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Connecting a Nikon F90x to an Apple Macintosh

Article by Helmut Thetmeyer

"Think Different" in the choice of a computer platform can be troublesome, especially when it comes to niche applications for a relatively small target group of
customers. Presently, there is Afaik no Macintosh software available that connects a F90x to an Apple Macintosh. An escape from this dilemma can be provided
by software that emulates the common PC hardware on the Mac and allows the operation of DOS or Windows. Therefore I purchased Virtual PC 2.0 from
Connectix (no tests have been made with Insignia's Real PC). Since my Macintosh is a slow PowerMac 6100/66 I didn't install the performance-hungry Windows
operating system but made do with DOS 7.0. Btw, the DOS version of Virtual PC is much less expensive than the version bundled with Windows. The Virtual PC
application is the same in both the DOS and the Windows package, i.e. users may add the Pentium compatible operating system (Windows, Windows NT, Linux,
) of their choice purchased from somewhere else. Connectix recommends a PowerPC with 180 Mhz or faster for using DOS with Virtual PC (a G3 Mac for
Windows 98).

Nevertheless, the installer didn't refuse to install the software on my 66 Mhz machine with MacOS 8.1. Installing was trivially easy but my double speed Cd drive
allowed me to drink a cup of coffee after launching the installer. It is not necessary to reboot after the installation process because Virtual PC is an ordinary Mac
application. No extra hard disk partition is necessary because Virtual PC organises the PC disk in a disk image file which can also be opened from the Macintosh
desktop. Thus, SoftTalk can be copied to the PC disk image simply by drag and drop from within the Macintosh Finder. The disk image, however, is read only
when Virtual PC is running.

Macs and PCs do not only differ in soft- but also in hardware. The standard HarTalk cable with a 9 pin (female) RS232 connector for PCs cannot be connected to
the RS422 serial ports (Modem and Printer port) of a Mac. COCOON Creations addressed this problem and manufactured a prototype of a HarTalk cable with a
MiniDIN plug for the Mac RS422 serial ports. I tested this cable and after a minor modification it was possible to connect the F90x to the Mac. Both the modem
and the printer port can be selected as COM1 or COM2 in the Preference of Virtual PC and used for the connection between the Mac and the camera. After some
playing with the SoftTalk settings most functions worked as on a real PC (changing camera flags, modes and settings, downloading film data). Only functions that
need a fast serial control (e.g. "Focus and Fire 100 ms") do not work reliably, but this could be due to the low performance of my computer which does not meet the
specifications recommended by Connectix.

Users of the latest Macintosh models (i-Mac and blue-white G3 Macs) will face another problem. These machines do not have RS422 serial ports any more.
Whether SoftTalk/HarTalk will work with RS422 or RS232 adapters for the USB port of these Macs will have to be tested.

Helmut Thetmeyer

Nikon (and presumably F90, N90, F90X, N90S, F100 and F5) are registered trademarks of Nikon Inc. and Nikon Corporation Japan. Windows, Windows 95, Windows 98 & Windows NT are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Pentium, Pentium Pro and Pentium II are registered trademarks of Intel Corporation.