Mac OS X
Windows server

Imagine for a moment that it’s late Friday afternoon, and
the boss calls you into his office. “Great News”, he tells you,
“You’ve been given a promotion”. Before you can even start
celebrating, you begin to figure out that part of the promotion means that you
have just inherited the company’s graphics department. That wouldn’t be so bad,
except that all of the employees in that department use Macintosh. You’ve never
touched a Macintosh in your life. Your blood runs cold as your boss explains
that you are now responsible for managing those machines, and that swapping the
Macs out for PCs is not an option. What do you do?

Before you panic, you will be happy to know that integrating
Macintosh machines into an Active Directory based Windows Server 2003 network is
easier than it used to be. Don’t get me wrong; there is still quite a bit of
work to do up front, but the implementation and the day to day management tasks
are much easier than they were a few years ago. In this article, I will
basically give you a crash course in Macintosh networking.

A good first step

Imagine for a moment that our fictitious graphics department
is using PCs instead of Macs. What would be the first step in the integration
process? A good first step might be to take a walk over to the graphics
department and see what you’ve got to work with. Specifically, you would
probably want to know things like what operating systems the PCs are running,
what is the underlying hardware configuration, what applications are being
used, and where are the user’s files being stored. Even though our imaginary
graphics department is using Macintosh computers, the first step is basically
the same as if the users had PCs.

OK, maybe the first step isn’t exactly the same as if the
users had PCs, but you are after the same end result. The difference is that
you probably don’t want to take a walk over to the graphics department and
start inventorying machines because Macs are totally alien to you (at least
that’s my assumption for this article).

Instead, you might ask your boss for a roster of all of the
department’s employees. You could then send everyone in the department an
E-mail message. In that message you could introduce yourself and request that
the users send you the specs for their computer. You could then provide the
users with some instructions for sending you those specs.

The easiest way to pull this off is to have the users to get
the specs from the Apple System Profiler. The Apple System Profiler is a
utility that has been a part of every Macintosh operating system since OS
7.6.1. To access this utility, users should click the Apple menu and then
select the Apple System Profile. When the utility starts, the users should
select the New Report command from the File menu. The utility will now offer the
users some choices of what should be include in the report. Tell them to go
with the default selections and click OK. Finally, have the users to save the
report as a text document and E-mail it to you. You might have the users to
give the text file their own name or their machine name as a way of identifying
which user / machine the document corresponds to.

Know thy enemy

So you’ve requested that everyone in the graphics department
send you a System Profiler report, and now you’re being bombarded by E-mail
messages containing system inventories that you don’t completely understand. If
the users had PCs, you would know that a 100 MHz 486-DX4 is junk and that a 3.2
GHz Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading rocks.

Macintosh machines don’t use Intel processors though (well,
they do now, but that’s a different story for a different article). Instead,
Macintosh hardware uses names like G3, G4, iMac, eMac, and Power Macintosh.
Normally, I wouldn’t even bother wasting space telling you this, but the
machine’s ability to reliably connect to your Windows network depends directly
on what hardware the machine has and what operating system it is running. It is
therefore imperative that you know one model of Macintosh from another.

The best advice that I can give you is to consider any
Macintosh older than a G3 to be junk. You don’t even want to try attaching
older Macs to your Windows network. Yes, it can be done, but doing so tends to
be a lot of work, and some of the functionality is often lost in the process.
It’s a whole lot easier to replace older machines with new ones.

So what is a G3 any way? Macintosh machines have not
traditionally used Intel processors, but to put things in a way that a Windows
admin would understand, think of a G3 along the same lines as you would a
Pentium III. It’s not the most current processor, but it is still viable for
applications that are not overly demanding. The models of Macintosh that used
G3 processors were the Power Macintosh G3, the all in one mode of iMac, some of
the Powerbooks, and the iBook.

The Macintosh processor that is more in line with the
Pentium 4 is the G4. You will find G4 processors in the Power Macintosh G4, the
iMacs with the swivel screen (not the all in one units), the eMac, and some of
the Powerbooks.

While I am on the subject of Macintosh hardware, I want to
point out that it also important to check out how much RAM each machine is
equipped with. For reasons that I will discuss later on, you need to make sure
that each of the Macintosh computers has at least 64 MB of RAM. Any machine
with a G3 or a G4 processor should be able to accept at least 64 MB of memory.

