Monday, March 17, 2008

Computer Network, No Strings Attached (Part 2)

A while ago I needed to get a new router. I asked some people what recommendations they might have. I summarized their replies in a previous blog entry. I also said I would write about my decision. Here it is.

I walked into FutureShop looking, probably, for a Lynksys router. When I got to the computer section there was a table with "Open Box" specials. These were items that had been bought, then returned, and being resold at a discount. There was an Apple Airport Extreme. It's normally $199. The Open Box price is usually $179. This one was listed as $149. Plus, I had a gift-card to use at FutureShop. The Apple Airport Extreme ended up costing me about the same as any other N-router. I was also told that FutureShop had a 30 day return policy. So I had a month. So I bought it.

Setup was easy. At first I had a problem getting connected to the internet. It turned out that the cable modem was the culprit. I reset that, and badda-bing, badda-boom! I was on the internet.

I have been very happy with my purchase. The Apple Airport Extreme is a highly configurable router. I was able to give my laptop a static I.P. address. I was not able to do this on the Sympatico router. I was able to forward ports to my laptop. I was able to use several different types of encryption for network security.

Speaking of network security, I did try using an Access Control List, without any form of encryption. I was still able to get on the network even when my network card wasn't listed as one of the permitted ones. That wasn't so good.

My only real problem with it is I'm finding it has variable signal strength. On my Mac, I have a maximum of 4 bars of strength. When I'm in my room, I will have anywhere between 1 and 4 bars inclusive. One minute it will be at 3 bars. The next minute it will be down to 1 bar. 30 seconds later it will be at 2 bars. When it's down to 1 bar, things tend to run pretty slowly.

There could be many reasons for this, such as, I live in a big house, and I might be on the edge of the range. The placement of the router might not be the best. It maybe too close to the computer/monitor in the living room. Perhaps my laptop, when on my desk is sitting around all these other electronic devices which may be interfering with the signal.

I tried connecting a USB harddrive to the router. The data rates were slow. Other than that it worked like a charm. I couldn't seem to share a printer though. That may be because it was a Dell printer that my Mac doesn't recognize.

The Apple Airport Extreme does have one feature that I haven't seen advertised. If I knew it had this, I would have bought it right away without even thinking about another router. It can also act as a bridge. There may soon come a day when I will need a bridge in this house. I finally have one! Of course, when that day comes, I will need to get another router. Well, actually the McQueens will get the router. (They don't need the power and awesomeness of the Apple Airport Extreme. Any G router will do fine.) It's nice to know I can use the Airport Extreme as a bridge.


lawlorja said...

I think the airport express works as a nice add-on bridge for Airport networks too. It's a nice little device that is no bigger than an AC-adapter, let's you plug a USB printer into it, and hook up a stereo to it for "air tunes".

You might want to double check all that, though. :)

Andrew said...

What I'd like to know is if I can use the Airport Extreme as my main router, then use an Airport Express as a bridge, so I can connect it (using the ethernet port) to my desktop, which does not have a wifi card, and does not (and will not) sit close to the Airport Extreme.

But, it's a $100 gamble to find that out.

There will likely come a day where my computer might sit near the Airport Extreme.

Anybody know if I can do that?

Anonymous said...

You said the signal strength varies around the house to your mac (book?). Are you still getting reasonable data rates? Seems like overkill to go to WDS, rather than simply putting a pre-N PCI card in your PC.