Bridging the Econet / PC divide.

I mentioned on a previous post that Econet provides a way of linking together a number of Acorn computers, although I didn’t go into the detail of it can help when shifting around data between newer PCs and the retro world. The short answer is that on it’s own, it doesn’t help much, as using the Econet hardware out there you cannot connect it directly to a modern PC.

The larger Risc OS machines will accept both an Econet card, and an Ethernet card (known as a podule in Acorn parlance). And so by running TCP/IP on that machine you can create a bridge of sorts between the two networks. I say ‘of sorts’ as the best you can get out of it is to set up the Acorn Level 4 fileserver on the machine alongside Omniclient, and then mount an NFS drive over the Ethernet which then appears as a shared drive on the Econet network. To run this setup you will also need a hard drive in the machine, and at least 4MB of memory for acceptable performance. You also need a handy Linux box or compatible NAS device running on your Ethernet in order to act as the shared storage.

If you have a machine of just the right vintage to be able to take both Econet and Ethernet cards, then you are limited to a pretty old version of Omniclient which is not able to authenticate against any NFS (or Samba) versions released in the last 15 years or so. If you don’t mind running publicly writeable NFS shares on your home network, perhaps because you consider it low risk, or you have other physical protection in place, this solution does the job quite well.  But after running this set up at home for a while it got me thinking: Is there a better way?

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