Wednesday, June 27, 2007
For wireless networking in your studio, Apple's new AirPort Extreme offers a major upgrade of performance and features
One of the most exciting new features of the AirPort Extreme is the ability to share an external hard drive with every computer on your network. The USB port on the back of the AirPort allows you to connect a drive of your choice and control wireless access to that drive. It's an inexpensive—and easy—way to add flexible storage and the file-sharing benefits of a server to your wireless network.
Like the previous incarnation of AirPort, you also can share a USB printer with all of the computers in your studio. And if you want to share multiple printers, multiple drives or a combination of both, just connect a USB hub to the AirPort Extreme.
Along with USB, there are also three Ethernet ports on the back of the AirPort Extreme. This lets you connect up to three computers via wired connections directly to the AirPort, which is especially helpful if you have computers nearby that you'd prefer to connect directly or that don't have wireless installed.
Keeping your data and your connections safe is essential for wireless networking. You don't want unauthorized users hijacking your Internet connection, or worse, accessing your files. AirPort Extreme offers the latest security and encryption technologies to ensure your network is well defended.
One of the options for network security is WPA2. WPA, or WiFi Protected Access, is a protocol designed to offer superior protection to WEP. Without getting too technical, WPA was intended as a stopgap protocol to take the place of WEP while the 802.11 standard continued to evolve, to eventually be replaced by WPA2. As of March 2006, all new devices must be WPA2-compliant to receive WiFi certification.
That means that while most new wireless devices are compatible with WPA2 security, some older devices and wireless adapters may not be. If you run in to trouble connecting older equipment to your network, you may need to use the WPA or WEP encryption setting on your AirPort Extreme.
Another nice security feature of the AirPort Extreme is the ability to control access to your network at specific times of the day. So not only can you control which computers or users have access to network resources, but when and for how long they can use them. So, if your assistant has a borderline instant-messaging addiction or forgets that Fantasy Baseball isn't actually part of the job description, you can limit his network access to specific times of the day. Just don't tell him that Apple calls this “parental” control.
Ahead Of The Curve
I've been working with the AirPort Extreme for a few months now and can't imagine going back to my now seemingly sluggish 802.11g router. With the exception of an older Windows laptop that I couldn't connect via WPA2, it was a seamless transition.
Also note that while 802.11n gear is backward-compatible with 802.11a/b/g, network transmission speeds slow down when devices using those earlier technologies join the network. However, if you're using a late-model Intel Mac or other wireless gear ready for 802.11n, you'll be delighted by the speed and auxiliary features the AirPort Extreme offers. Maybe it's time for a new computer anyway. List Price: $299.
Contact: Apple, (800) MY-APPLE, www.apple.com.
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