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Learning to Network With the AirPort

By Edgar Durbin

Washington Apple Pi Journal, March/April 2000, pp. 42-44, reprint information

I'm not sure how this started. I was probably stampeded by the great American Christmas Buying Rush, but there was also the more specific Apple iBook marketing effort and multiple newspaper and magazine articles about instant Internet access via DSL. There were also days when I woke up to the 6 AM radio news and heard about something that wasn't covered in the newspapers we read later at the breakfast table. Finally, almost no news was available in any newspaper about the America's Cup Trials, while there is an excellent web site on that event (www.louisvuittoncup.com).

As a result of all this, in December instead of buying Christmas presents for anyone else, I was buying an iBook and an AirPort for me. I visited one local store, but they didn't have the AirPort, and the iBooks they had came only with Mac OS 8.6. By ordering online from www.apple.com, I got the iBook, the AirPort, and Mac OS 9. I selected the cheapest shipping method, and waited a little more than a week for UPS to deliver my two packages.

After unpacking the equipment, the first capability I wanted was to access the Internet from the breakfast table or from anywhere else in the house. Then I would try to access files off my Quadra 800 upstairs from the iBook. Instant Internet access via DSL was postponed until a later time. First I had to make the iBook and AirPort work.

I made a list of my TCS Explorer settings, reading values off the PPP and TCP/IP control panels and off the browser preferences on my Quadra 800.

PPP settings



first.last [Substitute your first and your last names]


[Can leave blank or fill in]


1-301-984-4980 [For non-Marylanders]

Use protocol


Connect automatically when launching a TCP/IP application


Allow error checking and compression on modem


Use TCP header compression


Connect via command line host


TCP/IP settings


Connect via



Using PPP Server

Name server address

Browser settings


Home page


Incoming (POP) mail server


Outgoing (SMTP) mail server


News server


With these data in hand, I plugged a phone line into the iBook and launched the Internet Setup Assistant on the iBook. The Assistant enters data in the right places in Remote Access (the Mac OS 9 dialup software that has replaced FreePPP and PPP) and in TCP/IP. You can't count on your browser getting the right settings though, since the manufacturers of the browsers want you to go to their corporate sites. You may have to manually set your home page, news and search preferences; otherwise they will be set to some Apple, Microsoft or Netscape corporate addresses. After running Internet Setup Assistant, and successfully connecting to TCS Explorer, I was ready to set up the AirPort, using the AirPort Setup Assistant.

I disconnected the phone line from the iBook and plugged it into the RJ-11 jack on the AirPort Base Station. I plugged in the power cord from the AirPort power brick, then launched AirPort Setup Assistant, which took my Internet settings from Remote Access and TCP/IP and entered them into the AirPort modem settings. I was prompted to enter a name and a password for a "network," meaning the AirPort Base Station. I named mine Dulles. When the Setup Assistant finished, it connected to the Internet. When I started my browser, it connected to TCS Explorer. To shut down, you just close the iBook, and it goes to sleep. The default setting is to disconnect after 10 minutes of inactivity.

Waking up the iBook takes about 20 seconds. (It takes 3 minutes for my Quadra to turn on.) Though the desktop appears, if you click on the Control Strip or try to launch an application, there is not an immediate response. I just click on the Control Strip and wait for it to spring open. I then click on the red AirPort icon on the Control Strip, and when it opens, I turn the AirPort On and then select Dulles. I am prompted for my password (for Dulles, not for the TCS), and after giving it there is a 30-second delay, while the Base Station modem connects to wap.org. At this point, I can launch my browser and go about my business.

I can leave AirPort On all the time, eliminating one of these steps, but without writing a script the process to connect to the Internet is a couple of steps longer than connecting via my Quadra 800 modem, since on the older machine I just launch the browser and the connection is made automatically by PPP. The extra step in the AirPort process provides password security, so that anyone with an AirPort card in their laptop cannot connect to my network. No, I don't believe there is another AirPort laptop within 150 feet of my Base Station, but if there were... Transmissions between my iBook and the Base Station are encrypted by default. This and other settings made by the Setup Assistant can be changed manually, using AirPort Utility. Another application, called AirPort, can be started off the Control Strip, to monitor signal strength at the iBook from the Base Station.

