Subscribe to
Posts
Comments
NSLog(); Header Image

Apple’s Retarded Wifi Lineup

I described my network setup in a previous post, so I won't do it again. My Time Capsule will arrive shortly, and though I was quite eager to begin using it, I am no longer. Why? Because I remembered that my AirPort Expresses1 are 802.11g. My Living Room Express provides AirTunes to my entertainment center and connects to an ethernet hub that is, in turn, connected to my DVR, Xbox 360, and eventually a PS32.

If I want to keep using AirTunes, I've got to dumb my entire network down to 802.11g. None of the alternatives work:

  1. I could replace the AirPort Express with an AirPort Extreme, but then I lose it as an AirTunes target.
  2. I could replace the AirPort Express with an AppleTV, but because it can't bridge over ethernet I lose connectivity for my DVR and Xbox 360.
  3. I can keep the AirPort Express, but then my entire network will run in 802.11g mode (i.e. slower).


Apple - the company who makes all of these devices and loves to talk about how things "just work," could have solved this problem in a number of ways (in order of personal preference):

  1. Allow the AppleTV to bridge via its ethernet port. I'd buy one immediately to replace the AirPort Express. This should just be a software update - no hardware modifications needed.
  2. Put an AirTunes port on the current AirPort Extremes/Time Capsules. They already bridge over ethernet.
  3. Allow 802.11g and 802.11n to work simultaneously (perhaps on different frequencies), each at full speed3.
  4. Release an 802.11n-capable AirPort Express. The AirPort Express fills a nice niche.

Dammit, Apple. Get your act together. Right now you haven't got a cohesive product lineup.

Here's a chart that should make my complaints a bit clearer:

                   Ethernet
Product            Bridging       AirTunes        802.11n
-------            --------       --------        -------
AppleTV                -            YES             YES
AirPort Extreme*      YES            -              YES
AirPort Express       YES           YES              -

* Or Time Capsule.

Apple's WiFi Lineup: choose two! It's the new "fast/good/cheap" (per Jesper). I don't think that adding the "missing feature" to any or all of the three products would dramatically alter their niches. I think each product is positioned well on the price vs. functionality scale. None would overlap so much (especially given price) that any would need to be eliminated.

Update: A few of the commenters have suggested I run two networks. Why? That's silly. I might do it in the end if I have to, but why should I have to run two networks? I feel that any of the four proposed solutions is better than "run two networks." This stuff's supposed to work together, ideally at full speed.

Also, I don't plan to keep my current dome AirPort Express. I planned to give that to my in-laws along with the 12" PowerBook. They'll still need to use the modem.

Footnotes

  1. Only one of which I really need to continue using.
  2. That the Wii supports wireless out of the box is a great thing, but I would probably buy a LAN converter or switch off the always-on Wifi if it was the only thing holding me back from running an all-N network.
  3. This isn't possible, from what I understand, because it's against the spec.

16 Responses to "Apple’s Retarded Wifi Lineup"

  1. You mention the Wii in your footnotes. If you have one of these and are using the wireless option and don't have the ethernet adapter, you'll have to keep your network dumbed down to 802.11n (b/g compatible) to support the Wii too.

  2. Chris Williams said on February 29, 2008:

    You mention the Wii in your footnotes. If you have one of these and are using the wireless option and don't have the ethernet adapter, you'll have to keep your network dumbed down to 802.11n (b/g compatible) to support the Wii too.

    Yeah, and the plan at that point would be to either a) buy the LAN adapter or b) just turn off the "always on" Wifi on the Wii. The network would then run at n speed almost all the time, dropping to g only when I use the iPhone network in my house or someone with an older computer drops by.

    Currently, because the Express is g only, my network will always be in g mode.

  3. [...] rightly complains about the lack of a does-it-all AirPort base station from [...]

  4. Now, I'm going to be in a similar predicament when my Time Capsule arrives, though I have a Mac Mini in my home theater setup.

    What I was thinking of doing was using the Airport Express as a pass-through 802.11g device. I want to use 802.11n for my MBP, iMac, and soon my fiancée's MacBook. But my Wii, and AE are only 802.11G.

