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Summary:

As most people have noticed, Apple, Inc. quietly dropped a new AirPort Extreme Tuesday. And most of those people noticed that besides the “N” upgrade, the other new feature Apple added to the AirPort Extreme is Instant Drive Sharing. Basically, the new AirPort Extreme has USB […]

As most people have noticed, Apple, Inc. quietly dropped a new AirPort Extreme Tuesday. And most of those people noticed that besides the “N” upgrade, the other new feature Apple added to the AirPort Extreme is Instant Drive Sharing. Basically, the new AirPort Extreme has USB 2.0 port and when you attach any USB 2.0 disk drive to it, it automatically shares the drive to anyone on the network. This has been possible for a long time with “NAS” (Network Attached Storage) drive enclosures, but the new AirPort turns any external drive into a “NAS” drive.

Time Machine Loves Drive Sharing

Now, what does this have to do with Leopard? While I cannot say this with 100% confidence, I’m willing to bet that this new feature is not just there for convenience, but to directly supplement the new Time Machine feature coming this summer in OS X 10.5. Time Machine, if you have been under a rock, is Apple’s new file back up software. Now, backing up is a great idea, but it’s a bit pointless to back something up to the same drive or the same computer. Are you catching on here? Hook up a drive to the AirPort, and instant back up source. Pretty slick if you ask me.

The other interesting thing that has nothing to do with Leopard, but that one can totally read into the AirPort extreme is that FireWire is officially dead, since a USB port are included and not a single FireWire, but that’s for another totally unsubstantiated post.

  1. What I find odd though, is that the new Airport Extreme only has 10/100BASE-T Ethernet. Even the Mac Mini and Macbook have Gigabit Ethernet. For time machine, wouldn’t Gig Ethernet be preferable?

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  2. Darn, I noticed this as well, and I was just about to write something about it.

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  3. re: no gigabit – doesn’t really make sense on a consumer device as it will push up the price and you can’t get gigabit speeds via airport anyway. Yes, it would be good if there are two machines connected via wire, they could talk gigabit…
    As for no FireWire – there are no FireWire printers (ok, very few) so why put two ports on the device (which is trying to keep small) when one port will do the trick. I’m sure that Mac*Pro stuff will continue to use FireWire.
    As for Time Machine – I doubt that this is the reason why the hard drive can be added to the base station. Time Machine will, on a pure Leopard install, be able to use some advanced features in ZFS (a new filesystem to hopefully replace HFS+) that Time Machine won’t need an external drive to work it’s magic (filesystem snapshots and copy-on-write is how it will work)

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  4. I don’t understand why you would build an N router an not add gigabit ethernet. Most vendors seem to omit this though.

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  5. Whoa Whoa Woa! Who said that Leopard is coming out this summer. I’m still convinced that it’s coming out before the Extreme ships in February.

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  6. I don’t think one needs to start lamenting the death of FireWire yet. There are, as always, three reasons why FireWire is not included: (i) component cost, (ii) controller and port size and (iii) the fact that if this is intended as a backup device as your post suggests, the speed of FireWire is not quite so essential.

    And if you’re one of the types that still believes dropping FireWire from the iPod was part of an Apple conspiracy to kill it, go and find out just how slow the transfer rate is on those iPod hard disks (and, indeed, the flash memory most now use). Consider also the above points and then ask yourself what the point would be of continuing to equip a consumer electronics device with pro-level ports when all Macs have had USB 2.0 for some 3 years now.

    In short, like BSD, FireWire is not dying.

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  7. Not to mention, there still are basically no DV camcorders that can stream video over USB. FireWire is here to stay, but it would be silly on the AirPort. A USB hard drive is more than capable of keeping 100mbps Ethernet or 802.11g (and probably n) saturated with data.

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  8. Now it is clear why they dropped the UFO shape in favor of a flat top. Look for third party drive enclosures with the same footprint for stackable goodness…

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  9. Good Point Niel, hadn’t thought of that one yet, but it does make sense.

    @kaiser: All that sounds good and all, but really the only reason I back up is for drive failure, and all the file system tricks in the world won’t fix that.

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  10. Excellent Point Niel- all those Mac mini-shaped HDDs now have a new home. It’s a shame the Apple TV doesn’t share the form factor or have expansion, or you’d be able to store every movie ever on it.

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