Airport Extreme Wireless Base Station

Setting up a network at home or work has never been easier than it is with the Apple Airport Extreme.

Plug the unit in, hook up the cables, and fire up the Airport Utility software. Fill in the blanks and away you go using your new Airport Base Station.

AirPort Extreme uses the Bonjour technology in Mac OS X to allow AirPort-equipped Mac computers running Mac OS X to find each other with no effort on your part--they discover each other just by virtue of being connected to the network.

image Apple MB763LL/A AirPort Extreme Dual-band Base Station - front view
This box works with all WiFi devices. This unit makes it easy as pie to share a broadband internet connection, USB printer, or an external hard drive without running wires. The iPod Touch and iPhone can get in on the action as well.

Share some stuff: Connect any external USB hard drive to the Airport Extreme port and share files between computers. Or connect a printer to that port and share that instead. Got an Apple TV? Stream video to it via the Airport Extreme.

image image Apple MB763LL/A AirPort Extreme Dual-band Base Station - rear view
Security is no problem either. Protect your network with a number of industry standard protocols including WPA/WPA2, WEP with 40 bit and 128 bit encryption, as well as MAC filtering and NAT firewall.

People sometimes get this box confused with the Apple Express because of the name similarities so I always refer to it as the square white box. This wireless router is one of my favorite routers - period. It's easy to setup and install, performs flawlessly, and because its dual band, it plays nicely with other wireless devices such as remote controls and cell phones.

The only suggestion and advice I give my clients about this box is to be sure to place it in a well ventilated area and not to place it in a cubby hole or in an area where other things can get placed on top of it such as books and papers. This unit is very warm blooded and needs plenty of exposure to air in order to keep it cool. In fact I also suggest that you stand the unit on its edge in order to provide more surface area for convected air currents to circulate. Keeping this thing cool will extend its life and provide years of trouble free operation.

Apple Airport Extreme Wireless Base Station

AirPort Express Base Station with AirTunes

For such a small box, the Airport Express packs in a lot of punch. It's actually a bit difficult to explain what this box does with just a single sentence because it does so much.

image apple airport express with airtunes
Its part wireless access point, part printer sharing device, and part iTunes music sharing appliance. And on top of it all, it's small so that makes it portable too.

Let's look at each of these capabilities.

1)Wireless access point: Use this box to set up a quick wireless network. Plug the Express into a wall socket and then plug in an internet connection from a DSL or cable modem. Now all your Macs with built-in Wifi have access to the internet. This is great for travelers that have more than one computer. Say you and your colleagues are traveling and you're sharing a hotel room with a single internet connection; Plug the internet connection into this unit and now you all have access.
image airport express connectivity diagram


2) Printer Sharing: Again plug the Airport Extreme into an outlet and plug a printer into the USB port. Now you and all those Macs in the area have access to that printer. This is a great way to share a printer. Place this unit and a printer in central location and everyone in your office or home then has access to it - all without running any wires.

It’s the easiest way for everyone in your family or office to share a single broadband Internet connection and USB printer without messy cables.

3) Music: Play the music from your computer's iTunes library through a set of speakers or stereo in just about any room in your home — wirelessly. Just like the printer setup, you plug the express into a wall socket, then connect your stereo or powered speakers up to the audio output jack and you have iTunes playing where ever you place these speakers - all without running wires.

AirPort Express works flawlessly with Apple TV, iPhone, iPod touch, and all your other Wi-Fi devices that use the 802.11a/b/g/n wireless standards.

Big features - Small package.

Apple Airport Express w/AirTunes

Airport Express Cable Kit

This kit is for those folks that want to stay strictly Apple when extending their audio output from an Apple Airport Express. Yes, there are less expensive options out there but none of those keep with the sleek white Apple design motif.

image Apple Airport Express Stereo Connection Kit with Monster Cables M9573LL/A

This set includes three cables to compliment the Airport Express. There's an extension power cable, a Monster mini-to-RCA left and right audio cable, and a Monster mini-to-optical digital Toslink audio cable. Most folks won't use that last cable - however, sophisticated audiophiles will appreciate it.


Apple Airport Express Stereo Connection Kit w/Monster Cables

Time Capsule - Wireless Backup

When you first look at this contraption and read the advertising hype you think that someone really had their head on straight when they came up with this product. However - couple how this really works along with some less than ideal engineering and I would be hard pressed to give this box a glowing review.

