Apple Airport Antenna Booster Help

The Apple Airport Extreme is one of my favorite wireless routers or internet access points. I've used many different brands over the years but I like the AE for three major reasons…
  1. The Airport Extreme is very easy to configure and maintain or modify.
  2. The signal strength is one of the best of all the boxes I've used. So much so that in most cases, when a client tells me they are having trouble with signal strength from their current box, I usually suggest an Extreme and the problem is often solved. and
  3. Airport Extremes have a USB port that allows for easy service expansion. It's very easy to add a printer or an external hard drive at a later date to enhance the capabilities of your network.

Improving Signal Strength
So, what about those times when the range or signal strength of the Airport extreme could use a boost? As mentioned in an earlier post where I discuss an Airport booster antenna, there are a few more solutions that could easily help you bump that signal strength up a notch or two.

Location Matters
The first thing you can do is understand where you've placed your Airport and see if there's something that might be interfering with the unit's operation. Small details like being placed in a closet or behind a thick masonry wall can have a huge effect on its performance. Is the unit centrally located or is it in a lower level toward one end of a building?

Often moving the unit into an open space and/or centrally locating it will help. Or maybe moving it closer to the place you need the signal.

A client called one day to say he was having trouble with his signal after moving his home office to a new location… Seemed that when he first set his office up, it was in an alcove inside his bedroom. Within the room was a cable hookup and that was where the modem and Airport Extreme were installed. Now his office was in a spare room on the other end of the house. It just happened that there was a cable outlet in an adjacent room so all we had to do was relocate the modem and Airport and the problem was solved.

Eye-In-The-Sky
You might consider moving the the airport to a higher level or even mounting it vertically.

Here's what I mean… The airport extreme is just another object. And like other objects around us in our homes, we tend to keep them at a level that is convenient for us to use. Therefore all these objects would naturally be at about the same level. Every time a radio signal has to pass thru an object, it degrades slightly. If a bunch of objects are sitting between your Airport Express and your computer, it stands to reason that degradation would ensue.
image of bracket used to mount an apple airport extreme onto the wall to improve performance
I'm therefore suggesting that you try mounting the AE closer to the ceiling. Try holding it there and ask an assistant to see if that helps. If it does, then all you need is an Airport Bracket to solve your signal woes.


Make It Bigger
You could also extend the Airport network with another Airport Extreme or an Airport Express. Clicking on either of those links will take you to my review of each of those devices.

As mentioned earlier, the Airport Extreme is incredibly easy to configure or re-configure using the software application already on your Mac (Airport Utility). You'll find this app in the 'Utilities' sub-folder that's nested within the 'Applications' folder.

Think of the Airport signal as a bubble. By adding an additional device, you're in essence increasing the size of the bubble. Expanding your wireless network is pretty easy. You can use my favorite tutorial on How to Extend your Wireless Network with an Airport Express. I printed this out and carry it with me to use at clients homes when I need to extend their wireless airport networks.

While that tutorial explains how to expand a network using an airport express, the same procedure can be used if you want to use another airport extreme as well.

Add An Antenna
And finally you may want to add a booster antenna to your airport extreme. Early models of the AE came with an external antenna connection port. The newer and most recent models no longer have this port. It's still possible to add an external to an airport that doesn't have a port but it involves opening up the airport extreme case and reconnecting antenna leads. I don't recommend doing this as it voids the warranty. If on the other hand you are comfortable around electronic devices and your unit is out of warranty, visit this link for instructions on how to attach an external antenna to an Airport Base Station and click on the drop-down menu at the bottom of the page titled 'Installation Instructions.
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Should You Upgrade to Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6)?

Should you upgrade your Mac to OSX 10.6 - otherwise known as Snow Leopard?
I've been asked that a lot by my clients and I want to provide some guidance with the issue of this blog post.

