RetroMacCast

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Local retro challenge - Wireless Powerbook 540c

Been a little while since I've been able to do any work on my collection.

As some of you may know, I'm involved in a broadcast radio tech show here in Australia (check out theTechTalk Radio website).

Anyway, last week we had an interesting collection of laptops in the studio. The co-host was running a PIII with the latest release of Ubantu extolling the virtues of Linux (which I usually agree with) and attempting to connect to the radio's access point with no luck. Of course my 1Ghz TiBook connected via its internal Airport card with no trouble at all. I then put out the challenge to the show panel to get a '486 equivalent laptop on the network and that I would try and get a 68040 vintage machine connected - wirelessly!

I already knew that I had my old PB540c with a Rev C. PCMCIA card adapter in the collection (used to use it in my dorm when on campus, connected to a Nokia 2110e via a PCMCIA GSM adapter to get internet at 9600 baud!) I also know that I had a Enterasys Roamabout 802.11b card in my old Wallstreet that should work OK.

So I've been trying to get it all to talk over the past week. Now, the Roamabout Card is a rebadged Orinoco Silver (40bit WEP) which is why it worked in my Wallstreet under MacOS9. But to get it to work with a 128 bit WEP network it needed to be upgraded to an Orinoco Gold card. There are a number of ways to do this set out on the internet, however the easiest (for me) was to slide it into my Cube's Airport slot; reboot; and wait for the card to be automatically updated!

It still appears on the 540c as a Roamabout card, but it will accept a 128 bit key. So off to the internet again to find the Roamabout drivers (the Orinoco drivers for Mac will not recognise the card - despite changing the card ID). They installed fine, and allows you to set the 128 bit key.

So after a few goes to get everything loaded, I now have a 540c that will connect to my 128bit WEP Airport network under MacOS 8.1. It will easily connect via Appletalk to my Cube (OSX.4.11) and my Xserver (OSX Server 10.4.11).

I can even get it to load my personal website (which is not content heavy) using Netscape 3.02. However, when trying to load iCab and just about any content heavy website, the poor beastie struggles (in fact freezes and crashes).

I think this is mainly due to the machine running MacOS8.1 with only 12Mb of RAM.

So I have 24 hours to roll back to MacOS 7.5.5 re-install a decent web browser and my end of the challenge will be complete!

Views: 88

Comment by Kathryn on May 12, 2008 at 12:48am
Awesome! Let us know how it turns out. That is some very clever work so far. I really like the PB 500 series, I had a 520c upgrades to a PowerPC. Miss that machine.
Comment by Ken on May 13, 2008 at 3:11pm
Neat challenge. I hope you pwn.
Comment by connectionfailure on June 6, 2008 at 9:55am
hmm. Inside the original Airport Base Station (Graphite) is a Lucent WaveLAN Silver. As the base station died, this card works great in a PeeCee laptop running Ubuntu 7.x However I tried it in a Wallstreet Running YellowDog 3 and it is not recognized. Do you think I can get it to work in any of my retro macs? I have the PB190,540,5300,Wallstreet and Pismo models. I also have a Kanga but it has issues.
Comment by macdownunder on June 6, 2008 at 4:25pm
It certainly should work - assuming the card wasn't the part of the Aiport BS that died!

System 9 should work out of the box. Earlier systems will need the WaveLAN drivers.

Good luck!
Comment by connectionfailure on June 9, 2008 at 4:40am
Anyone know where I can get a copy of these drivers?

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