By Stephen H. Wildstrom As I noted in my Oct. 7 Technology & You column ("Jaguar Does Windows -- and Then Some"), the new Jaguar version of Apple's OS X dramatically improves the ability of Macintoshes to communicate with Windows PCs. But Jaguar isn't necessarily the last word in Mac-Windows cooperation. My vote for that goes to the venerable, if somewhat pricey, PC Maclan from Miramar Systems (www.miramar.com).
The beauty of PC Maclan (the latest version is $189 for a single PC, with volume discounts available) is that instead of forcing Macs to deal with the complexities of Windows networking, "it take PCs into the Mac world," as Harry Rabin, Miramar senior vice-president, puts it. And the Mac world can be a much simpler place.
Maclan, which comes in versions for Windows NT and Windows 2000, or for XP and 95, 98, or Me, is a utility that enables a PC to speak Appletalk, which is much easier to use within a local-area network (LAN) than Windows networking. For example, all you typically have to do to set up a printer on an Appletalk network is plug it into a network port. Any Mac, or any Maclan-equipped PC, will immediately see the printer on a list of available devices. Setting up a network printer under Windows, even though XP makes it easier than previous versions, still remains a bit of a black art.
FINALLY ARRIVED. Maclan's biggest advantage over Jaguar's built-in Windows networking is that it works with Apple machines still running older versions of the Mac operating system. Although the 18-month-old OS X represents a major improvement in almost every category over Mac OS 9.2 and earlier releases, Jaguar, which has been out only since August, is really the first version to offer the performance, stability, and broad application support required by many Mac operations.
Changing operating systems in a complex environment such as a high-end graphics-arts shop isn't something that system administrators rush into. Furthermore, some critical Mac applications, such as Quark XPress page-layout software used in many publishing operations (including BusinessWeek) is not yet available in an OS X version.
In many mixed Mac-PC networks, Jaguar's new Windows networking capabilities will be all you need. But if your setup is at all complex, if you want to give you Windows computers easy access to Appletalk printers, or especially, if you're still running an older OS on some or all of your Macs, PC Maclan could make your life a lot easier.
Addendum: In the Oct. 7 Technology & You column, I complained that Apple Computer had released very little technical information on Rendezvous, its new technology for easily identifying printers and other resources on networks. Apple has since remedied this by posting a rich trove of tech data on its developer Web site. Wildstrom is Technology & You columnist for BusinessWeek. Follow his Flash Product Reviews, only on BusinessWeek Online