    I'd like to plug my AE into a port on my Time Capsule, let the TC do all the DHCP, and just have a secondary 802.11G network for my slower devices to connect to, but still get IP's from the TC.

    The idea is that I run a "WirelessG" alongside my "WirelessN" network. Connecting G devices to the AE, and N devices to my "n-mode only" TC. The AE would be in a "transparent mode" or whatever, where it just "bridges into" my TC with a hardwired cat5.

    I realize this doesn't completely fix your situation, as you probably don't want to run a cat5e drop to your AE from your TC.

  5. Phil, I could put the Time Capsule and the cable modem in the basement. The cable drops come into the house right beneath the entertainment center. It'd a short cable run of a few feet.

    Will that setup work? I'm going to assume it will (you seem confident) and I might just have to copy your idea if it does. It's still a "workaround," of course, so that wouldn't let Apple off the hook.

    And I'm not entirely sure that will work - I'd have to switch networks just to send music to the AirPort Express ("AirTunes"), wouldn't I?

  6. I'm not sure this would work, but I figure I'll throw it out there anyway, to see if it might:

    Can you configure an AirPort Express to not operate with a wireless network at all, but still be a valid ethernet to stereo bridge for AirTunes to use? Thus Ethernet -> AirPort Express -> Stereo ?

  7. Add an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule and run it on a different network, a/n compatible (5 GHz) while still maintaining your existing b/g (2.4 GHz) network. That's what I'm doing and its working fine.

  8. Your #3 above will work.

    802.11n comes in two flavors: 11NA (5Ghz - 802.11a compatible), and 11NG (2.4Ghz - 802.11b/g compatible). The Time Capsule, running in 802.11NG mode (and not setup to run as "11n" only), will allow the AirPort Express units to work as normal (I have a couple of Expresses running that way here at my house talking to an AEBS in 11ng mode). The extremes will still slow down the 11n network somewhat (compared to NO 11g machines), but you'll still see a throughput improvement on the 11n machines.

  9. Yes, according to Apple's "designing Airport Networks" PDF - this is exactly what you should do.

    Hook to the TC to the cable modem - Hook the AirExtreme to the TC - run two different wireless networks - one N (5GHz) - one G (2.4GHz)

    I think Apple's only issue here really is that the Apple TV doesn't bridge. Everything else seems logical.

    (okay, having an Express that did N would be nice)

    *MY* issue is that my wife's macbook is pre-N - now that stinks for helping my argument for getting the TC 😉

  10. Apple needs to make the AppleTV into a combo TimeCapsule/Airport Express. If they did that, I might buy one. As it is, I'm sticking with my old Airport Express for the time being.

  11. My network setup:

    Cable ->

    AirPort Extreme (802.11n in n&a mode) -> (n) -> AppleTV & MacBook Pro (802.11a/b/g only).

    AirPort Extreme -> (ethernet) -> AirPort Express -> (802.11g in b&g mode) -> iPhone & eeePC.

    The AirPort Extreme (The Biggest Tree, my "available in 5 cities world wide!" wireless network) does the NAT+DHCP, the AirPort Express (cancer_radiation, I wasn't feeling creative that day) is purely an AirTunes and access point, doing no NAT or DHCP or the like.

    However - when I first set the network up it was APE in 802.11n+g mode, which did 100Mbps+ to the AppleTV (limited by walls, more than g being around), and ~54Mbps to the MacBook Pro, APX and other devices.

    I switched to the current setup because there is so much 2.4GHz noise around my house (I see 9 wifi networks in my menu) that frequent (every few minutes) increases in latency would cause drop outs of streaming audio to the airport express.

  12. Tom Bridge said on February 29, 2008:

    Can you configure an AirPort Express to not operate with a wireless network at all, but still be a valid ethernet to stereo bridge for AirTunes to use?

    There's currently no ethernet there for the AirPort Express to use, and I'm not sure if hooking it to a Time Capsule's ethernet port makes the AirTunes capability available at all since, to use AirTunes, my computer has to see that AirPort Express on the network. I don't think the Time Capsule will suddenly start advertising itself as an AirTunes destination.

    Dan Semaya said on February 29, 2008:

    Add an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule and run it on a different network, a/n compatible (5 GHz) while still maintaining your existing b/g (2.4 GHz) network. That's what I'm doing and its working fine.

