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Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network, Third Edition
Make your 802.11n-based AirPort network fast, reliable, and secure!
Updated for AirPort Utility 6.1, Mountain Lion, and the 2012 AirPort Express!
Find real-world advice from Wi-Fi wizard Glenn Fleishman on setting up a wireless network using Apple's 802.11n-enabled AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule base stations. The ebook is packed with directions for enhancing an 802.11n 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, use pre-802.11n clients, set up complex Internet addressing, solve a variety of connection problems, and much more.
Glenn explains how to configure an 802.11n AirPort network using AirPort Utility 6 or AirPort Utility for iOS. (AirPort Utility 6 runs only in 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion.) 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, 10.6 Snow Leopard, and 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 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 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 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 a tech journalist based in Seattle, where he lives with his wife and two sons, both of whom are adept at accidentally pressing the power button on his laptop. He’s a contributing editor at TidBITS, responsible for much of their Web infrastructure; a columnist for the Seattle Times; a regular contributor to the Economist's Babbage blog; a senior contributor at Macworld; a regular voice on BoingBoing; and a Jeopardy winner. He appears regularly on public radio programs.
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 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 also has advice on connecting to a Wi-Fi network from older versions of Mac OS X and Windows 7. It was written by Glenn Fleishman, edited by Tonya Engst, and published by TidBITS Publishing Inc.
Apple introduced integrated Wi-Fi wireless networking to the world with AirPort in 1999. Although corporations had already been using forms of wireless networking for warehouse tracking and to connect buildings in large campuses, the costs were high, speeds were low, and complexity was manifest. Apple’s products shot off the shelves due to their relatively low initial price, simple configuration interface, and excellent performance.
Apple originally required add-on cards for Macs to use Wi-Fi; a few years ago, the Mac Pro became the last model for which Wi-Fi was an extra-cost option. Apple now builds the fastest flavor of Wi-Fi, called 802.11n, into every Mac it sells, as well as every iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
Despite Apple’s 13-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 an 802.11n AirPort network and offers tips to help 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 10.8 Mountain Lion) and AirPort Utility (for iOS) to configure your network, I also cover compatibility and connections with older computer hardware, and how to connect to 802.11n via Mac OS X and Windows 7. I also 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 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 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. Where applicable, 10.5 Leopard and 10.6 Snow Leopard are covered in reasonable detail. The version of AirPort Utility described in this ebook (version 6) works only with 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.7 Lion. Although we expect Apple to release a version of AirPort Utility 6 for Windows that will work much like its Mac sibling, Apple has not yet done so, as of August 23, 2012.
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!
June 14, 2013 -- In light of Apple's recent announcement of new, 802.11ac base stations, we are planning an update to this ebook. We plan (but do not promise) to have the new version out in July or August. Once the new version is released, anyone who buys this ebook now will get a free update.
June 10, 2013 --
Among the many announcements today at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) was the introduction and immediate availability of new models of the AirPort Extreme Base Station and the Time Capsule. These new versions sport an unusual new shape and a revised internal design and both have the in-progress 802.11ac standard built in. The base stations have the same general shape and footprint as the AirPort Express redesign that Apple released in mid-2012. But instead of being just under an inch tall, they're 6.6 inches tall!
The 802.11ac standard is designed both for higher data rates and greater coverage. The faster speeds come from wider channels. Where 802.11n can use "double-width" 40 megahertz (MHz) channels by combining two regular channels in 5 GHz, 802.11ac can double that again to 80 MHz (4 channels). In ideal circumstances, three data streams of 80 MHz along with a more efficient encoding can hit 1.3 Gbps in 5 GHz of raw data. In practice, it will likely be rare that four adjacent channels could be freely available, as I discuss in the book.
But even without a full speed boost, 802.11ac will likely provide better reception at higher data rates than you see with 802.11n today across a broader area. That's because the new standard includes beamforming, and Apple's updated design has split out separate sets of antennas for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz to help with that. Beamforming puts varying amounts of signal strength in each of the three antennas for a given band to "steer" the Wi-Fi beam and focus intensity where the base station detects a wireless client. That can help with 802.11g and 802.11n, although a device with 802.11ac, like the MacBook Air models announced and shipping today, will of course get the best data rates.
As far as I can tell from all the current information, the new base station will work exactly like the current ones with a few hidden additional options for controlling 802.11ac-specific features, like using its super-wide channels. The ports remain the same: three LAN and one WAN gigabit Ethernet jacks, one USB 2 port, and an integral power supply.
Also in today's announcement was an update to iOS. iOS 7, shipping this fall, will bring AirDrop file transfer to Apple's mobile device. AirDrop has always seemed a bit limited to me, as it only worked among later-model Macintoshes, and doesn't interoperate with any mobile gear or other operating systems.
The current version of AirDrop for Mac OS X only works over Wi-Fi. The iOS 7 version will work with capable Macs, but can use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Apple says only the iPhone 5, iPad (4th generation), iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation) will work with AirDrop, and the service requires an iCloud account.
April 5, 2013 --
Apple's AirPort Utility 6.2 update has two significant improvements, one of which has been long asked for by readers of this book: expanded guest networking. The update also adds support for WPS-capable Wi-Fi printers. To enable either option, you must update the firmware on your base station(s).
You can now set up guest networking even on base stations that are set to "Bridge" mode in which the base station doesn't assign addresses to devices that connect through it. In the past, you could enable a guest network only a main base station, connected to a broadband modem and set to act as a DHCP server.
WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) is a method to create a secure network connection without entering a password on the client device, such as a printer. Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google have never standardized how WPS works in operating systems, but for printers, allowing WPS is a no brainer, especially for printers that have no Ethernet port to simplify configuration. To add a Wi-Fi printer in AirPort Utility 6.2, edit a base station and then choose Base Station > Add Wi-Fi Printer. Select whether to use a PIN or to allow the next WPS-capable device that attempts to connect, and then click Update. With a PIN, you enter the code that the printer provides when placed into WPS mode. With First Attempt, you select the network from the printer's WPS menu and then the printer connects. (WPS configuration varies enormously by printer.)
AirPort Utility 6.2 also has "improved international support," but without any explanation from Apple.
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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