Sharing Apple Base Station Experiences
I started this "mini-site" in 2001 when I documented for the Airport community how to fix internal power supply failures associated with "Graphite" base stations. Since then, I have been asked to help Airport users with other issues such as how to retrofit extender antennas, add ventilation, resolve configuration issues, etc. Many people have contributed to this site, and I have attempted to credit them where possible.
Furthermore, I have tried my best to present the information as accurately as I can given time and resource constraints. Thus, all information presented here is for entertainment purposes only and all projects you undertake as a result of the following pages are at your risk alone. Please remember:
OPENING YOUR AIRPORT BASE STATION VOIDS YOUR WARRANTY.
As you will discover, there are many interesting things you can do with your Apple base station. There are now four generations of base stations. Instructions that are valid for one base station may not apply to other ones. I have attempted to group resources logically and hope that they will help you.Cheers! Constantin von Wentzel
"Graphite" Base Station Resources
- Repair your Apple Base Station. Note: The repair instructions also apply to similar products from Lucent, HP, etc. that are based on the same hardware.
- Attach an External Antenna to your ABS.
- Add passive ventilation two ways: Quickly or Elegantly. Either choice results in a remarkably cool ABS that runs happily ever after.
- Reset the firmware in your Graphite ABS after the capacitor repair
- Build a Universal Power Supply for your Graphite ABS.
- Configure your ABS using the Admin Utility. Guides are available for OS9 and OSX.
- Retrofit active cooling to your ABS - complete overkill IMHO. Plus, electromechanical cooling will always be less reliable than simple, quiet, and effective passive ventilation holes.
- Make the Graphite base station transparent... with results here. Considering all the unappetizing plastic inside an ABS, I'm not sure it's worth it.
- Why trying to retrofit a 802.11g PC card into the Graphite ABS is pure folly.
- How the internal power supply works
- Pictures and specifications of the version 1.1 power supply
- Component Mystery solved!
"Snow" Base Station Resources
- How to add an external antenna
- What the inside of an ABS 2.0 looks like
- Configure your Snow ABS using the Admin Utility. The Snow Configuration Guide uses OSX screenshots but should be pretty similar to the OS 9 version. You can also use the OS9 Guide for Graphite Base Stations, as the features are similar.
- How to build a Universal Power Supply for your Snow ABS.
"Extreme" Base Station Resources (AEBS)
- A personal opinion piece: Evolution of the ABS... or should you upgrade to the Airport Extreme Base Station?
- "Extreme" Base Station revealed! An Preliminary Analysis of the Interior and an Antenna guide for your "Extreme" base station.
- If you want to delve deeper into "Extreme" Base Stations, this dissection of a base station shows all the guts in detail.
- Configure your Extreme ABS using the Admin Utility. The Airport Extreme Configuration Guide should be helpful (OSX only).
"Express" Base Station Resources
- Here are my images of my dissection of a Express base station... They are just as beautiful and compact on the inside as they are on the outside.
"Extreme-n" Base Station Resources
- I finally had the time to post the images of my dissection of a Extreme-n base station... Neat... I'll keep the lid off though.
- Use Antennas to extend the range of your Airport wireless network.
- Choose the right Directional antenna, Omni-directional antenna, or Amplifier for your system.
- Besides all their other great info, SeattleWireless also has a useful antenna guide.
- Use Antennas to enhance the security of your network (somewhat technical)
- Have a old Primestar dish? Recycle it into 22dbi directional antenna for long distance networking. See Trevor Marshall's feed design below for optimum performance.
- Roll your own antenna using Pringles cans, coffee cans, and other things. The folks at Guerrillia.net also maintain a nice list of home-brew antennas.
- Trevor Marshall maintains a really interesting web-site with great do-it-yourself antenna information. His excellent do-it-yourself plans for horizontally-polarized Slotted Waveguide antennas can save you $300 over commercial offerings, though owning a CNC turning machine is a plus. He also has a very effective bi-quad feed-horn design for Primestar dishes.
- Own a Titanium Powerbook and hate the wireless range you're getting? Well, now you can retrofit an External Antenna as long as you're willing to sacrifice your PCMCIA slot. Personally, I'd just use the excellent $60 SMC SMC2532W-B external card...
