Apple Wireless Network

11 08 2013

Apple AirPort Extreme is Apple’s router for Internet access. It’s directly connected to a modem and provides wired as well as wireless access for computers, mobile devices like an iPhone or an iPad, printers, and media devices.
Apple offers three different routers (Airport Express, AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule) which can be connected to either a DSL or a Cable modem.

A complete wireless network build with solely Apple products follows the the company’s strategy to provide users with a perfect experience regarding design, setup, and reducing features to those which are necessary. KISS is the motto.

KISS
KISS = Keep it simple, stupid
A design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960 that states that most systems work best if they are kept simple. Unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
Variations of this phrase are:
Keep it simple sir, Keep it simple and straightforward, Keep it short and simple, Keep it simple or be stupid

The hardware …

See this mind map which summarizes all properties of Apple’s hardware for wireless networking with mobile devices. As you can see Apple built it’s own ecosystem where components perfectly work together.

Remark
The router hardware was replaced by new versions on June 10, 2013 on occasion of Apple’s WWDC.

Here are the main features of Apple’s routers summarized in a mind map.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Please visit

The Apple group on Biggerplate

to see and download all mind maps related to Apple.

This more realistic view shows the kernel with a modem and the router as well as some examples of wirelessly connected hardware components for interactive usage.

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The integration of all you need for a perfect user experience goes along with limitations when using non-Apple hardware. It’s Apple’s strategy to say NO to some features other vendors offer and to say YES to a seamless integration of its hardware with its custom-built software.

Professionals may argue that performance, configuration options, and price is not what should be expected. On the other hand the running system convinces users who see the technology as as a serving and not an experimental environment. So do I after many years with other configurations not following the motto ‘It just works’ or ‘Buy, connect, and use it’ for the tasks you want to use it for.

A complete configuration …

Follow these steps in the order specified.

Step 1 Connect the modem to the multimedia connector with a coaxial cable.

Modem
A modem (modulator-demodulator) is a device used to connect a computer or router to a telephone/cable line to allow the computer to connect to the Internet. It modulates a carrier signal to encode digital information, and also demodulates such a signal to decode the transmitted information. The goal is to produce a signal that can be transmitted easily and decoded to reproduce the original digital data.

Step 2 Connect the modem to the power supply.

Wait until the LEDs indicate a functioning connection to your ISP. It may take up to 30 min.

Step 3 Connect the APE to the modem with an Ethernet cable.

Ethernet cable
Ethernet cabling is standardized. If you go to a store you may find a variety of “categories” of cabling. These categories tell you the quality of the cabling. The quality determines, essentially, how much the cable can handle. Recommendation: Cat 6 – works for 10/100/1000Mb.

Step 4 Connect the APE to the power supply.

Here we go.
The configuration with any iOS device and the helper apps Settings and AirPort Utility starts.

Open Settings on your iPhone or iPad and tap on WiFi.
The APE already is sending signals so that your device suggests the set up of a WiFi network.

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Tap on the right-pointing arrow to set up an AirPort basestation.
Enter a name for your network and set a password. Other users like your neighbors, if not too far away, will see this name as an additional WiFi network. Use a strong password for joining this network.

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Tap on Next and that’s all.
Your new WiFi network will connect all your devices with the internet after entering the password you set for your network.

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The utility app …

For controlling the network Apple offers an app called ‘Airport Utility’ which is available for iOS devices, Macs, and Windows PCs.
The slideshow shows the usage of this app when configuring a wireless network with an Airport Extreme router connected to a cable modem.

The most important configuration options can be controlled with the app for iOS devices. For some less important options like adjusting the signal strength Airport Utility for computers must be used.

The benefits …

Apple’s ZEROCONF technique minimizes your efforts to install a usable internet access.

Zero configuration networking (zeroconf)
is a set of techniques that automatically creates a usable Internet Protocol (IP) network without manual operator intervention or special configuration servers.
Zero configuration networking allows devices such as computers and printers to connect to a network automatically. Without zeroconf, a network administrator must set up services, such as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Domain Name System (DNS), or configure each computer’s network settings manually, which may be difficult and time-consuming.

