AirPort Express: Grab Wi-Fi on the Road




Nowadays, Wi-Fi is almost everywhere. Free WiFi zones in public transport and in public centers cover entire cities and even clusters from several cities. As if entire countries (small in size) would soon turn into a zone (WiFi zone). Apple has played a role in turning WiFi into what this technology has become, not the last part. On June 7, 2004, a new base station, AirPort Express, appeared in the family of Apple’s WiFi devices. Cheaper, affordable, almost imperceptible. The world around us has become a little more wireless, but nobody paid attention to it then.

A lot is seen at a distance, especially if it is tiny, light and does not differ from other household items. AirPort Express (if you do not pay attention to the anomalous number of connectors on its case) was one-to-one similar to the most common network adapters of portable computers.

The change in shape was noticed right away: instead of a “flying saucer” with indicators flickering, a parallelepiped with cozy rounded edges was presented to journalists – and discussions about trends in “apple” design splashed onto media pages, blogs and forums.

Form forums have formulated an opinion … Poetic. The prose seemed boring and did not evoke emotion. Is there something about AirTunes and iPod Shuffle charging?

Another WiFi router, which occupies the lowest line among its peers in the Apple price lists, is weakened and freed from several forms of functionality – it is clear that there can be nothing revolutionary or significant in it!

And something was …

Continuation of the series about AirPort, the previous parts are here:

First part: AirPort: Apple-style WiFi .

WiFi for intergalactic travelers
AirPort Express was created, first of all, for those PowerBook or iBook users who often travel. He fit perfectly in a laptop bag, and weighed almost nothing.

Its size, in centimeters – 9.1×7.4×2.8, weight – 190 grams. Slightly more than the standard network adapters that came with the laptop. Creating your WiFi zone was now a matter of a few seconds.

Express was almost in no way inferior to the AirPort Extreme Base Station, although from its name, to impart swiftness to the product, or for some other reason, the phrase Station Base was removed. Just AirPort Express. And succinctly, and sounds more beautiful. And it looks like an “airport shuttle”.

In the Express there was no modem. This decision was doubtful to me: if there is no means of communication at the place of lodging, except for the usual telephone network, no one has ever heard of ADSL, the modem was the weapon of last chance. But for the sake of such a thing in those days it was possible to do without WiFi (modems were necessary in computers), especially since the connection, if it was at all, was not good.

But Express cost only $ 129 (AirPort Extreme Base Station cost $ 299), a set of power cord and two cables for audio and analog needs cost another $ 39 (but you could do without it). The loss of Express (in traveling that just does not happen!) Was 2.3 times less ruinous.

If desired (or necessary), the AirPort Express could be used as a normal base station at a “Permanent Deployment Point”, at home or at work.

Compared to the AirPort Extreme Base Station, the Express Zero Generation (for some reason it was called this way when the next generations appeared) had limitations, but not too severe.

Express supported only 10 wireless clients (instead of 50 at the Extreme Base Station), it did not have an Ethernet connector for connecting devices that do not support WiFi, and the only Ethernet port was, even by the standards of those long-forgotten years, weak. Only 10 / 100Base-T.

On the Express case, there were only 3 (three!) Connectors: an analog-optical audio output, a USB port (for connecting a printer or for … charging the iPod Shuffle) and an Ethernet input port, which is higher, which is slow and weak.

It’s a funny, but historical fact: Express turned out to be compatible with printers that Apple did not officially support, and which the AirPort Extreme Base Station refused to even see. Jeff Carlson, a MacWorld journalist, being in a hopeless situation, desperately connected an old Lexmark E312 laser printer to the Express and everything worked out for him.

However, this is more likely the merit of Apple programmers: running AirPort 4.0 (this version was required by Express, instead of the free AirPort 3.4.2) AirPort Extreme Base Station also learned these tricks.

But Express had another “main feature” …

Didn’t you worry about the audio output? If not, in vain. Because “mom washed the frame”, and “Apple loves music”. And in the banal base WiFi-station, the company could not ignore iTunes.

Using AirTunes, one of the audio systems connected to the AirPort Express could be used to stream audio from the iTunes client.

What does this have to do with travel and in general WiFi, I do not know. I didn’t even use this function (I had enough of a computer and ordinary headphones), and I don’t even imagine how it looked in practice.

But it is very modern.

Few technical details
With all its fascinating and remarkable properties, AirPort Express was, in fact, a specialized computer based on the Broadcom BCM4712KFB chipset, in which the main role was played by a 200 MHz MIPS processor, so if you read somewhere stories about how Apple doesn’t used MIPS, you can bravely send them to zero generation AirPort Express.

But in the tiny device there was another chipset, “music”, from Texas Instruments, a 16-bit Burr-Brown PCM2705.

And, to put it mildly, Apple didn’t neglect other people’s developments.

But the most important thing that saved the AirPort Express user from dancing with tambourines was software.

It came with Extreme, on CD, in versions for Mac OS X and for Windows. These were AirPort Express Assistant (which simplified setting up and setting up a wireless zone to an absolute disgrace), AirPort Express Admin Utility and AirTunes.

The first generation appeared only in 2008, in the era of the iPhone …


In: A Technology & Gadgets Asked By: [23254 Red Star Level]

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