you will be very safe from script kiddies and spammers.

PS since SPAM is a growing problem you might find POPmonitor 2.1.3 just the tool you need to stem the tide of spam in various accounts. One major drawback of OS 9 and public networks is lack of built in privacy when checking eMail, so ya might want to look into using SSH which stands for Secure Shell.

BTW if ya hate banner ads, pop up ads, and stuff like that, I have discovered a few ways to avoid the hard sell when ya surf the net by modifying your browser.

PPS if you are interested in further reading of Mac security try www.ists.dartmouth.edu/IRIA/knowledge_base/macintosh-security.