While we were expecting new firmware for previous generation Airport Extreme and Time Capsule devices to drop this week, some will be disappointed that this update does not magically update the hardware as well.
Airport Firmware 7.4.1 enables the Back to my Mac disk sharing feature announced this week for previous generation Airport Extreme and Time Capsule devices. This release also updates the brand new Airport Extreme and Time Capsule devices with dual-band networking to fix a few bugs that were not caught in the initial release. It does not, however, enable dual-band networking or guest networking on older devices as that feature relies on the new hardware found in the Early 2009 versions of the Airport Extreme and Time Capsule. Airport Express users get no love (beyond bug fixes) as Air Disk sharing is not supported on those devices.
Here is the list of updates…
For AirPort Extreme (Early 2009) and Time Capsule (Early 2009) that ship with firmware 7.4, the firmware 7.4.1 update:
- Resolves an issue in which a client computer may be disconnected when waking from sleep
- Addresses an issue in which redirecting SMTP port services may disable IP-layer networking
- Improves the reliability of Back to My Mac-based disk sharing
- Includes recent AirPort security updates
For AirPort Extreme with 802.11n (Fast Ethernet), AirPort Extreme with 802.11n (Gigabit Ethernet), AirPort Express with 802.11n, and original Time Capsule models, the firmware 7.4.1 update:
The Mobile Me features allow you to access files that are stored on a USB drive attached to your base station. I tested this earlier this morning with a spare USB drive. It could not be simpler to turn on the Back to my Mac feature in Airport Utility — you literally just type in your username and password. I then tried to hop on my neighbor’s Wi-Fi to see if I could see my drive. Unfortunately, my neighbor’s router does not support UPnP or NAT-PMP so I could not see my shared drive through Back to my Mac. I assume that if you are on two networks that support Back to my Mac, you would be able to see your shared drive just fine. Maybe I’ll wrap up my Airport instead of See’s Candies for them next Christmas.
You can still enable drive sharing over the WAN port as well, but this is a little different than the Back to my Mac sharing. Sharing over the WAN port just means filesharing via AFP or SMB, only enabled on the WAN ethernet port in addition to the LAN ports. The only disadvantage that this method has is that you have to know the IP address of your Airport base station to connect to it from a remote network. Back to my Mac gets around this by having the computer or Airport Extreme register their current IP address with the Mobile Me service. Your computer just checks in with Mobile Me to get the address of your Airport Extreme and then opens a connection to it.
The other advantage of Back to my Mac is that ISP’s often lease out IP addresses for a limited period of time, after which they may change. Back to my Mac will update the IP address automatically on any change. If you do not have the Mobile Me service, you can accomplish the same result by registering your Airport’s public IP address with DynDNS or a similar service. If the Airport is providing NAT services to your local network, you could even set up a computer behind your Airport to automatically update this entry if the public IP address were to change.
Beyond the cool new features, I am glad to see that Time Machine reliability has been addressed for the Time Capsule. I have one client that was never able to get Time Machine to backup reliably to their Time Capsule. I am looking forward to trying this new firmware release, and I will let you all know if this firmware update fixes their situation in the comments below. If you have your own stories with Firmware 2.4.1, be sure to share them here.