Moving from wired to wireless


Running around in my head for ages has been the issue of network connectivity.

You see, while I absolutely love my Powerbook, one of the most frustrating aspects of any laptop is that switch between desktop and laptop modes. When the laptop is on my desk, it’s connected to the network by a cable, and when it’s away from the desk, I use Airport. Nothing strange here you are probably thinking.

In most cases the migration from desktop to laptop is not a major problem. OK, I might lost some network mounts, and if I’ve been stupid enough to have an open file across a network drive, I might have trouble with that too. Email and web services don’t really cause a problem. Unless I happen to be downloading some large file at the time, in which case I generally have to stop and restart. In general the majority of modern network services are connect-transfer-disconnect style services that are never open for long enough that a change in network connectivity would cause a problem.

The area that is more difficult though are those permanently on services like iChat or IRC. Disconnect your network cable in the middle of these and you’ll lose your connection and have to start again. When ‘idle’, it’s not a problem, but in the middle of an important conversation it can be a real pain.

Why don’t I use wireless all the time? Because even at 54MBps, the speed sucks for anything but basic web browsing and email. Have to transfer any large files (and I frequently transfer 5-10GB of stuff to or from this laptop every day) and you realize just how slow wireless really is.

There is a solution though. Applications could be developed where you could select the network interface that you want to use. It actually isn’t that complicated to do, just requires a little leap of faith.

Of course, a better solution still would be to eschew wired connections altogether and just have faster wireless connections, but they seem a long time coming…



Actually, I don’t encounter these problems. Why? Because I have set up my DHCP server to recognise both the MAC address of my ethernet port and my airport card and to assign them each the same IP address when they come online. So the switch between wired and wireless is much like if you accidentally pulled the cable out of a wired-only machine for a second or two and then put it back in. Everything pauses a second, but then carries on as normal.

Not sure if this setup is possible with a “normal” all-in-one solution (I use a linux server for dhcp and routing) but it might help.


If transfering huge files is the only thing you need a wired connection for then you should try the following. I assume your airport/wireless access point is on the same lan as the wired.

First, connect to your wireless access point and start working. When you need to transfer large files connect to your wired network without turing off your airport connection. After a few seconds you’ll see file transfer rates boosting because OS X becomes aware of the wired network and starts using this. When your done with your file transfer then disconnect the wired network. Everything works as before and no server connections or chats or anything are interrupted…


Are you saying that your speed upstream is faster than 54 megabits? Most broadband users are lucky to get 3 megabits,so there really isn’t any speed penalty to go over 802.11g.


Hopefully Apple will make use of Intel’s new integrated 802.11a/b/g/n chipset in the new Intel based Mac’s next year. That is if they ever get around to ratifying one of the competing 802.11n standards.

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