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Airport 1.2 Update User Feedback
User Comments on Improved Performance & Range
Published: 6/14/2000
{Last Updated: 6/16/2000)



[Update: As noted in the 3/6/2001 news page, Airport 1.3 was released that added PPoE support and more. One reader noted a modem timeout problem but based on feedback that is not a common problem.]


On June 12th, Apple released a v1.2 update to their Airport wireless networking drivers and Base Station software. To offload the main news page, reader feedback on the update is posted here.

I welcome comments on Airport 1.2 performance and setup.

Related Links:


Reader comments on their experiences follows (latest comments first):

"Hi,
We are testing Airport at our school with a couple of Powerbooks. Our school is an old brick building with about 60 cm thick walls. The base station is located on the wall in the admins office. We tested the range outside the building and with the old Airport software we could go about 50 m from the base, note we had 2 of these thick walls in between. With the new software we could go about 120 m from the base, the base being in the same location as before.

I KNOW that there is an improvement in the new software...

Best regards,
Mikael
Ps. I love Airport, I also have one at home hooked to a leased line..."


"hey...
I tested it...

IT is more than change in level. Range HAS increased.
and i have a imovie about it.

http://homepage.mac.com/uelsimon/imovie1.html

u can post it for everyone to check out.
Cept the sounds a bit messed up.
8min 10MB file
but it does work!
Emmanuel Simon"


"Mike,
Upgraded to Airport 1.2 last night without a hitch. Very fast and easy upgrade. Nice job Apple.

I have to admit that I never really had any problems with Airport 1.1. However, with Airport 1.2 my signal strength has improved by almost 50%. We live in a multi level home and the Airport base station is located in my office on the lowest level. Our bedroom is on the third level and when I would take my airport equipped PowerBook to the bedroom I would only have one dot left on the control strip with airport 1.1. With Airport 1.2 I now have four dots remaining on the control strip. I can't say for sure if this is a true increase in signal strength as I never experienced a lost connection with Airport 1.1.

I must say having a wireless connection to the Internet and my LAN is an amazing leap forward for the Mac platform. I will never go back to a wired connection and I am looking forward to a 100T Airport base station with improved wireless transmission speeds. How about an "Airport" wireless modem?

Regards,
Daniel Schuyler"

Everyone was skeptical over the 'dots increase' - but a lot of users are reporting better range after the update.


"Mike,
Just a note to let you know that the "complete"implementation of the software basestation that comes with Airport 1.2 works much better than the one included in Airport 1.1...

G4/350 running Software Basestaion (system 9.0.4) Powerbook 3400 with Lucent Wavelan Silver card (system 8.6)

With version 1.1, I would get spontaneous disconnects with programs that need a continuous connection, like Hotline Connect and Timbuktu Pro. This was also probably happening with programs like Netscape, but just wasn't noticed because there isn't a need for a constant connection.

Installed version 1.2 last night and had no problems with these programs whatsoever. And This is not merely a signal-strength issue...I'm still getting 4 "dots" on the control strip (same as 1.1) and it would disconnect with 1.1 even when I was right next to the G4.

As before, all I did was extract the Airport extension, the control strip module, and the Airport PC Card extension from the installer file using Tomeviewer. I threw them in my system folder on the 3400 and restarted. I did NOT install the new version of Open Transport.

I never had the chance to test my lucent card on a hardware basestation, so I guess its possible that the new client software may also be helping the connection stability. I'm very pleased (finally!) and would recommend this type of setup for those with older non-airport powerbooks, even though Apple doesn't officially support it.
wtg, Apple.
John W. Kern "


"Hey Mike, quick notes on the Airport 1.2 update.

I'm using a Powerbook G3 Bronze Keyboard, and the Farallon Skyline 11mb card, as well as a Wallstreet G3/300 with a Farallon Skyline 2mb Card. I'd read reports that you could no longer admin the Airport with the Skyline Card, but this appears to be a false statement. The Skyline 11mb Card functions as normal and I haven't had any problems running the Admin software whatsoever.

