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Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network, Third Edition
Make your network fast, reliable, and secure!
Updated for Apple's latest 802.11ac AirPort base stations (and yes, the title of this book will have to change soon)!
Find real-world advice from Wi-Fi wizard Glenn Fleishman on setting up a wireless network using Apple's 802.11n- and 802.11ac-enabled AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule base stations. The ebook is packed with directions for enhancing an AirPort network, whether you're replacing an old base station, adding another base station to extend your range, improving your security, connecting a USB-attached printer or drive, or setting up a guest network.
You'll find the answers to questions that may otherwise frustrate you, such as how to choose the best band and channel, set up complex Internet addressing, solve a variety of connection problems, and much more.
Glenn explains how to configure an 802.11n and/or 802.11ac AirPort network using AirPort Utility 6 or AirPort Utility for iOS. (AirPort Utility 6 runs only in 10.7 Lion and later.) The ebook includes a free download of the previous edition (version 2.0), which describes using AirPort Utility 5. (AirPort Utility 5 runs on 10.5 Leopard - 10.7 Lion, as well as on Windows computers.)
"This Take Control book is a must-have for anyone who needs to quickly and easily set up an AirPort network." —Phil Kearney, "father" of Apple's AirPort product line
If you're trying to solve a particular problem, you can jump in and read the topics in this ebook in any order, but if you start at the beginning, you'll learn how Apple's 802.11n and 802.11ac gear fits into the world of Wi-Fi networking.
With that background, you'll learn where to position and how to set up base stations, with diagrams showing common network scenarios—see two examples above—and with step-by-step instructions for configuring key Internet sharing and security options and connecting client computers. For those who have funky Internet connections or tricky IP addressing needs, Glenn provides extended advice for creating a working Wi-Fi network.
Glenn provides real-world directions for important scenarios, including how to:
Create a basic (or not so basic) Wi-Fi network, using Apple's base stations:
Set up a wireless network with a single base station, or with multiple base stations - whether you want to extend a network with Ethernet or a wireless connection (or a mix of the two), Glenn examines your options and provides configuration steps. He also touches briefly on powerline connections.
Keep your existing network, but replace an older or broken base station with a new one.
Export your base station's configuration, either to make a backup or to create a model configuration to use on other base stations.
Connect Macs (10.5 Leopard and later), iOS devices, and Windows 7 and 8 computers to your network.
Set up reliable and relevant security for your network. Also, add a guest network that gives your guests Internet access while restricting their access to local resources.
Attach peripherals to your network:
Add a Wi-Fi or USB-connected printer, and connect to the printer from Mac and Windows computers.
Add a USB-attached drive to a Time Capsule or AirPort Extreme, and configure client access.
Connect a 2nd- or 3rd-generation Apple TV to your network
Do more networking:
Set up a Time Machine backup to a Time Capsule base station.
Expand the capabilities of an AirPort Express by setting up audio streaming, trying Rogue Amoeba's Airfoil media streaming utility, or extending your network with ProxySTA.
Share files conveniently and wirelessly between Macs with the AirDrop file-transfer feature, plus understand the type of networking that AirDrop uses.
Put computers more directly on the Internet with port mapping or a default host.
Set up Back to My Mac with iCloud in order to access an AirPort or Time Capsule drive remotely, or to configure your base station remotely.
Set up a Software Base Station or do ad-hoc networking.
Understand what's going on and solve problems:
Find out what the icon on your Wi-Fi menu means, and discover what the colored light on your base station is trying to tell you.
Learn what a MAC address is, plus how to find it. (Hint, 1 Infinite Loop is not the MAC address that you seek.)
Read background information about the bands and channels used with Wi-Fi networking, understand how Apple's Wi-Fi gear fits into the picture, and get ideas for how to create an optimal network that avoids interference problems.
Understand the differences among AirPort Utility 6 (for Mac), AirPort Utility for iOS, and AirPort Utility 5 (for Mac and Windows). Find a free download link for the previous edition of this ebook, which covers AirPort Utility 5.
Learn how to update the firmware in your base station, and how to revert to an older version of your firmware, if necessary.
"If anyone knows about real-world Wi-Fi, it's Glenn Fleishman."
—Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of bOING bOING
iPad & Kindle
About the Author
Glenn Fleishman is editor and publisher of The Magazine, an electronic periodical for curious people with a technical bent, and he hosts The New Disruptors, a podcast about fundamental changes in the economy of making art and making things. He also writes for the Economist’s Babbage blog and the publication’s print edition, plus he is a contributing editor at TidBITS, where he built the content management software.
