How to Become a Network Guru
Setting Up AirPort
What is AirPort?
Apple makes a type of wireless network called AirPort. Apple’s AirPort significantly changes how you set up and use networks, making them more practical for the average user. AirPort removes the need for network wiring by using a network transmitter called a Base Station and treating the computers on the network like radio receivers. (Each client computer needs an AirPort card to receive these network signals.) The Base Station transmits network data through most solid obstacles, and works up to a few hundred feet away, although performance drops as distance increases.
Although AirPort is the Apple-branded method of wireless networking, it’s based on a common wireless network standard, so it is also compatible with most other wireless networks. This is especially useful at corporations or colleges that are installing wireless network transmitters. Macs with AirPort antennas can also communicate with each other without a “real” Base Station using the Base Station software. Connecting to other wireless networks won’t bypass platform differences, but you can surf the Web and do other platform-independent tasks.
The AirPort Base Station includes a built-in 10BaseT Ethernet port, enabling it to bridge the AirPort network to an Ethernet network or a high-speed Internet connection. It also has a 56K modem and can share the modem connection with other Macs on the network.
How Does It Work?
The AirPort Base Station (hardware or software) is a type of radio transmitter. It sends out network data at a specific frequency, which other Macs can connect to using their own AirPort card or antenna. When a Mac connects to the Base Station, the two establish a secure, encoded connection, to prevent unauthorized users from viewing the network data. Note that wireless security is not as robust as some other computer security measures, so you should be aware of its limitations.
AirPort transmits data at up to 1 MB per second, about the speed of 10BaseT Ethernet. Future versions of AirPort may increase this speed further.
Plugging in an AirPort
AirPort’s wireless nature leads to a very quick setup process. Once you plug the Base Station in, just connect it to the Ethernet hub (if you have an Ethernet network), plug it in to the nearest phone jack (if you’ll use the modem), and you’re done.
In the above diagram, the AirPort Base Station is connected to the Ethernet network and is transmitting wirelessly to the AirPort-ready Mac on the left. Any Mac on the network (wireless or Ethernet) can see the others because the AirPort Base Station bridges the two networks together.
If you have an AirPort-ready Mac (built-in or with an installed AirPort card), all you need to do is install the AirPort software and choose AirPort in the AppleTalk control panel to start using the network.
If you also use the AirPort for Internet access via the modem or Ethernet port, open the TCP/IP control panel. Set the “Connect via” to AirPort and “Configure” to DHCP Server. This tells the AirPort to automatically generate an IP address for your Mac when it connects to the Internet.
If you have problems getting the AirPort to communicate properly, you may need to reset or reconfigure the internal Base Station settings. See the AirPort manual for exact instructions.
Also in This Series
- Mac to Windows: Troubleshooting the “No Logon Servers Available” File Sharing Error · October 2004
- Using WEP Security on an AirPort Network · July 2004
- Whatever happened to…Threemacs.com? · September 2003
- Clandestine Wireless Networking and MacStumbler · July 2003
- Learning to Share With Others: Sharing Preferences Overview · April 2003
- Serving Files Using FTP in Mac OS X · December 2002
- Switching Between Networks in Mac OS X · November 2002
- The Audio/Video Quadras (660av, 840av) · September 2002
- Thoughts on Apple’s Xserve · July 2002
- Complete Archive