Normally I encourage my clients to apply any update that comes through as they usually fix issues that need to be addressed. However, a couple of the past updates (10.5.6 & 10.5.7), have actually caused more problems than they fixed. These have all been eliminated by the 10.5.8 update, but let's just say I've become a bit gun shy to suggest doing any updates that comes along since. I like to follow the Apple forums and think tanks to see if an update is better off left undone - at least in the first few days.

Having adopted this philosophy, I have been advising my clients to hold off on this Snow Leopard update. Especially given the fact that this update is considered more of a maintenance upgrade than one that would bring new features to the table.

Having said that though, it's important to know that this update, while not feature rich on the surface, has undergone a huge change under the hood. With this update, support for the PowerPC processor has been dropped. If you own a Mac with a PowerPC CPU, you will not be able to apply this update. That's what makes this upgrade so dramatic.

Note: [To find out what type of processor you have, just go up to the apple menu in the upper left hand corner of your screen and click your mouse. Drop down and select the menu item "About This Mac". The window that pops up will tell you the type of processor you have in your machine.]

Starting with Snow Leopard, only Intel processors are being supported. OSX 10.6 has been stripped of all branch logic used to control both the Intel and PowerPC processors. With prior operating systems, every time your computer needed to perform a function, first it had to determine what type of processor it was dealing with and then perform the instructions unique to that processor.

As you might imagine, this decision making process caused delays, introduced possible places for bugs to occur, and made the operating system take up a lot of space on your computer.

With the elimination of branch logic code in this new OS, things are suppose to work faster and take up less space. The operating system should be easier to maintain and improve upon as well because it won't be necessary to write two different pieces of machine instructions (code) for both types of processors.

I completely agree with the theory here but as I said, was just a bit apprehensive to jump into the deep end of the pool without first finding out if there were any sharks in the water.

So now that the new version of Leopard has been out for almost a week now, I have to say that Apple has done a remarkable job of creating a new operating system release. I've been following a number of high profile forums and blogs and this upgrade seems to be doing very well with very few problems. Those issues that have surfaced are very rare and most users should not experience any real calamities.

In addition, you should see some added speed improvements and you should also see some recovery of disk space as the new operating system takes up less of your hard drive.

As I mentioned earlier, if you have a PowerPC based Mac, this update will not work for you and you will have to stay at 10.5.x until you decide to purchase a new machine. Those of you on an Intel machine can feel free to upgrade if you want, but there again, it's not absolutely necessary as you will not gain any significant features.

The only reason I see to upgrade at this time is to gain some speed improvements, recover a bit of disk space, and poise yourself for the next round of improvements. Another good reason is that Apple has made the pain of upgrading pretty insignificant - the charge is only $29 which is amazingly cheap. In fact, Amazon.com has even gone one better. They have reduced the price to only $25 and included free shipping if you are willing to wait for normal speed shipping. This is a fantastic offer and you can learn more about it by click on the following link:

Snow Leopard Update Offer

So to answer the question posed at the beginning of this post: "Should You Upgrade to Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6)?" My answer is YES!!
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Are Any of the New Apple Announcements Relevant?

On June 8th Apple held their annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) and as usual, there was quite a bit of exciting news that sprang forth from it.

If you would like to watch the video, here’s a link to the quicktime presentation. I’ll warn you though, this presentation is a long one. Not sure if it’s any longer than usual, but it seemed that way to me.

This presentation can broken down into four major areas or topics. They are:

    New
    Macbook lineup is quite impressive. This was the only announcement to the Mac lineup. No new news about any of the desktop or pro units. The 15” MacBook Pro was at the heart of the announcement. Features included new display density, new battery capable of 2 additional hours of life and up to 1000 charge cycles. A faster processor (3.02Ghz), increased memory (ram) capacity of up to 8GB, an SD slot for direct access to the entire SD card family, and improved hard drive capacity.

    All of these new features are available across the entire MacBook Pro lineup; it’s just that the 15” was the showcase model. More details at
    Apple.

    Need a new MacBook?
    Latest Pricing on the MacBook Pro Family

    OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard) is still in beta, but it’s been released to developers so they can exercise it some. The official release date has been set for September with a sticker price of $29. This is truly one of Apples best bargains.