Also of Note, the Range has improved QUITE noticeable. Previously, if I was sitting on my couch (maybe 40 feet from the base station) with 3 walls in between myself and the base, I would get about 50% strength of signal. Same goes for the back porch, at 50 feet from base station, 2 walls, several windows. Now I basically am getting it pegged at 100% until I start walking well out into the back yard (120 to 130 feet from base) where it starts dropping down. I'd say it's a pretty good improvement. Upgrading the Firmware with the Skyline card was the same as normal. Nothing else seems to have changed.

All in all, kudos to Apple. This makes having the Airport even better, and all in software. Quite surprising.

Chris Whittier
IT Engineer/Web Developer
Terra Pacific, LFI"


"When I try to install the Airport 1.2 update I get the following dialog box once the installer starts installing...

"Problems were encountered accessing the file "AirPort" on the disk "PowerBook". Please move the file to another folder and try again."

Well I've moved the airport application all over the place to no avail. I tried apple's suggestion of rebooting with the base set then setting it back to my standard set and then installing, still no go. I tried installing with and without the application running. I also verified that the application isn't locked. I usually don't have any difficulties with Apple's updates so this is a little distressing...

I have the airport card installed and I am running version 1.1 without any problems although I would like to see the increased range and performance mentioned with the 1.2 update.

Any suggestions?
Thanks,
Paul "

I've not seen or had any reports of this but if any readers have a solution, please let me know. I did see one case last month where Techtool Pro 2 reported a corrupted Airport extension on one Powerbook. I suggested Paul try a reinstall of Airport 1.1 and then update to 1.2.


"Hi Mike,
I actually quantified the performance of Airport 1.1 vs 1.2 in a very real way. With 1.1, I walked my iBook around my lab. I drew a line on the ground in chalk to indicate at what point my signal dropped out. I upgraded the Base station and iBook to 1.2, and did the same thing. Like veryone else here, my "dot strength" increased. However, the upgrade did absolutely nothing for range in our building.

Whereas before the upgrade I would carry one dot for quite some distance prior to losing the signal, now, after the upgrade, I carry 2-3 dots to just 1 meter or so from the 1.1 drop out point, and then... bang!... zero dots, at almost exactly the same spot.

I did not quantify transfer speeds.

[Caveate: my building has lots of high interference equipment, shielded rooms etc., it is possible that under more forgiveing circumstances the test would be more positive. I just felt that I should check the unbridled enthusiasm in this forum.]

Steve W "

Some other reader reports earlier did note increased range however.


"EnterNet Users note that installing a new version of Airport and thus Open transport, essentially uninstalls Enternet. Cable and DSL users who use this for PPP over Ethernet (PacBell DSL for one group), will need the Enternet installer. You might want to get it and put it on your computer (and keep it there), before upgrading
Mark I. "


"[repeat follow-up from previous post here]
I agree that most home users do not care too much about transmission interception/decryption safety but it's only a matter of time before people wake up. I didn't even bother turn my WEP on since its so insecure and Netscape does 128 bit SSL while my work VPN is a Nortel software solution. I recall that link you mentioned, but never was bothered enough to pursue the possibility.

[I had asked if the Apple airport cards are firmware upgradeable like the Wavelan PCCards-Mike]

Re: upgrading flash cards. I generally just download the upgrader from www.wavelan.com and then proceed to use my work PC as a firmware upgrader. Since the airport card in the ABS is entirely removable and identical to reseller versions of the WaveLan/Orinoco card, it is a piece of cake to update that firmware also. From what I remember, some firmware upgrading was required to get the PCMCIA reseller version of WaveLan compatible with Airport Software.
[Note the above did not really answer my question about the Apple Airport cards, which are not a standard PCMCIA card like the one inside the base station-Mike]

Here is a potential head-scratcher: Every ABS uses one channel to transmit on. Ideally, Apple would indicate in the ABS set-up software the channel that "rival" netoworks operate on. For example, I pick up a neighbors ABS when I start my utility, yet I have no waty to avoid interference issues but by trial and error. The closed network feature could make this issue potentially worse.