- As a start, you may want to have a look at my Buying Guide that covers antennas, amplifiers, PC-Cards, and other means of making wireless connections. It also covers alternatives for the now discontinued "Airport" cards.
- My current favorite antenna and amplifier US supplier is Fab-Corp, a hobbyist-friendly outfit in Tampa, FL. They offer good products at reasonable prices and allow returns. RFLinx also seems to be a great outfit that is hobbyist-friendly. JEFA Tech also looks promising. Beware of many online vendors like Hyperlinktech that have punitive return clauses and/or ridiculous minimum order quantities!
- Instead of resorting to antennas, you may be better off re-positioning your ABS. Graphite and Snow base station owners can use the $30 Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) solution from MacWireless to optimally place the ABS without the need for a nearby power outlet. They even have a $70 PoE solution for Extreme base stations now. However, their antennas are overpriced.
- If the ABS is too expensive, consider alternatives. Some folks cannot stomach what is now the premium pricing for Apple wireless hardware, particularly if you're a broadband user. Non-Apple routers are harder to set up but iBookzone has published a well-written and comprehensive guide on how to set up a Linksys wireless router. The instructions are applicable to any generic router even if the setup screens may be different. Note however that many non-Apple routers do NOT pass AppleTalk packets. If you rely on AppleTalk for anything (i.e. older networked printers, servers, etc.) then research carefully if your proposed hardware will pass AppleTalk packets.
Even More Questions Answered
- Troubleshoot your ABS. Currently covers WEP encryption, drop-outs, intermittent signal problems and has a link to WDS help.
- Configure your ABS using the Admin Utility. This tutorial covers the entire configuration process and it has now been personalized by operating system and base station.
- Online Airport Help at Apple. Can be a bit overwhelming!
Worried about the health effects of WLAN networks?
Some folks are concerned about any health effects that Wireless LANs can have. However, consider that exposure to the sun will drench you with more 2.4GHz radiation than a stock ABS can produce. Then, the strength of the (usually intermittent) microwave transmissions drop by the inverse square as distances are increased. I don't worry about the health effects of my WLAN, but to each his own. Here are a couple of links I found on the Apple Discussion board thanks to iFelix: Some industry info can be found at the Wireless LAN Association website, along with IEEE notes. Then there is a BBC story that conditionally exonerates cell phones (which expose humans to much higher doses of radiation than an ABS will, even if it is held to your head). For a dissenting perspective, check out Mercola.com. This site is also primarily concerned with cell-phone safety. However, the fundamental technology is the same.
Wireless Community Websites
If you're Japanese, you might like Koji Iinuma's Apple Airport Site a lot.
Encryption for the Masses:
Secure Shell (SSH) is a very powerful encryption technology built right into OS X. It is the perfect tool to overcome the inherent weaknesses of the current wireless encryption standards. O'Reilly offers a number of fantastic tutorials on how to create SSH keys in OS X, then establish SSH tunnels, and finally how make your e-mail program to take advantage of SSH. Seattle Wireless also has a informative page on Wireless Security Issues.
If your goal is to create a secure network at home, you can also elect to use IPSec to connect from machine to machine instead of regular connections. IPSec is just as secure as SSH is, and may be easier to set up since it has a nice GUI interface in the "Internet Connect" application. The remote machine must have a configuration that allows remote logins (set that up in the Network Control Panel). The same sort of tunnels can secure the connection between your home computer and the corporation where you work.
Préférez-vous votre lecture en français?
Gete.net offert beaucoup de resources sur l'Airport en français. Peut-être un peu plus agréeable, mes amis francophones?
- Apple's Airport Administrative Utility for Windows 98-XP (V1.0 for Graphite only), Windows 2000 & XP (V3.2 up to Extreme), and Macintosh
- The Airport Modem Utility allows you to monitor and control the ABS' modem.
- Jon Sevy has developed a number of tools for Airport Base Stations that are based on Java.
- Wireless drivers for Linux systems can be found at Jean Tourrilhe's web-site.
- Karlnet still distributes a free admin utility for Graphite Base Stations (Windows).
- Freebase is another free Windows admin utility for Graphite Base Stations.