    Over 90% of the individual components within the operating system have been improved. One caveat though is that this version will not support any of the PowerPC processors. All that supporting code has been stripped out and now the system is strictly 64 bit – something only the Intel processors can work with. In addition to being faster, it also means the system will have a smaller footprint and take up less disk space. Another benefit of 64 bit technology is that the system will now be able to access more memory and disk storage – up to 16 Billion GB. Yes, you read that correctly. Math functions are reported to be two times faster as well.

    Support has also been added for Microsoft Exchange thru mail, ical, and address book. If you use Exchange at your office, you will now be able to integrate seamlessly.

    I highly recommend everyone running an Intel machine make the upgrade. However, I suggest you wait for a month after the release date to make your purchase. I
    have to upgrade immediately in order to support my clients, but why should you be an early adopter and suffer through the bumps and potholes? A month’s wait is long enough for all the kinks (if any) to be worked out and then you should upgrade.

    Link:
    Get Notified when Snow Leopard becomes Available

    Safari 4.0 was officially released. It had been in beta for some time. I was testing out the beta for a couple of months and as time wore on, I was using it less and less. As you might guess from this last comment, I wasn’t too thrilled with it. The beta version had quite a few things that I didn’t like BUT, the official release is much more to my liking. It’s much faster and there is some new technology that keeps the software running even if you have one tab or window that’s hung up. You no longer have to kill the entire application to recover.

    There is also a new feature called “Top Sites”. This is a cover-flow view of the sites you visit most often. Cover-flow is a technique borrowed from iTunes where you can view all your music by the cover art of the album or CD. Instead of using it to view your album/CD art - in Safari, you get to view a snapshot or thumbnail of the websites you visit most. You also have the ability to assign the sights you want on this page. This is a nice feature but it’s more eye candy (in my opinion) than anything else. I know of another power user that loves this feature but I prefer to use my nested bookmarks instead. If pictures work better for you than text, you may find this feature fun and useful.

    The update to Safari 4.0 is free and available right now. I wouldn’t hesitate to get this installed when you have the time - you’re sure to see the benefits.

    Link:
    Safari 4.0 Download

    iPhone was the next big announcement. More than 70% of the entire presentation was given over to the iPhone. Maybe that’s why I thought the keynote address was a bit long winded. I like the iPhone, but it was very obvious that Apple is spending a huge amount of energy supporting this new device. If you listen to consumer and attendee comments, you can understand why Apple is moving this direction.

    There is a general consensus that mobile computing devices (like the iPhone) are the future. I believe this to be true as well. It just seemed like too much iPhone was being crammed down my throat all at once.

    It’s important to realize too, that there was actually two things being talked about with regards to the iPhone. One was the operating system – version 3.0, and the other was the iPhone 3G[S]. The [S] stands for speed. There is both a new operating system (ver 3.0), and a new piece of hardware (iPhone 3GS).

    The new operating system will be available June 17
    th and includes more than 300 new features. Some of the more impressive elements are: Landscape Keyboard, Spotlight Search, Voice Memos, Stereo Bluetooth, Parental Controls, Internet Tethering (using your cell connection to provide internet access on your computer), and my favorite – Remote Wipe. This is where you can remotely wipe the information on your phone (via MobileMe) if it should ever become lost or stolen. To view the entire list and find out more about this update, visit the link: iPhone 3.0 OS Feature List

    Some of the new iPhone 3GS features include: Faster Processor (2X faster), Built-In Video Camera, Voice Control, and Higher Storage Capacity. This is a pretty slick piece of hardware. You can find all the facts at this link:
    iPhone 3G[S]

    So I ask again, "Are any of the new Apple announcements relevant?"
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    There is always plenty of news to be had about Apple products and the supporting technologies around them. Come here to find the latest "goings on" about the Apple Macintosh, Apple computer software & OS X operating system, the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and all the 3rd party vendors building accessories to support and augment these Mac product lines.

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