My next job was to connect my Quadra 800 to the AirPort network. I had to buy a Farallon AAUI adaptor, since the Ethernet port on the Quadra is not an RJ-45, such as the Base Station and the iBook have. The adapter comes with an Ethernet patch cable, but I also had to buy a crossover cable, which is something different. They are made of the same sort of wire and have the same RJ-45 plugs, but have different pin connections, as explained at http://www.farallon.com/support/technotes/gen/TEC_012.html. You can read the pros and cons of crossover cables on the TCS Conference 3 Board 2 and in a good article on the Electric Pi at http://www.wap.org/journal/networkingmadesimple.html. The alternative is to use patch cables from the Base Station and from the AAUI adapter to an Ethernet hub.

Not having a hub (yet) I plugged the crossover cable into the Base Station. I opened the TCP/IP control panel on the Quadra and from the File menu selected Configurations. I duplicated a configuration, then renamed it Dulles. Then I made Dulles the active configuration, and from the Dulles window I selected Connect via: Ethernet and Configure: Using DHCP Server. I then closed the window and saved this new configuration. As long as I have connected to Dulles with the iBook, when I launch a browser on the Quadra, it shares the connection to wap.org with the iBook. That is, I can browse at the same time from the iBook or the Quadra. I don't claim this is often useful, but I can.

The more pressing reason for plugging the Quadra into the Base Station is to allow me to pass files between the iBook and Quadra. Currently, I have no USB devices, so the only routes into the iBook are via e-mail or file sharing via AirPort (or web sharing, perhaps, but I haven't investigated that yet). So far, I've found file sharing to be cumbersome. First, I must open the AppleTalk control panel on the Quadra and select Connect via: Ethernet. That breaks the connection to my Hewlett Packard LaserJet printer, which is inconvenient. On the iBook in AppleTalk I select Connect via: AirPort. No problem there. Back on the Quadra, in the File Sharing control panel I turn File Sharing On and designate the folders or disks to share, allow guest sharing, enter user names, passwords, etc. Then on the iBook I launch Chooser, select Apple Share in the left side, and click on the folder or disk on the Quadra that I have designated to be shareable. I am prompted for username and password, or enter guest, and finally the folder or disk icon appears on the iBook desktop.

The iBook was my introduction to Sherlock, since I have been running Mac OS 8.1 on my Quadra. I have been very pleased with this application, which resides on my iBook and accesses search engines that have supplied plug-ins to operate with it. You can select whether or not to search at Alta Vista, Excite, c|Net, Direct Hit, GoTo, HotBot, Infoseek, LookSmart, and Lycos search engines. Other sites are building Sherlock plugins, which you will be able to download to lengthen this list. Sherlock retrieves and lists pages found by those web search engines, in relevance order. A preview window shows a few lines of information about the selected document. You can drag a document from the Sherlock window and drop it into your browser window, to see the whole page.

The beauty of Sherlock is that you mostly bypass the ads that fill up your screen if you use the search engines yourself. There is a small window below the preview window with ads, presumably from the search engine whose document is currently selected. Again, your iBook comes with some Microsoft bias built in, so if you just double click on a document in the Sherlock window, you are apt to launch Explorer, even if you already have launched Netscape.

Other software that came with the iBook is AppleWorks, which is a pleasant surprise. I hadn't counted on that, but it is nice to have something besides Microsoft apps, whose complexity I have to cope with at work. So far, all I've tried is the word processor. I could wish for tables, but I don't plan to even try to move Word and Excel onto the iBook.

The iBook screen has fewer pixels than I am used to, 800x600 vice the 1152x870 on the monitor I use with my Quadra. That's half as many pixels. The iBook also is not as fast as I'd expected. The Quadra has a 33 MHz 68040 processor, while the iBook has a 300 MHz G3 processor. It doesn't seem 10 times faster, though, and there are delays, perhaps while it is waking up or reconnecting.

I guess the next thing to do is to buy an Ethernet hub and adapters to connect my printers to Ethernet, so that all my computers can send them jobs directly, without file sharing. That is for another article, though.

Return to electric pi

Revised March 16, 2000 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/