Why then do I list it here when supposedly this list is my Best Picks? Cause anyone that knows me knows that I usually really like Apple products and (usually) recommend them highly. I didn't want people to think I somehow forgot this device and would go out and buy it just cause it's from Apple.

image apple time capsule mb277ll
This product does work, but not exactly as it's marketed. In fact, if anyone tells you there's a great wireless backup solution out there, they're just blowing smoke up your floppy disk. As of this writing there is NO good wireless backup product. Period.

Notice I emphasized the word Wireless? That is were this product breaks down - let me explain...

The nature of backing up is very data transport intensive. Because backup is so crucial, any good backup utility is going to go thru some effort to ensure that what is being backup is done correctly. Note: Backup utilities have many ways to accomplish this and usually employ proprietary ways of performing this task, but the concept is pretty much as follows.

Say I'm a backup utility and when it comes time for me to do my job, the first thing I do is look at all the files on your hard drive and determine which ones need to be backed up. I then start reading those files one by one and as I do, I break them up into small chucks. I send the first chunk to the backup device. I ask the device to write that data to disk. I then ask that it read what it just wrote and send it back to me for verification. When I get the chunk back, I check to see if it was the same as what I sent. If it is, I continue with the next chuck - Rinse Repeat.

If on the other hand, the data doesn't match, I re-send the original chunk and ask the device to try again. I continue doing this until the backup machine gets it right. This back and forth process continues until all the data to be backed up is complete. As you might guess, there's a lot of data movement going on here.

This is why backups can take so long to complete - it's not just a simple copy from source to destination. At a minimum, the data is moved between the computer and the backup drive two times. If there are any errors, the data transfer can increase significantly.

Now throw in a wireless component and you just compounded the process. We all know that even at perfect conditions, wireless data movement is much slower than its cabled counter-part. Also add in the fact that wireless conditions can change by the second as interference of one kind or another inevitably takes place. Can you now see the potential for how this can become a challenging operation?

Ok, so now back to the Time Capsule... As I first stated, the idea behind this product is fantastic. Take an Airport wireless router and couple it with a hard drive and you have a wireless router you can use as a backup device for either one or multiple computers in a given location. On the surface it's a brilliant idea. In reality however, it just doesn't work well.

When you peruse the support forums at Apple, or read the customer reviews at Amazon, Best Buy, etc, you will see that almost half of those people responding are very dissatisfied with this product. If you read a bit further, you'll see that most of them are using this device as a wireless backup platform - and with good reason; Apple is actively selling this as a wireless backup solution. Bad Apple!

If you want to use this box, then do so a bit differently and you will be much happier. First, make sure that you place this box in a well ventilated area. Another complaint of this product is that it runs very hot. Like its cousin the Airport Extreme, these guys are very warm blooded creatures. This high heat can significantly reduce the life of this product.

I tell all my clients to be sure to place this unit (and the Airport Extreme) in a well ventilated area. I also recommend that they stand the unit on its side to increase the amount of surface area for convection air currents. Do not place this in a cubby hole under a shelf or in a closet or cover it with other like sized devices or set a book or papers on it. It needs to breath so make sure it's in an area that will help it cool itself. Thats step one.

Step two is to connect all computers you plan to backup from to the Time Capsule via an ethernet cable. You can still use the wireless portion of the TC to connect to wireless computers, for your iPhone or iPod Touch. You can even connect your laptop for normal internet and network activity. Just don't depend on the wireless option for backup of that laptop. If you have to back-up the laptop, make sure you have a wired connection to use for that function.

This device will work for you, but not the way it's been marketed. The time for wireless backup has not yet come.

Apple Time Capsule (AirPort Extreme Plus 1 TB Storage)

Mouse - Apple Mighty Mouse, Wireless

If a wireless mouse calls to you, you might want to consider this mouse from Apple. It's the same mouse that I reviewed in an earlier post (Mouse - Apple Might Mouse Wired) but instead of being a wired version, it is a wireless model.

image apple wireless bluetooth mighty mouse
It uses bluetooth technology to communicate with your Mac. It has the same pros and cons as the wired version, with an extra pro for being wireless.

I won't repeat myself with all the details but if you would like to know more, just visit the link above for my full review.

Apple Mighty Mouse Wireless Kit

MobileMe Online Service

I've been a MobileMe user since it's earliest days, in fact I was a MobileMe user when it wasn't even called MobileMe, but DotMac instead.

That should give you some indication of the value I think this service provides.

image of mobileme software application
As an online service, MobileMe is a bit hard to describe in the short amount of space I have here but to put it succinctly, MobileMe is an online data storage service with the capability of synchronizing that data across multiple computers and mobil devices.