The operating system

So far I have talked a lot about the various processors that
are used in Macintosh computers. The reason why the machine’s processor and
memory are so important is because the hardware dictates what operating system
the computer can run. For example, imagine that someone asked you to connect a
Pentium II with 64 MB of RAM to your network. You might be able to get away
with installing Windows XP onto the machine, but Windows certainly isn’t going
to run the way that it would on a Pentium 4 with 512 MB of RAM. If you are able
to install Windows XP onto that machine, you can count on it being extremely
slow and most likely it will also be instable. A machine like the one that I
just described would be better suited to running an operating system like
Windows 98.

The exact same concept holds true in the Macintosh world.
The reason why I said to make sure that all of the Macintosh computers have at
least a G3 processor and a minimum of 64 MB of RAM is because these are the
practical requirements for running OS 8.6. OS 8.6 is the oldest Macintosh
operating system that does a decent job of interacting with a Windows Server
2003 network. Of course if all of your Macintosh machines have G4 processors
and are running OS X, that’s great, but if any machines are running an
operating system that’s older than OS 8.6, then I recommend an upgrade.

Macintosh networking

If all of your Macintosh machines are current enough to be
running OS 8.6 or higher, then the machine should be equipped with an Ethernet
port. Even so, there is more to connecting a Macintosh to a Windows Server
network than just plugging in a network cable. Macintosh uses completely different
networking components than Windows does, such as the AppleShare client, Open
Transport, and the AppleTalk protocol.

As I said at the beginning of this article though, don’t
panic. Believe it or not, there are some similarities between Macintosh and
Windows networking. For example, did you ever see a Mac user surf the Internet?
Don’t forget that a basic requirement of Internet connectivity is the TCP/IP
protocol. TCP/IP is fully supported by Macintosh, and it works almost
identically to the way that it does on a PC. Technically, if you wanted to
share files between PCs and Macs, you could just set up an FTP server, but
there is a much neater method of getting the job done.

So what about the AppleTalk protocol? AppleTalk has been
around for years, and is included with the Mac operating system primarily for
backward compatibility. In most cases, the AppleTalk protocol is not required.

In case you are wondering, AppleTalk is a lot like
Microsoft’s NetBEUI protocol (AppleTalk can be routed though, unlike NetBEUI).
It is a broadcast protocol that allows Macintosh computers to identify
themselves to other Macs on the network, much the same way that NetBEUI and the
Master Browser Service populate the Network Neighborhood in older Windows
operating systems. Like NetBEUI, AppleTalk is also very chatty, and eats up a
lot of network bandwidth. Today, the AppleTalk protocol is primarily used for
discovering network resources. Once a resource is discovered, the operating
system prefers to communicate with the resource using TCP/IP.

Connecting to the Windows network

As you probably know, in order for any two devices to
communicate across a network, they must share a common protocol. Since the
Internet has become so popular over the last five or six years, TCP/IP has
become something of a universal protocol. Windows and Macintosh machines both
support TCP/IP and this is the protocol that we will use to link the networks

If this were a real world situation, I can almost guarantee
that the Macintosh users are already using TCP/IP to some extent. Otherwise
they wouldn’t be able to access the Internet. Even if TCP/IP is already in use
though, you need to reconfigure it to bring it in line with the configuration
that your Windows machines are using. After all, Active Directory is completely
dependant on DNS. You need for the Macintosh machines to be able to
authenticate into your Active Directory, and in order to do that, the Macintosh
machines need to be able to locate the domain controllers. One way of accomplishing
that is to make sure that the Macintosh machines are using the same DNS servers
as everyone else.

The easiest way to pull this off is to configure the
Macintosh machines to acquire their IP configuration from the same DHCP servers
that your Windows workstations use. To do so, go to the Macintosh computers,
and choose the Control Panel option off of the Apple menu. When the Control
Panel opens, select the TCP/IP option. Now, just tell TCP/IP to acquire an IP
address lease from a DHCP server. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

More to come

As you can see, networking with a Mac isn’t all that
difficult once you know the basics. In
an upcoming article, I will continue the discussion by showing you how to
configure the systems so that Macintosh users can authenticate via Active
Directory and access resources that are located on Windows Servers.