One thing I did when I was planning my trip to MacWorld was plan for how I was going to handle internet access in the hotel room. I’d stayed at the King George Hotel off of Union Square before for WWDC and had liked it, so I was going to stay there again this time as well. They, like most hotels offering broadband in the room, only had one ethernet plug. With both myself and my fiancee having PowerBooks with wireless cards, the answer was pretty obvious: bring one of the Airport Expresses. But, never having done this, I was a little worried that it wasn’t going to be that easy to set up and make secure. Worse, was I going to have to reset everything up when I got home?
As it turned out, thanks to the magic of profiles stored by the Airport Express, it couldn’t have been simpler. What I did was this:
1. Opened up the Airport Admin Utility.
2. Selected my Airport Express and authenticated to it.
3. Clicked on the "Profiles" button up in the Admin Utility toolbar.
At this point, the profiles window opened up with a list showing my current set-up (called "Living Room") as the only entry. I clicked on the Duplicate button that was available, which transferred over all of my information (including encryption, my MAC address list, etc.) and made a new entry, which I named "Hotel". I then made that the active profile by clicking the appropriate radio button.
Once we got to San Francisco and checked in to our room, I plugged in the Aiport Express to power and the ethernet cable, then opened Admin Utility again. Since "Hotel" was already active, I made the settings changes needed (like switching the Network pane to connect via ethernet rather than WDS, and set it up to not distribute IPs so that the hotel DHCP server would give the laptops their IP numbers) and applied the changes to restart the Airport Express. Next, I opened Safari. The hotel’s internet welcome page showed up. Success! Total time on everything: maybe ten minutes, probably less. My laptops needed no changes because they were talking to the base station they always talk to and using the same settings they always use. Their wireless connection was also as secure as it was at home since the base station’s access was locked by MAC address and the encryption settings were the same.
Once I got home, it was easy to re-integrate my Express back into my home network. I connected to it via the Admin Uility again, went to Profiles and made "Living Room" the active profile. After it restarted, it was like my Express had never been away.
Moral of the story? Next time you’re travelling, toss an Airport Express in the bag for the hotel room, especially if you’re sharing an internet connection. It’ll save you time and probably make your wireless connection more secure too.
Apple AirPort Express with Air Tunes (M9470LL/A)