Cheers! Constantin"

If anyone can answer his 'head scratcher' please let me know.


"So far so good on my G4 keeping the settings of the Software Base Station between restarts. Additionally, I am no longer required to stop the SBS , change a setting, change it back (so as I get the update button,) update, and then start it just because it decided to allow connections but not route traffic. I'll let you know more next week - and you are right, the range is improved slightly - but I still can't achieve more than 680-700 KBps with Timbuktu from 2 feet. With 10 Mbps Ethernet I was getting 1100 KBps. I thought this was supposed to be marginally faster - 11 instead of 10...
Eytan
P.S. I did not have encryption on, and my signal strength shows 5 (it used to be 4, but at two feet it should show 5!) "


"Nobody has mentioned yet that AirPort 1.2 installs a new version of OpenTransport, now at version 2.6.2. Could this be why network performance and signal strength is so improved?

A great new feature is the ethernet gateway. We already have a DHCP server and in order to setup AirPort roaming (between multiple base stations) you also had to enable IP address distribution. So you needed a separate block of IP numbers or suffer IP conflicts. Now you can disable IP distribution altogether! As of yesterday we have 3 base stations setup for roaming and rely on the DHCP server on our local ethernet network for IP addresses. It works really well and switching between stations is transparent to the users.

Our administrative staff is also happy about the "closed network" option for added security. The base station does not broadcast its identity which means you need to know the station name and optional password. The "allow selection of closed Airport networks" option brings up the "other" choice where you can enter the station name and password.

Also why is Remote Access required now? AirPort 1.1 functioned perfectly fine without any of the modem software. With DSL at home and a T1 at work, I never use modems anymore. AirPort 1.2 complains when you try to launch it if Remote Access is not available. I had to reinstall Remote Access software before it would work.

Finally, switching between AirPort base stations is so much faster now! Previously when you switched there was a progress bar and sometimes up to a minute delay while you waited for the switch. Now switching base stations is immediate, no progress bar and no delay. I love it!

thanks,
William Perez "


"Here are some of the results I got testing the new update. Unfortunately I didn't run these test before the update.

Test- Copy a 32 MB Movie file to and from my PowerCenter fileserver with Personal File Sharing.

Client- iBook with Airport
Results (in seconds):

Airport Tests from Server

Airport tests to server

The performance seems about the same to me as before. There is still a huge problem with transfers using AppleTalk when encryption is turned on.

Signal strength and range now seems stronger in my apartment (5 dots in living room vs. 3 before) but the range to the outdoors still seems limited. I will try out the basestation at my school and see if the range has improved in that brick and steel relic.

Thanks for the reports!
Scott Nourse "


" Hi Mike,
...I've installed 3 networks so far, and each time I elected to void the warranty, drill the Apple Base Station (ABS) case, destroy some inner braces, and add a Lucent WaveLan extender antenna. For $90, I'd get another 15% of high speed range, about 25% more low speed range.

I doubt that when you update to V1.2 of the software the signals get any stronger. The output of the ABS is physically limited. Furthermore, Apple chose not use some sort of measurable variable like signal strength in db to indicate the quality of the connection like the WaveLan software on PCs. Thus, it is entirely up to Apple engineers how to define signal strength.

What Apple can do is improve the fallback performance of the Airport system to better accomodate low-signal strength situations. Most users would not notice a fall-back from 11Mbit to 2Mbit or even a fraction of that since:

1) Some use the modem in the base station to connect to an ISP (just how slow can you go?)

2) Even those who connect via "high-speed" to the net would probably never notice performance lags unless multiple, simultaneous high-volume streams were initiated The slower then connection between the ABS and the client, the longer the range.

In the past, the "long range" performance of my work-issued Stinkpad (Windoze 98) was always better than my "wife-in-training"s Lombard. Both use the same kind of WaveLan card with the same on-board firmware, etc. Thus, I think the improvement in range may be due to better drivers from Apple. This is very welcome, particularly to her, since dropped packets in the past would frequently disconnect her from the office VPN.