Apple does not permit the AirPort Extreme to engage in channel bonding on the 2.4GHz frequency band. This is a very neighbor-friendly policy, because only three channels in this band—channels 1, 6, and 11—don’t overlap. A router engaging in 2.4GHz channel bonding can hog more than its share of bandwidth and will likely interfere with other 2.4GHz routers operating nearby.

The AirPort Utility also makes it very easy to update the router’s firmware. The AirPort Extreme is so much easier to set up than any other router of the many competitors.
The reason is that if you stay in Apple’s ecosystem you will benefit from all the efforts Apple did for an easy-to-use experience.

The performance on 802.11n standard transmission technique is high.
The APE is powerful even if thick walls hamper propagation of electromagnetic waves.

Interference …

In physics, interference is a phenomenon in which two waves superimpose to form a resultant wave of greater or lower amplitude. Interference usually refers to the interaction of waves that are correlated or coherent with each other, either because they come from the same source or because they have the same or nearly the same frequency like electromagnetic waves sent from WiFi networks.

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If you get problems with interference or the performance of your network is slow which may be caused by interference follow these guidelines:

Apple about potential sources of interference

Macworld, Troubleshooting Airport Interference

The Airport Utility …

Apple’s ZEROCONF technique minimizes your efforts to install a usable internet access.

Zero configuration networking (zeroconf)
is a set of techniques that automatically creates a usable Internet Protocol (IP) network without manual operator intervention or special configuration servers.
Zero configuration networking allows devices such as computers and printers to connect to a network automatically. Without zeroconf, a network administrator must set up services, such as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Domain Name System (DNS), or configure each computer’s network settings manually, which may be difficult and time-consuming.

Look at the details to get a deeper understanding of what happened when configuring the network.
To see the details of your own WiFi network go to Settings – WiFi and tap on the right-pointing blue arrow of you network. Go to the bottom and tap on ‘Manage network’. This will open the Airport Utility. Airport Utility can be used to individualize the configuration.

Regarding to my blog Network (1) from April 20 you will now understand the configuration details set by the APE:

  • DHCP ON
    the APE acts as a DHCP server and assigns private IP addresses (10.0.1.x) to all devices joining the WiFi network after entering the password.
  • NAT ON
    the APE does the network address translation that means, NAT converts your private LAN IPs into a external WAN IP
  • Security
    the APE encrypts all WiFi network traffic with WPA2
    (Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) is a security communication protocol developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance to secure wireless computer networks)

This slideshow shows all settings displayed in Apple’s app AirPort Utility:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In addition to the automatic configuration I entered the following settings:

  • Reservations for IP addresses
    the APE reserves an IP address for all devices. Reservations are useful if you want that the DHCP feature of your APE assigns a fixed IP to your devices. Otherwise DHCP is free to assign any free IP address in the range 10.0.1.2 – 10.0.1.200 every time you join your network.
  • 5 GHz network
    The APE works in the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency band. The iPad is able to connect on the 5 GHz band and I named this (second) network as ‘Apple Airport 5 GHz’.
    If you have interference problems with other WiFi networks you may vary the channel or move over to the 5 GHz network.
  • With the help of Airport Utility for PCs I additionally limited the signal power to 50% which is enough to get connected in all rooms and hampers other WiFi capable devices outside my home to detect my network.

The result is a working internet connection checked by the app Fing which is available at Apple’s App Store.

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The disadvantages …

The AirPort Extreme has only one USB 2.0 port, so it can share either a printer or a storage device over your network. This is in the line with Apple’s strategy that printers should be connected via AirPrint. I miss the support of USB 3.0.

Apple’s design decisions help its product blend into a home’s décor and so the old version of AirPort Extreme was designed to rest flat while the new version was redesigned in June 2013 due to an improved output power. It’s still an eyecatcher.

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Related links …

Airport Extreme Tec Specs

Airport Extreme User Guide

Airport Extreme Easy Setup

Setting up your wireless network

Cisco, 20 Myths of Wi-Fi Interference

Thanks for visiting my blog.
Wireless as well as wired connections are welcome.


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