Yesterday we reported that EarthLink’s long-planned satellite Internet access for the Mac platform is at a standstill because, according to EarthLink officials, they’re “at the mercy of Hughes Network Systems (the network provider for our satellite service) as far as a Mac version of the service goes.”
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However, while Mac fans’ eyes were on Macworld San Francisco earlier this month, Mike McGann, technical Editor for E-Gear magazine and contributing editor of Home Theater magazine, was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. When he wandered past the Hughes Network Systems’ booth, there was a display showing an iMac using DirecWay.
McGann told MacCentral that he suggested to the Hughes person standing nearby, who happened to be a software engineer, that it was “naughty “for them to show a Mac, since they don’t work with DirecWay. But he said that it DID work with a Mac thanks to a new add-on Ethernet box, that becomes a third piece of the current two-piece adapter kit. It’s due out by late spring, and should cost US$200 to $300 more than the current hardware package. Lots of Windows users will want this addition as well, because the USB drivers for Direcway are “awful,” McGann said.
“If that ships on schedule, that will resolve the Mac issue for Earthlink and Pegasus,” he said. “It’s not surprising that Earthlink doesn’t know much about it; Hughes never tells them anything. A number of times I’ve had to tell people at Earthlink about things such as software upgrades that people at Hughes have told me because they didn’t know.”
McGann himself is a Mac fan. He has a 600MHz combo drive iBook and an older iMac DV SE, both of which he has on DirecWay. How’d he do it?
“I bought a dirt cheap Windows box ($400 with a 17-inch monitor and printer at Best Buy) and spit Internet out to my AirPort via Ethernet. Considering the non-Mac parts of my install were about $1,000, the extra $400 isn’t a big deal,” he said. “While the upload speeds are awful and the latency keeps me from playing Quake III online anymore, the download speeds sometimes approach T2 at non-peak, and are almost always faster than my old IDSL line, which was provided by the late, lamented Rythyms. The Hughes people claim they are working on a solution to bring the upload speeds up over 100 kb/sec. I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Meanwhile, a company called IOXperts, does Mac device drivers and is about to announce a suite of universal 802.11 drivers (for most non-Apple hardware) in addition to their USB/FireWire drivers. This technology could easily be extended to support satellite receivers, according to Chief Technology Officer Steve Sisak.