That said, I also noticed a speed increase, namely the ability to better take advantage of the bandwidth a low-user system should offer. This is partly due to the new cable modem we received when the old one imploded. Even my gateway machine rarely exceeded 90kB/s - now the connection is twice as fast with regular downloads at 170kB/s +. The cable modem was replaced weeks ago so the two events (modem, V1.2) are distinct. My airport network takes full advantage of the the better connection but I imagine that if I turned NAT or WEP on, things would slow down considerably. I use IPNetRouter for NAT, DHCP, and packet filtering.

IPNetRouters packet filter, very configurable DHCP server (including assigning static IPs), and unbeatable compatibility with VPN and all types of internet connections (including that abomination PPPoE) puts it far ahead of the ABS software. While the ABS firmware feature list is necessarily limited, I would have expected Apple to at least produce a VPN compatible NAT scheme. They've copied/licensed so much else from Peter Sichel...

While closed networks are a nice software feature to add, I would have preferred industrial strength cryptography from the start, not a 40 bit key that anyone with an attitude and a Pentium can crack. Even at release, Apple had the opportunity to use the RC5 128bit "Gold" cards from Lucent since the government had relaxed export controls. Perhaps the other governments of the world weren't as eager to grant local operating/distribution licenses?
Cheers,
Constantin "

Maybe it's just me - but I'm not worried at all about someone 'cracking' my home wireless networking. Perhaps for a business with trade secrets maybe, but for most home users I don't think this is an issue at all.


"Hello, here's a few tidbits on AirPort 1.2

So far so good, updating was a breeze. Just don't forget to ALSO upgrade your base station manually using Airport Admin Utility.

The Airport control strip does show an increase in performance (from 1-2 dots to 3-4 dots out of 5).

But the Airport Admin Utility showed something else: the graphs that show signal strength and noise level didn't seem to have changed from 1.1

It seems that signal power is just the same as in 1.1 (likely since that's more hardware related) but that the software makes do with a weaker signal now.

In 1.1 I wasn't able to use the station if the signal dropped below 10%, now it works at 10% in 1.2 like it did at 30-40% in 1.1.

I guess 1.2 brings some better filtering and error correction. Anyway, great job there.

Airport Admin Utility also has some more controls and the help box at the bottom of the panels finally serves its purpose.

The help messages in 1.1 didn't make much sense, it took me a month and some blind luck to realize the BS could be used as a simple bridge, which was exactly what I needed.

The new PDF also has a lot more information, any Airport user should check it out.

Still missing : some information on the Base Station bootup process and error codes (flashing led colors meanings) and maybe some more options for the BS/ISP connection.

On that last topic, an easy solution to the various Base station/ISP problems is to use the BS (real or software) as a Bridge and do the routing/NAT on a regular airport enabled machine using IPNetRouter.
Sincerely,
B.M. "


"Mike,
I have an iBook (first rev.) here at work running MacOS 9.0.4. I checked Apple's site and info, didn't see any warning against mixing 1.1 and 1.2 Airport versions in the same wireless network so I thought what the hey! I gave it a shot.

No problems whatsoever that I can see. I'm at the opposite end of a large building filled with dozens of running computers and had been getting only 1 dot of signal strength. It still worked, though and seemed pretty fast. After the upgrade: 4 dots! Seems stable.

The Systems guy with the BaseStation will be upgrading it tomorrow so this won't be a mixed version Airport network for long, but in case others were cautious about upgrading their machines before the BaseStation, I thought they'd like to hear.
-Dustin Evermore"


" I have not noticed much speed increase, although I have noted more dots. I was not getting 5 dots even when I had my PB Pismo 2 feet from my G4 running the software base station, and now I get 5. My feeling is Apple changed how many dots they show depending on the signal level, but not really changed the speed or improved signaling (so now you actually have one dot when you see one dot...). [Based on the comments here, range has improved for many.-Mike]

I'll let you know in the next few days if it solves the random shutting down of the software base station.
Eytan "


"Mike,
I can confirm the much stronger signal. I am writing this at the other end of my house(from the base), I now have 4 dots on the control strip where I usually have only one. I now get a useable signal far beyond my normal range. Updating was simple, I really didn't expect this to be as smooth of a transition as it was. (You and I both had those frustrations with resetting the Base Station). My settings were there and unmolested.

