The weather is getting nice here in Massachusetts. We had a tremendous amount of rain last week, but that's over now and when the sun has been out, it has been simply beautiful.
And I've been thinking how nice it would be to work out on our back deck.
It's screened in, with a nice view of the woods out back. There are outlets, so I could work all day if I wanted to, though the MacBook's battery life is pretty good too. But no network wiring, of course.
Yeah, I know, wireless. The MacBook Pro has Airport built in. I probably never would have added wireless had they given me a choice, but there it is. Now all I need is a.. a what?
Well, of course I could buy a wireless router. But I already have a router, and my Yankee thrift genes would get all pouty if I threw that away for no good reason. So I just wanted something I could plug into the existing network that would un-tether my MacBook. Logically, I'd call that a bridge.
Nope, it's a Wireless Access Point.
Well, call it whatever you want, but it's a bridge to me. There's my 10.1.1.0 wired lan over there, here's my wireless 10.1.1.x MacBook over here. I want the MacBook to remain part of the lan. That's bridging, damn it.
Nope, it's a Wireless Access Point.
In the wireless world, bridging is usually reserved for the specific function of connecting one wired lan to another wired lan by a pair of wireless links. Confusingly, even if your two lans had different subnets, they'd still call this bridging even though it's really routing. Confused? Let it go, it/s just jargon.
But before we leave that, there are also Wireless Extenders. These are for when you already have wireless but it's not reaching far enough. That wouldn't help me here.
OK, so I wanted a WAP (Wireless access point). I read a few reviews, noted that everything on the market was disliked intensely by somebody, and decided to go with Amazon's most popular pick. I ordered it, and minutes later (around 200 thousand minutes later, actually) UPS dropped it off at my door.
Aaargh. It's a Windows setup CD. OK, yes, I can do that with Parallels or use my wife's XP box, but why do they do this? The darn thing HAS a browser configuration method. If they left it at DHCP by default (they don't - it's 192.168.1.245) and you knew the default username and password (blank/admin), you could configure this thing without Windows. If you are willing to disconnect from your lan and temporarily assign yourself 192.168.1.100 or whatever, you can probably do it anyway, but I just used Parallels.
Configuration was easy enough. This boopy apparently can also function as a bridge to connect two lans or as a repeater to extend your wireless reach, but I just want my MacBook to use it. I set it to DHCP so that it would get an address from my router. I set a WPA password and disabled SSID broadcast. Well, no - I left SSID broadcast enabled momentarily, unplugged from the LAN, and let Airport connect. Then I went into the browser and disabled the broadcast. Airport will remember this connection but it's no longer yelling "Wireless over here! Wireless over here!" at my neighbors (their networks are yelling at me - I really need to do some local education here).
If I wanted to, I could also enter MAC addresses and only allow access from those. You can optionally specifically block certain machines. You have choices for security, also, including an extra cost add-on product Linksys offers. WPA is good enough for me.
This is only slightly slower than LAN speeds for me. A local file transfer runs at about 6.5 MBs on my LAN, and 3.5MBs over wireless. For internet use, I suppose once in a while Comcast might be faster than the wireless, but not by much: I doubt I'd ever notice a difference.
I carried the MacBook throughout the house; no deadspots. It's a little too cool right now to be out on the deck, but maybe later..
Remember: a WAP needs a place to plug into your network. An extender picks up your existing wireless network somewhere and rebroadcasts it with a new SSID.That means you end up with multiple wireless networks to choose from and of course you choose the strongest. As that's not really ideal for someone wandering around with a laptop, I'd take the trouble to run more wire so I could use a WAP.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2013-07-23 Anthony Lawrence
Technology is both a tool for helping humans and for destroying them. This is the paradox of our times which we're compelled to face. (Frank Herbert)