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Hardware annoyances

Okay, too-long-too-geeky-too-techy-too-grumpy rant to follow.

I bought one of the new 802.11n Apple Airport Express boxes today. The data wiring in my house is all cat-3 or worse, which used to mean I kept a 10-megabit switch in the basement and starred everything off that. But file servers, backups, and streaming audio and video outstripped the ability of the house wiring, and as wireless networking speeds improved, I just switched most things to wireless Ethernet, the exceptions being the storage disks (USB-attached) and my big desktop machine that functions as the file and music server (gigabit Ethernet).

Anyway, when I switched to wireless that left older boxes like my Turtle Beach Audiotron without any access to the network and thus me with no way to play digital music on the living room stereo. So when the 11n version of the AX came out, I thought I'd give it a try. It's pretty cute, looking exactly like the AC power adapter for a Macbook except for the Ethernet jack and USB port. Plugs nicely into a wall socket and stays out of the way.

It configured itself in that happy easy Apple way, then downloaded itself a firmware upgrade, and then while I was showing it off to Susanna, it started fucking up, cutting out during music play, vanishing off the network, locking up, and worst of all, it would no longer allow me to get into it to configure it; it started to download its config to the Airport Utility and then lock up.

After messing around with it for some time, I surmised that the firmware upgrade scrambled up its configuration somehow, and set about trying to reset it to its factory defaults. Apple's procedure for doing that didn't work; the "hard reset" which is supposed to let one in without a password didn't work either, because it wasn't configured as an access point but as a wireless client and thus I couldn't directly talk to it. And since I hadn't configured it for wired operation, the Ethernet jack wasn't operating either.

After a matter of hours, I finally realized that despite the wired Ethernet not being configured, despite it not handing out an IP address to my laptop ("your computer has a self-assigned IP address and may not be able to connect to the Internet"), it actually was listening on the Ethernet jack, and I could blindly get the Airport Utility to talk to it. From there it was easy enough to tell it to reset to factory defaults, reboot it, re-configure it from scratch, and now, finally, it's working just peachy fine. It'll be a useful thing to have in the new house, too, since I don't plan on running any data wiring in it, and it can drive a printer through its USB port. And I noticed that when it's not really doing anything, it drops its wireless rate way down to 1 Mb/s, presumably a power saving feature.

So, it's pretty nifty, probably worth the $95 I paid for it, but dammit, now it's almost 2am, I have to work in the morning, and I want my four hours back.

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Comments

( 2 comments — Comment )
ark_lj
Apr. 1st, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
I love my express
I had a pre-n express get into my hands a year ago. Since I travel fairly often for work it comes in REALLY handy, and when given the choice between wired and wireless in a room, I go wired into the express. Its often a better experience, and I can get my phone and laptop on while paying only one charge.

Its a handly little device. I rarely use the iTunes portion, but I'm sure that'll come in handy one day.
szasz
Apr. 1st, 2008 03:30 pm (UTC)
Re: I love my express
Yeah, it definitely would be a nice thing to be able to take on trips. I might buy another one for that rather than having to cannibalize a part of my music system. But we'll see.

I think the difficulties I had with it are specific to the 11n version of this. The Apple forums are full of people with the exact problem I had, and then being unable to reset it to factory defaults. It is NOT easy to do, and Apple's documentation is completely wrong about how to do it. I think it is actually not possible at all.
( 2 comments — Comment )

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