Nice to see an update this good come out of Apple. If this is any indication, it bodes well for other Apple projects, like OSX.

At the end of the day, a simple update with a big payoff.
Now I can show off to my neighbors....even more.
Tom "


"Hi Mike,
Quick Airport note: applied the update from my Powerbook 2000, and as others have also reported, got an extreme boost in signal range/strength.

However, I'm still experiencing some of the file transfer lag that I had with 1.1 (using Appletalk file sharing, not TCP/IP).

Here's what I found:
5 mb Stuffit file: 3 min 13 sec (averaged over 5 consecutive transfers)

1 mb text file: 24 sec (averaged over 5 consecutive transfers)

Highly unscientific, I know...
Thanks
Tony"


"My experience with airport 1.2 with a lucent silver PMCIA card are very nice.

At first I was not able to connect to the station from outside my house. Only in a very difficult spot I could surf the internet. At first i blamed the lucent card ( which has no long antenna), but after the upgrade and upload the new firmware i can sit comfortably on the terras with a good connection.
Way to go Steve!
David van Deinse
The Netherlands"


"While this is only perception, I have noticed that Netscape 4.7 downloads webpages faster with the new 1.2 Airport software. I am using Earthlink and the built-in Base Station modem. AOL (over earthlink) is about the same speed, but Netscape pages just pop open, as opposed to before. XLR8YOURMAC loads in 10 secs instead of 20, the G4 forum loads in 1 sec instead of 10! ESPN.com and earthlink.net both just zoom open with most of the graphics already there, where before, these two sites were notoriously slow on Netscape with my setup. I can't tell you why it is this way, but I ain't complaining.
Michael 'Cosmo' Kramer
Kramer/Collette Entertainment"


"Hi Mike!
I just wanted to report to you about the new update. Install was a breeze. No problems. I DO notice a big difference in signal strength. It is much stronger. With 1.1 I could be 8ft. away and only get 4 lights in the control strip. If I were using my PB 2000 in the next room with a 2.4GHz phone I would get no signal at all. With the 1.2 version I get a full 5 lights in both rooms and get this....I still get 4 lights on from the next room WITH the 2.4GHz phone on! BIG difference.

Plus the actual Airport application does lock up my machine when I try to use it, and it behaves well after a wake the machine from sleep mode. It seems like they have fixed a lot of problems with the new release.
Ryan Hough "


"More good results from here too. 3 dots to full.
Dave K. "


"Hi Mike,
I've just undated to AirPort 1.2 with no problem of any kind... my old settings still here. One thing I noticed is that when I copy files between my (Ethernet wired) Beige G3 and my (wireless) iBook, I got no lag at all! In version 1.1 and older, whenever I tried copying something via the base station, there is a unusually long pause between the copy process, causing a long copy time (1mb transfer took ~1 minute, now it takes ~5 seconds).

Way to go Apple!
Beyond Chiu"


" Mike,
I realize that you will probably get a million emails just like this, but I might as well just tell you what's up anyway:

Airport 1.2 has more than doubled performance here„the base station has to penetrate several walls before it can communicate with our two G4s. The control strip on one read 1 green cot before (weak signal) but now it is at three (average strength). That's a pretty nice increase. The other computer went from 1 or 2 dots to 4 dots!!!

I must say that this is by far the most improved update that Apple has released in the past half a year. Normally I do not see any real gains in performance or ability when I update my software, but this time there really was a visible difference! Three cheers for Apple!
Ryan Mantle "


"Just updated. Installation is a breeze; mount the disk image, double-click the installer, it copies the files, reboots and updates and resets the base station. My signal strength went from about 1/3rd to about 2/3rds (from 1/2 dots to 3/4 dots in the control panel). So far so good.
Thierry "


I welcome comments on Airport 1.2 performance and setup.



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