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Airport Extreme – Not so ‘easy to use’


Thanks to a friend that recently went back to SA, I now have an Apple Airport Extreme. Opened the box, read the instructions and installed the Airport utility software. It turns out that you need the software to configure the device. There is no web interface – effectively ruling out configuration from any other OS other than MacOS or Windows. I did find an old java based utility, but whether it works on newer base stations – I have no idea. Fail 1.

Anyway, software installed – time to plug the bad boy in. Being Apple, I made the (incorrect) assumption that it would ‘just work’. The utility found the base station and then asks to change wireless connections so that it can be configured. As soon as it changes connection, it fails to read the configuration from the base station. Fail 2.

It is possible to manually connect to the BS by selecting file -> configure other and input as the IP address and leave the password blank. Bingo – connected. From here on in, everything is straight forward. Click on Airport and the usual wireless router options are available to you. Some nice features I have come across are support for multiple profiles and time based access. It also has the ability to share printers and discs connected to the device. At R2000, it is very, very well priced for a dual band, wireless N router.

After the router had been configured I saved the config and the router restarted. I re-ran the utility and now it cannot even find the  base station… Another fail. I have tried restarting the station many times, yet it still does not show up on the list of stations on the left:

Failure of Airport Extreme

Failure of Airport Extreme

So as it stands, I can only connect manually by selecting ‘configure other’ from the file menu of the airport utility. The other fail is that the router is supposed to support a ‘Guest Network’ to allow guest users internet access but prevent access to the primary network. There does not seem to be anywhere in the airport utility to configure this feature. According to the mac site the guest network is as simple as clicking a check box – although I cannot find the check box on the wireless configuration section:

Wireless Utility

I added a disc using the utility and that seemed straight forward enough. The disc access can be setup with a password or you can add users to the device and only authenticated users can access the disc. All straight forward enough. After the disc was added, I could not see it anywhere. I had to manually add the disc by using <cmd>+k and then selecting smb:// The disc then shows up and then authentication is required. Nothing was straight forward and simple though. I was thinking that if my wife were to set this up, and all due respect to her, she would not have been able to get it working.

But after all that – The reason I bought the router was for speed. It is a dual band 802.11n router and in theory should be able to pump some serious (wireless) throughput. On a quick test I transferred a 700Mb file from an attached disk to my local machine and it took approx 60 seconds. This is quite impressive, but the true test will be when I stream HD!

All in all I am satisfied with the features and the functionality of the device, but I am no way impressed with the ease of use and the lack of options to configure the device. It is currently the cheapest and most featured 802.11n wireless router on the market at the moment, yet it is limited to winbloze and mac.

** UPDATE **

Having scratched around to see what could be the cause of the issue with the BS, I recalled that I could not see my wife’s macbook either. I thought about how the device communicates over the network and decided that a restart of the bonjour service might help. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a (relatively) simple way of doing this. After some searching around, this is what is required to restart the bonjour service:

sudo launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/
sudo launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

After running the above commands, this is what I now see:

Airport Utility Working



One response

  1. Pingback: Linux & OSX – Side by Side « Bonobo's Blog

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