Since the MacBook Pro (MBP) landed at Mobile Tech Manor I decided it was time to replace my old Linksys router and naturally I looked at the Airport Extreme Base Station (AEBS) from Apple. Not only is the AEBS compatible with all the various WiFi flavors (a/b/g) in use in my house it also sports 802.11 draft N, the speedy new (non-standard so far) protocol that the MBP also supports. So I picked one up and set it up to replace that old Linksys that has been getting flaky of late. All is almost but not quite very happy at the Manor, read on to see how it’s going and maybe you can help me with a very strange problem.
The setup of the AEBS was smooth as silk. I just plugged the station into the cable modem and powered it on after installing the Airport Utility software on the MBP. In just 30 seconds I ran the Utility and was able to set up my desired settings on the router WIRELESSLY from the MBP. It’s the first WiFi router I’ve used that I could set up without having to make a wired connection first, a very nice touch from Apple. Once the AEBS was configured the MBP connected up and I was enjoying those draft N speeds, very fast indeed and noticeably faster than the 802.11g I have been using.
Next it was on to connect all the various Windows devices on my network. First up the Fujitsu P1610 running Vista Ultimate. I connected the P1610 dock to the AEBS with a cable since it’s a few feet from the router and wired is always faster than wireless. I configured the new network settings on the P1610 and I was cruising the web immediately. Then I went to my wife’s HP tc1100 Tablet PC located upstairs (I miss that guy) running Vista Ultimate and configured it to work and bingo, it’s surfing the web too. My wife is happy with the new router as she finds it much faster than the old one. Cool, I’m batting 3 for 3.
My step-daughter’s old Windows XP desktop computer was next, and I ran into a bit of a snag with this one. It was using an old USB WiFi device from Linksys and it couldn’t even see the new wireless network. Uh oh, problem in paradise. I ran up to WalMart, picked up a new Linksys draft N USB device (WalMart has everything) and all was well again. It connected right up and is actually using draft N. After getting the old desktop working I went to the Gateway M280 Tablet PC running Windows XP and set it up. This only took about 3 minutes and now connects happily using 802.11g. It’s apparent that the range of the AEBS is much farther than the old Linksys router with the PC located farthest from the router still showing 82% signal strength.
At this point I was feeling quite satisfied with the entire experience of installing the AEBS and getting all the PCs on my network connected, but it wasn’t long until a problem appeared that I still can’t totally get my head around. The problem surprisingly is occurring on the P1610, which I use with both a wired and wireless connection, depending on whether the Tablet is docked or not. Here’s what it’s doing to me and what I so far haven’t been able to figure out:
The P1610 sits in the dock charging each night and in the morning I pop it out of the dock which should switch it from wired connectivity (although it’s been in standby all night and not actually communicating with the router) to wireless. This is where the problem sets in. As soon as I go wireless first thing in the morning even though Vista says it’s connected fine to the router it is unable to get out to the web and shows limited connectivity. I can plug it in wired and the connection successfully negotiates out to the web and all is fine. If I leave it wired for 5 minutes or so and then disconnect the wire it usually (although not always) retains the web connection and I can use it wirelessly all day with no problems. I put it back in the dock to charge overnight and the next morning the whole process starts over again. It’s a strange problem and since it often maintains a good web connection after unplugging the direct wired connection it almost seems as if the problem is one of an inability to negotiate an IP address initially. That’s all I can figure out since it usually will work fine as long as I make that wired connection to the router first.
A few times I’ve been able to successfully connect without wiring up directly by manually disconnecting from the router while wireless and establishing the connection again in Vista. It doesn’t work very often but a few times it’s been able to get to the web wirelessly this way. All in all it’s a bizarre problem and I’ve been unable to find a solution. Anybody got any ideas? I can sure use them as it’s a pain in the neck to get connected in the mornings on the P1610. I should point out that all other computers on the network are still working flawlessly with the AEBS, I’ve even hung my Canon i70 printer directly on the router’s USB port and by installing the included Bonjour software on the Windows boxes everyone is able to print directly to the Canon wirelessly. Nice. :)