Table of Contents
Read Me First
Welcome to Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network, Third Edition. If you’re setting up, extending, or retooling a Wi-Fi network with one or more 802.11n or 802.11ac base stations from Apple—including the AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, or Time Capsule—using AirPort Utility 6 on the Mac or AirPort Utility in iOS, this book will help you get the fastest network with the least equipment and fewest roadblocks. This book has advice on connecting to a Wi-Fi network from iOS 6, Mac OS X 10.6 Lion and later, Windows 7 and 8, and from older versions of Mac OS X. It was written by Glenn Fleishman, edited by Tonya Engst, and published by TidBITS Publishing Inc.
Despite Apple’s 14-year history with wireless networking and the general excellence of their software and support, setting up a wireless network isn’t always a snap. This book helps you set up 802.11n and 802.11ac AirPort networks and offers tips to save time, improve security, extend range, and enjoy a technical edge when working with Wi-Fi.
Although this book focuses on using AirPort Utility 6 with 10.7 Lion and later and AirPort Utility for iOS to configure a network, I also cover compatibility and connections with older computer hardware, and how to connect to Wi-Fi base stations via Mac OS X and Windows 7 and later. And, I provide some information to help you use Wi-Fi with 10.6 Snow Leopard and 10.5 Leopard.
I start with wireless basics, move through base station installation and configuration, explain how to share printers and hard disks, tell you how to connect to a Wi-Fi network, give advice on extending a network’s range and quality, look at using an AirPort Express’s unique features, and finish with how-to information on security for those who want their AirPort networks safe from freeloaders and intruders.
Free download: If you need help with AirPort Utility 5, you can refer the previous edition of this ebook—there’s no extra charge. Follow the “access extras” link in Ebook Extras, and look in the blog.
You can read this book from start to finish, and you’ll find that it covers topics like learning about Wi-Fi, unpacking a base station, starting configuration, figuring out the network you want to build, and then configuring that network. More specific cases follow, such as how to add a printer, separating older and newer flavors of Wi-Fi into two separate networks, and securing a network.
Use this Quick Start to get an idea of how you might jump into the book if you are at a particular stage in working with your network, and to find more than one path through the material.
Need a quick solution? Flip ahead a few pages to the Quick Troubleshooting Guide or see Light Reading to learn what the light on your AirPort base station is trying to tell you. Also, you may especially wish to consult Overcome Interference.
This update takes account of several changes that have occurred since version 3.1 of the ebook came out in 2012:
New AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule: Introduced in June 2013, these new models feature 802.11ac, a newer (still in progress) version of Wi-Fi that offers higher data transfer rates and better coverage. The shape of the base stations was also changed. 802.11ac is now mentioned throughout the ebook, but see especially Wi-Fi and AirPort Flavors.
More support for guest networks: Guest networking can now be set up on all base stations in a network, due to a change in AirPort Utility and updated firmware released in early 2013. (See Set Up Guest Networking.)
WPS for Wi-Fi printers: A Wi-Fi–enabled printer can be simply added to a network without entering an encryption key, due to the same early 2013 firmware update. (See Add a Wi-Fi Printer Using WPS.) This method of adding a printer relies on Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), a no-entry system for connecting devices to a Wi-Fi network. (Apple once included WPS to connect computers and some other devices, but removed it in an earlier release. The ability to connect printers is new.)
Wireless Diagnostics utility: The Wi-Fi Diagnostics program found in the first release of OS X 10.08 Mountain Lion has been substantially changed yet again. (See Run Wireless Diagnostics.)
Windows 8: With Windows 8.1 expected in October 2013, I’ve inserted directions for adding a printer and connecting to a Wi-Fi network with Windows 8.1. (See Add a Shared Printer in Windows 8 and Connect in Windows 8.)
This update was inspired by three events that took place after version 3.0 of this ebook appeared in early 2012:
I also added advice about troubleshooting your connection if an exclamation-point icon appears at the top of the Wi-Fi menu in the menu bar. See Wi-Fi Network Won’t Assign an IP Address.
The previous version of this ebook made a significant change: it replaced coverage of AirPort Utility 5 in favor of focusing on AirPort Utility 6, which was released in February 2012 and updated to version 6.1 in June 2012.
AirPort Utility 6 runs on 10.7 Lion or 10.8 Mountain Lion.