If you have more than one computer, or a computer and an iPhone, etc you really should consider the benefits of this service. Even if you only have one computer but use it to work with critically important data, this again is a service you should consider.

MobileMe stores all your email, contacts, and calendars on an online server--or "cloud"--and syncs them to your iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, and PC. When you make a change on one device, the cloud updates the others. The sync happens automatically and continuously. You don't have to wait for it or remember to do anything--such as docking your iPhone and syncing manually--to stay up to date.

This service does have one caveat though - you need to be connected to the internet with a high speed connection in order for it to work correctly. If you are still using a dialup connection, you'll need to wait.

As I said, I've been using this service for a very long time and I'm continually finding new ways to use it.

For instance, the other day I had a very large file I wanted to send a colleague. Email would have chocked on it so instead I used the finder and dragged the file to my MobileMe icon. After the file copied to the cloud, I accessed my account and used the share button to send an email message to my friend with a hyperlink to the large file. All my buddy had to do was click on the link I sent him to download the file.

Another way I use this service is to run a backup utility that backs up all my passwords and financial data to a secure folder on MobileMe. Yes, I use TimeMachine to keep my regular backups but what happens if I should get robbed or have a fire? My TimeMachine would most likely be compromised too. But with my MobileMe backups, I can go to any computer (even at the library) and have access to my data.

One last example, I have two computers that I use. One at work and one at home. I'm constantly updating my files with data collected throughout the day. I created a shortcut in the dock that is a folder of all these files that sit in the cloud. As update them, the data is constantly in sync so that when I go home, I can reference the same data and make change to it there as well because I have the same shortcut folder in the dock on my home machine.

Ok, one last example. The same thing holds true for updating addresses in my address book. If I should make a change to an address by updating a phone number, when I get to work or even if I use my iPhone, the updated address with new telephone number is there.

These are just some of the basic things you can do with MobileMe. To find a more in depth review and explanation of what this service is all about, just click the big link below. Btw, for some odd reason, when you buy this service through Amazon.com, you save $10 over the exact same product directly from Apple. I for one like to save money so I use the Amazon approach.

Hope you find this service as useful as I do.

MobileMe Internet Services from Apple

Keyboard - Apple Bluetooth Wireless

Sleek and compact, this Bluetooth keyboard by Apple gets my top pick for those looking for a small keyboard without all the hassles of being tethered to your machine by a cable.
I'll admit that I wished this had a numeric keypad but if you're looking for a compact entry divise, this can't be beat. It works well and sits nicely on your lap so typing while leaning back is quite comfortable.

I use this keyboard in tandem with my wired keyboard. When I get into my writing mode, I grab this, lean back, and start typing away.

Apple Wireless Keyboard Kit

Mouse - Apple Mighty Mouse, USB Wired

You and a Mouse should have a very intimate relationship with one another. This device is what you use to control your computer and should therefor be a product you pick wisely.

As you know, not all mice are created equally and what works well for one person may not be the best bet for you. In addition, everyone works a bit differently and so there may be features or options that appeal to you that get lost with the next person.

I encourage you to really study how you work and find a mouse that meets those requirements.

image of apple might mouse wired usb interface
This mouse - the Mighty Mouse by Apple is one I like but not enough to give it my full endorsement. It has a couple of features that I like a lot. It also has one caveat that keeps me from buying it.

The main reasons I really like it is because it WORKS well. It's got a slick exterior that accommodates both left and right handed users. I especially like the track ball on top of the case. You use your finger to scroll in any direction. It seems so intuitive that you can navigate a page with incredible ease. THIS single feature is what got me to fall in love with it.

But as I said, there's one caveat that keeps me from using it and that's the fact that you can't control the "squeeze" buttons with enough control for my taste.

I tend to have a lot of applications open and switch back and forth between them. What I wanted to do was program a keyboard shortcut for the squeeze action to perform a {command H} keystroke (hide application). My old mouse gave me that option and I use that function at least a hundred times a day. While you can program the squeeze buttons for some activities, a keyboard shortcut of your own design is not one of them. This was the deal breaker for me.

As I stated earlier, you need to really figure out how you work when you select a product. This one habit of mine would not work with this mouse.

Other than that I love this mouse and keep watching for the next release hoping that the squeeze function is enhanced. When that happens, this mouse is mine!!

Apple Mighty Mouse - USB Wired