    I don't think that will solve any problems - it will only add an expense of another AirPort Extreme. I'm also replacing my base unit, so my "existing network" won't exist anymore.

    My TV area unit should be able to: a) get online (for the DVR, Xbox, etc.), and b) be on the same network as everything else, and c) run at 802.11n speeds.

    If Apple had an AirPort Express that did 802.11n, I'd be home free. Or if AppleTV did ethernet bridging. I'd even settle for items 2 and 3 on my solutions list.

    Mark Rakes said on February 29, 2008:

    Your #3 above will work. … The extremes will still slow down the 11n network somewhat (compared to NO 11g machines), but you'll still see a throughput improvement on the 11n machines.

    From what I've read/heard, I thought the spec called for 802.11ng devices/networks to drop to 802.11g whenever a "g" device joined the network.

    Carl said on February 29, 2008:

    Apple needs to make the AppleTV into a combo TimeCapsule/Airport Express. If they did that, I might buy one. As it is, I'm sticking with my old Airport Express for the time being.

    I'm not even asking for that - it'd add unnecessary expense to someone who wanted a Time Capsule or an AppleTV. Leaving them separate is fine.

    I'd be happy as a pig in you-know-what if the AppleTV simply supported bridging. I'd just take the AirPort Express out and plug in an AppleTV. I'd have n speed all the time unless someone brought a g-only device over and used it, which would be rare.

    Jason Young said on February 29, 2008:

    I think Apple's only issue here really is that the Apple TV doesn't bridge. (okay, having an Express that did N would be nice)

    Okay, having an AirPort Extreme and/or Time Capsule act as an AirTunes destination would be nice. And now we're back up to three issues.

    And there is no AirPort Extreme in my future network. I plan to give that - and the 12" PowerBook - to the in-laws. They still need the modem. 😛

    So all I've learned since leaving to run errands is that I can run two networks. The point remains: I shouldn't have to. This stuff should work together. The four items I've listed above would each greatly simplify things.

  13. Erik J. Barzeski said on February 29, 2008:

    There's currently no ethernet there for the AirPort Express to use, and I'm not sure if hooking it to a Time Capsule's ethernet port makes the AirTunes capability available at all since, to use AirTunes, my computer has to see that AirPort Express on the network. I don't think the Time Capsule will suddenly start advertising itself as an AirTunes destination.

    I've got one here at the hacienda. I'll test this out, but I seem to think that it's a bonjour service, so, offered where-ever you are on the network.

  14. I agree. I have an AirPort Extreme right next to my home cinema amplifier. I'd like to be able to use AirTunes to it. I can't the Extreme it with an Express because I'd need an Ethernet router. Not expensive, but most of them are a PITA to configure compared to an AirPort. Or I can add an Express and have it communicate wirelessly with the Extreme over 20 cm. How silly.

  15. Just to add, I'm in a little rush this morning, so I haven't fully read the later comments but I've a few thoughts on what has been said:

    Yes Express needs 11n. Yes Extreme/Capsule need AirTunes. AppleTV would be a nice wireless bridge. In your table all boxes should be a "YES"!

    Someone mentioned running two wireless networks, one with the express and one with extreme. This will work, and you can set the Express to work as a pass-through, meaning the Extreme handles the DHCP stuff. effectively one network, two wireless connections - N and G.

    Also, if you just want to utilise the Express' AirTunes and Printer ports, you can turn off it's wireless and hook it into the Extreme. The Extreme will still assign the Express an IP address and thusly the Express will be on the network ready for you to use AirTunes/printer port.

    Currently we have a duel network thing going here, with a Netgear N router (not compatible with my Mac -dropouts constantly) acting as the main router, and DHCP server with an Express connected to it to host the G network. I'm running G but it works. We also managed to have two Express' set up with WDS to further the range of the G network, however one of them died.. 🙁

  16. [...] received my 1 TB Time Capsule today and, pursuant to the comments on my earlier entry, I'm hoping to get some help in setting up my new [...]


Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Please abide by the comment policy. Valid HTML includes: <blockquote><p>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, and <a href>. Please use the "Quote Me" functionality to quote comments.