The big new feature in AirPort Utility 6 is a graphical depiction of the layout of an AirPort network. This is terrific for visualizing how parts are connected and seeing where errors lie.
AirPort Utility 6 has many features that are documented in previous editions of this book, but it omits several options designed for mixed 802.11g and 80211.n networks and it can’t configure 802.11b and 802.11g AirPort base stations (any base station released from 1999 through 2006). Further, although AirPort Utility 6.1 can configure the 2012 AirPort Express, AirPort Utility 6.0 cannot.
This ebook also now discusses AirPort Utility for iOS, which has a similar approach to AirPort Utility 6, and makes it possible to configure and manage an Apple base station without a desktop computer. That’s a first for Apple.
Older versions of AirPort Utility remain available:
Free download: If you need help with AirPort Utility 5, you can refer to the previous edition of this ebook—there’s no extra charge. Follow the “access extras” link in Ebook Extras, and look in the blog.
P.F. asked: "I have an Airport Express (purchased April 08). I have tried to mount an external drive as an AirDisc, with no success. Does your book take me through the steps?"
Here is Glenn's reply: "The AirPort Express can't handle an external drive. Only the AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule can share USB-attached drives. The Express supports a single printer only. See: http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/features/printing.html. Sorry for the bad news. While it seems like Apple might be being petty at not including hard drive support in the Express, I believe that they keep the price low on that unit while including features nobody else does (dual-band support, etc.) by having a quite low-powered processor. That processor likely can't handle the demands of communicating with a drive while operating as a base station. The processor (or there may be multiples) in the higher-end base stations are more capable."
We have two older ebooks that focus on older base stations, but that still might be useful, even though they were last updated some time ago. If you purchase this ebook, you can download either of them from the ebook's blog—look near the beginning of ebook's "Read Me First" for information about accessing the Ebook Extras. The two older ebooks are:
Take Control of Your AirPort Network: This is the first of Glenn's AirPort-related ebooks. It describes networking with 802.11b and 802.11g gear, and its descriptions of Mac OS X are from before 10.5 Leopard.
Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network (version 1.6): Last updated in 2009, this ebook covers the simultaneous dual-band 802.11n base stations that Apple released in 2009. Although its core focus is on 802.11n, it also covers scenarios where you are using 802.11b and 802.11g gear, or where you are mixing older and newer base stations on the same wireless network. Its primary Mac OS X focus is on 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard, and 10.6 Snow Leopard.
This ebook gives specific directions for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, and Windows 7 and 8. Where applicable, 10.5 Leopard and 10.6 Snow Leopard are covered in reasonable detail. The Mac version of AirPort Utility described in this ebook (version 6) works only with 10.7 Lion and later. The ebook also covers the use of AirPort Utility in iOS.
There are lots of great ways to read our ebooks on these devices. For more details, please read our latest Device Advice.
Feel free to ask us if you have a question about this title!
This "Take Control" book is a must-have for anyone who needs to quickly and easily set up an AirPort network. It is a clean and concise guide to get you past any stumbling blocks you may encounter in the process of configuring your wireless network. Even the more advanced chapters and topics will be a great help to anyone who designs and installs 802.11 networks for a living.
I bought the book because I'd just purchased a Time Capsule and I wanted to know (a) if my old Graphite Base Station was now a white elephant and (b) if the older Macs on my home network would prevent me from getting top speed from my new Time Capsule. Glenn's book showed be how to use Airport Utility to set up a 2.4 GHz and a 5 GHz network in parallel, answering both questions. Thanks to that guidance, and the tip about OpenDNS, I now have a blazingly fast Internet connection.
Your book saved the day for me. In fact, it saved several days. A Windows laptop connected to my AirPort network via a WEP connection suddenly failed to recognize the AirPort signal. After 2 wasted days of troubleshooting, I thought to consult your ebook.
It described precisely the problem I was having and advised me to restart 'Wireless Zero Configuration.' I was up and running with about two mouse clicks! Many thanks for your on-target advice. I won't be so slow to consult your material in the future. —W.P.
How could we not publish such kind words? If you'd like to send us your comments (good or bad, though we hope they're all good), just click the Feedback link on the cover of your copy of the ebook. Be sure to let us know if we can publish your comment. Thanks!
