Happy Birthday Mac

Today is the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Apple Mac, so Happy Birthday Mac.

My first Mac was in 2002, and it was a Titanium G4 PowerBook. I was Director of the Western Colleges Consortium in Avon, and one of the partner colleges was not happy about the support they were getting in using the shared VLE and online learning content on their Macs they used. They were using G4 PowerMacs, so in order to support them better I decided to order the “cheapest” G4 Mac I could and that was the Titanium G4 PowerBook.

Titanium G4 PowerBook

I remember thinking that if I was going to really understand the needs of the users of these strange devices I had better use it as my main device for a few weeks.

Within a week, it had become my main computer and I soon upgraded it with an Airport 802.11b wireless card so it was more useful. I remember how much I liked the fact that you shut the lid, and when you opened it, it came back on almost immediately.

It was a dual boot machine running OS 9 and OS X 10.1 Puma. It had a 500MHz G4 chip, a 10GB hard disk drive, 128MB of RAM and a DVD Drive.

It was a very different experience to the Windows 2000 PCs I was use to, and the user interface was in many ways a combination of “easy” and “challenging”. It took me a few months to work out how to drag and drop.

It lasted a few years and was eventually replaced with an Aluminium G4 Powerbook a few years later.

Since then I have had and used many Macs, including the G5 PowerMac which was an amazing computer, very powerful, various incarnations of the iMac, most recently a 27” model. With the move to Intel, I used a range of MacBooks, I really liked the MacBook Pro Retina and I am currently typing this article on an 11” MacBook Air.

ADSL Modem Woes

I have now been back on ADSL for six months and it’s not been a smooth ride. I moved house in June and as a result my phone line was linked to a different cabinet, even though it was the same exchange. The exchange was upgraded for FTTC, but the cabinet I was connected to wasn’t part of the upgrade plan. As a result I was booted back down to an ADSL internet connection.

My connection is certainly better than the one I had just before I moved onto FTTC. What I have noticed is two things, firstly, the connection goes down a lot more than it ever did on FTTC. Now this could be the connection, but I am slightly suspicious that the fault lies with the Netgear ADSL Modem/Router I am using rather than an issue with the connection itself.

Netgear DGN1000 Wireless-N150 ADSL Modem Router

This is reinforced with the second thing I have noticed. When we’ve had a power cut (or as I did the other day turn off the power to do some electrical work) it seems to be really problematic to get the three Apple Airport base stations I have back up and running. After reconfiguring the base stations and failing, I did a software reboot of the Netgear Router through the admin screen (as opposed to turning the thing off and back on again) and this time the Airport wireless base stations did sort themselves out.

The main problem I was having with the Airport base stations was that they couldn’t get an IP address from the router through DHCP and when I gave them a static IP address, the DNS didn’t work as expected.

When I had FTTC, as it uses PPPoE I was able to use my Apple Airport base station as the main router for the home network. When I moved back to ADSL I needed to get a new ADSL Modem/Router that supported PPPoA. I did have one in the loft that I got out, but I think it was fried or just too old because I couldn’t get it to work or even configure it. So I went out and bought a Netgear ADSL Modem/Router from my local PCWorld. With hindsight this was probably a mistake!

After blaming ADSL for my lost connections I am now basically convinced that the fault is not with ADSL, but may well be with the Modem/Router. The issue with the DHCP is I think a separate but connected issue.

As a result I am thinking about getting a new ADSL Modem/Router, so do you have any suggestions?

Buffalo Nfiniti Wireless-N Dual Band Ethernet Converter, Done!

Well that was simple.

I ordered the Buffalo Nfiniti Wireless-N Dual Band Ethernet Converter from Amazon on the 1st January. I used the Super Saver Delivery option, I was in no hurry and why pay extra for postage (especially over New Year). Really surprised to see the parcel arrive this morning! Excellent service Amazon, well impressed.

It’s smaller than the picture makes it look.

Very easy to configure, I plugged it into the power then plugged the supplied ethernet cable into my iMac, reconfigured the ethernet settings in System Preferences, turned off the Airport on the iMac. Then went to a browser, typed in the address, entered the username and password. Added my Airport network details. Very pleased to see that my 802.11n 5GHz network was recognised, remembered to use WPA2-AES (as that is what the Airport Extreme uses). Click configure,update. Job done!

The reason the Buffalo device appeals, is that it comes with four ethernet ports, which means I can connect four devices to the network.

Now to test it out under the TV!

Airport Express fell over…

Today despite a strong green light the Airport 802.11g network that my Airport Express provides was nowhere to be seen.

I couldn’t see the Airport Express in the Airport Utility either, despite it been connected to my network via cable and I was using my 802.11n network.

In the end I power cycled the Airport Express, twice and this resolved the issue.

This happens now and again with Airport base stations, mainly the older the 802.11g base stations in my experience.

Should I be running a hidden or closed wireless network?

So should you be hiding your wireless network? Should you be closing your Airport network? Should you be not broadcasting your SSID (service set identifier)?

Some people do this to make their network invisible.

Should I be running a hidden or closed wireless network?

Most people are not aware that hiding your SSID or “closing” your network, does not in fact make your network invisible.

All it does is stop broadcasting your SSID (network name).

Your network is still broadcasting and therefore detectable.

I have a (modern) Sony VAIO which can pick up closed networks without any extra software – the ability is built into the latest intel chipsets.

As well as your network still broadcasting your network will also “broadcast” your SSID everytime a client joins your network.


Well you want to join the network, so you tell the router that you want to join.

You tell it the SSID, it says okay and lets you join.

When you told it the SSID, this was broadcast in the clear and can be easily picked out by “sniffer” programmes.

Exactly the same process can be used to sniff out the the authorised MAC address if you use MAC address access control.

Unfortunately “Closed” networks, MAC access control lists, and reduction in transmission power are all more “feel good” security rather than real security. All these various approaches are dated and mistakenly lead to overconfidence.

They’re like putting a brown paper bag over your wireless router to “secure it”, it may make you feel better, but adds no security whatsoever.

WPA is your friend if you value wireless security.

Photo source.

Wireless Network Tutorials

Apple have posted a nice couple of video tutorials on wireless networking and setting up a wireless network at home.

For seasoned techy geeks like myself who have been using wireless for the best part of a decade, we sometimes forget how magical and fantastical wireless is to people new to it.

“You mean I don’t need to connect any wires to connect to the internet!”

So nice and simple tutorials like these from Apple are useful and can set the groundwork for people to enter a wireless world.

Wireless basics

Setting up your wireless network 

Dated AirPort base station differences

Looking through a few pages on my tech website when I realised that my Airport differences page is now well out of date.

The page is missing both the Time Capsule and the new Airport Express.

I have started to edit the page but with three extra new devices it’s looking like the table may be a little on the wide side.

Thinking I will probably break the table into two, one for 802.11b/g and one for 802.11n base stations.

Watch this space.

MacBook Pro issue resolved totally now I hope

In a previous blog posting I mentioned the problems here and here, I was having with my 802.11n WPA2 encrypted network and a MacBook Pro.

In the end what seemed to help was ensuring that Airport was at the top of the network configurations.

However even with that it still took the MacBook Pro some time after sleep to re-connect to my 802.11n Airport wireless network. Even then sometimes it failed to re-connect so I had to turn the Airport on the MacBook Pro off and back on again.

The MacBook Pro has now been upgraded to Leopard 10.5.2 and this does seem to have resolved the issue fully, with the MacBook Pro re-connecting to the wireless network immediately rather than after a minute or so.

Hopefully it will remain resolved and not happen again.