Related link: http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/
Easter Monday is a traditional Holiday time in France. It is the day of the year where any self-respecting citizen is expected to spend hours discussing the merits of chocolate eggs, walk a few steps in the Bois and, above all, relax.
This year, relaxing involved for me the purchasing of an AirPort Express Base station and the setup of an AirTunes-enabled network, complete with WPA over WDS — sounds, fancy, doesn’t it? ;^) (Simply put, it means decent security on a roaming network)
Indeed, since Apple announced the AirPort Express base station last summer, I had been dying to try out one. These brick-like access points are to wireless routers what the Mac mini is to computers: they’re small, irresistibly cute and hide, under their boyish good looks, an impressive set of tricks and powerful features.
Not having an AirPort Express base station to play with has long been cause for frustration. Indeed, their new hardware and added musical capabilities have raised much discussion in the Mac community since they first appeared — questions like “Can I use the Ethernet port as a WAN/LAN one?”, “Does the AirPort Express do NAT?” took a while to be answered and where at first the subject of much speculation.
Today, I am pleased to report that the AirPort Express base station not only lives up to its reputation but exceeds it. The new design has introduced a new attention to detail in the AirPort family that, while having always been powerful and easy to use, had shown signs of pastiness during the past months — the setup interfaces were getting a bit cluttered and the overall setup experience seemed to get increasingly confusing for new users without real benefits. The new AirPort Admin Utility is clearer than ever, finally comes with more meaningful error messages and some very neat features like station identifying and USB printer renaming that just make setting up a wireless router fun again — OK, I’ll settle for “easy” if you want.
Nice security touches like the ability to configure WPA over a roaming network or to entirely disable the APX’ wireless capabilities should you just want to use it as a print server and stereo connection will make it all the more welcome in corporate networks that might have restrictive policies in place concerning the use of access points. The AirPort engineers also did everything they humanely could to prevent users from keeping the factory default password and encouraging them to at least start securing their installation.
Is the AirPort Express perfect? No, certainly not, but it comes as close to perfect as an 802.11 access point can — and, along the road, it helped enhance its already awesome big brothers (sisters?). If you haven’t looked at AirPort in a while or haven’t thought much about this blinking flying saucer that’s performing quietly in your cupboard, please, upgrade your installation (Software Update might also give a quick boost to some other applications or peripherals you own), put on new contacts and have a look at what’s new!
Until next time, dear Mac users, enjoy thinking different!