August 29, 2013 -- We are enormously pleased to have been able to work coverage of Apple's new 802.11ac base stations into the third edition of this ebook. However, the title of this ebook is no longer correct, since 802.11n does not include 802.11ac! Changing the title of a book is not a trivial matter, but we are seriously discussing creating a new book about Apple Wi-Fi networking, a book that will continue on the foundation set by this one, but that will add 10.9 Mavericks and iOS 7 information, plus any other updates that might become desirable over the next few months.
December 21, 2013 --
Apple has long maintained that a USB hard drive attached to an AirPort Base Station was not a supported configuration for Time Machine backups. That is no longer the case…if the USB drive in question is attached to an 802.11ac AirPort Extreme Base Station running AirPort Base Station Firmware 7.2.2 or later. Adam Engst describes this newly available AirPort Extreme capability in a TidBITS article that walks you through the details.
—Michael E. Cohen
September 10, 2013 --
This comment from a reader named Ken is a nice example of how the information in this ebook can be put to work. It has been edited for size.
Before I started reading this book, I didn't know a LAN port from a WAN port. So my experience is probably typical of a novice user.
Unfortunately, when our home was built, the wire to connect to our broadband router was placed at one end of the house. So I connected an AirPort Extreme to the router and used an AirPort Express to create and extend a Wi-Fi network to my home office, which is about as far away as possible from the router. The connection was weak and the speed was greatly below what I was paying for. In the middle of the house, we have an Apple TV, which got decent reception.
The first thing I learned from your book is that wireless networks generally are inferior to a wired network. The speed is usually slower, and the connection is not as reliable. But then I read in the book about how Powerline adapters can be used to extend a network as though it was wired, provided the house wiring is in good order. So I purchased a relatively inexpensive pair of Powerline adapters for about $70, and went to work. It was easy to connect the AirPort Extreme to one of the Powerline adapters with an Ethernet cable. Then I plugged it in to a wall socket that has no other devices connected to it. Then I went to the other end of the house where my office computer is, connected my computer to an Ethernet cable, connected the other end of the Ethernet cable to the other Powerline adapter, and plugged it in. At first, I didn't get very good connection speeds, but I think that was because I had the Powerline adapter plugged into a receptacle that had another electrical device plugged into it. So I moved the adapter to another wall receptacle that has nothing plugged into it. After waiting about a half hour, the two devices found each other through the house wiring and I got a perfect connection to the computer in my office at the maximum speed for my broadband service.
The next thing I did based on tip in the book was to convert the desktop computer in my office so that instead of receiving Wi-Fi signals, it emitted them (i.e., became a software base station). This created a much stronger Wi-Fi signal in my office. In turn, this permits me to use a portable Wi-Fi telephone that my company gave me to use to work from home. When this tiny phone works properly, it looks and sounds exactly like callers are reaching me directly in my office (40 miles from my home). Using my old Wi-Fi network, the calls would frequently cut out or be garbled, but now calls are clear and don’t drop.
The last thing I did was to move the Airport Express I had used to extend my Wi-Fi network to my office (as best it could) toward the middle of the house to increase the signal received by my Apple TV, which it did quite nicely.
Before I bought your book, I was going to spend $300 on a new AirPort Extreme and AirPort Express to see if my Wi-Fi network could perform better. Now, however, for the cost of the book and the Powerline adapters I have a more reliable, stronger system throughout the house.
December 12, 2012 --
Although Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network focuses on AirPort Utility 6, some readers may want to run AirPort Utility 5 in order to access options not available in AirPort Utility 6, such as options for configuring an older base station.
It is possible to download AirPort Utility 5.6 for Mac OS X Lion to a Macintosh running 10.8 Mountain Lion and to download AirPort Utility 5.6.1 for Leopard/Snow Leopard to a Mountain Lion Mac. I know this for sure, because I just did it. However, if you double-click on one of these downloaded package icons and run the installer, you'll get a message about how "the version of Mac OS X on this volume is not supported." Great... now what?
To solve this maddening problem, you must extract the utility from the installer package. Chris Breen has written a short Macworld article about this problem and suggests using Pacifist to do the extraction. Several commenters to the article suggest free solutions. And, Frank Tisellano has created a donationware AirPort Utility Extractor that can do the job.
March 19, 2010 --
A recent TidBITS article, Time Capsule Failures: When They Happen and What to Do, discusses a spate of Time Capsule failures, possibly due to overheating. The article makes suggestions for avoiding this problem, and it describes how to best address the problem if it happens. Unfortunately, if your Time Capsule does go belly up, you'll ideally have another backup of your Time Capsule drive, so if you haven't looked into setting one up, this article should give you additional incentive.
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