If you're the proud owner of more than one Mac, be it in a home, work or school environment, chances are you've already got them networked or are looking to do so. Apple's $699 AirPort Base Station allows the wireless connection of up to 50 machines, has a maximum transfer rate of 11Mbps and a typical range radius of about 45m - and yes, it works through walls. The AirPort Base Station has security features such as password and encryption protection and even works wirelessly with 802.11b (Wi-Fi) equipped PCs or notebooks, although you'll still need a Mac with the $199 AirPort card installed to set up the Base Station.
The Base Station can connect to your standard analog telephone line and dial up to the Internet using its built-in 56Kbps modem, providing wireless Internet access to your AirPort-equipped Mac or Wi-Fi-equipped PC or notebook. The Base Station also features a 10Base-T Ethernet port for use with cable or DSL modems and a 10/100Base-T Ethernet port for connection with an existing Local Area Network (LAN). Computers connected to the Base Station by Ethernet are also able to share a Base Station's Internet connection.
This article covers setting up a Base Station to wirelessly distribute a dial-up Internet connection with a Mac running OS X. The Base Station also supports OS 9.x, which was explained when this column initially discussed the first-generation AirPort Base Station in June 2000, page 122; that article can also be found by doing a search at www.pcworld.idg.com.au. The Base Station offers multiple Base Station networking for scalable, roaming wireless networking and sharing printers and files.
To begin, make sure your AirPort-equipped Mac can already connect to the Internet using its internal modem. Decide where you're going to place the Base Station, keeping in mind that you'll need to be near a power outlet and a telephone line. A flat surface away from potential interference from devices such as microwaves and metallic appliances is recommended. The Base Station also ships with a wall-mounting attachment.
Plug in the AirPort Base Station to your power and it will automatically turn on, its lights going through a startup sequence. Plug your telephone cord into the telephone jack of the Base Station, and after about 30 seconds, the Base Station's middle light should glow steadily.
Navigate to the Applications folder, open the Utilities folder and run the AirPort Setup Assistant, which will guide you through configuring your Base Station. Select Setup an AirPort Base Station. Make your way through the wizard, indicating that you have your own ISP where appropriate. When you're given the choice of connection type, select Telephone Modem and then Continue. Enter your ISP details and select Automatically Dial before clicking Continue again. Next, you'll be asked to give your network a name and a password - do this, and click Continue. Select a password that will be required to make configuration changes to the Base Station and click Continue. As you make your way through the last few steps in the Setup Assistant, you may be asked if you want to update your Base Station's software as it transfers your Internet settings to the Base Station; select Update and this should all be done automatically for you.
Inside the Utilities folder, open the AirPort Admin Utility. If you can't see a detected Base Station already, clicking ReScan should detect any current available Base Stations (as seen in FIGURE 1). Providing you've entered your ISP details, and any necessary proxies, you should be able to browse in Internet Explorer, with the Base Station automatically dialling for you. You can monitor the dial-up connection process by clicking the AirPort icon in the top menu bar (located between the modem and sound volume icons) and selecting Open Internet Connect.
If the cost of the AirPort Base Station is prohibitive or you simply don't need to be able to connect up to 50 machines wirelessly, there is a cheaper alternative. Using a Mac equipped with an AirPort card, you can connect to the Internet with the internal modem or Ethernet port before wirelessly sharing that connection via the AirPort with another AirPort-equipped Mac or Wi-Fi-equipped PC/notebook. This is called a Software Base Station, also uses Apple's AirPort 2.0 software and is perhaps even easier to set up than the Hardware Base Station. More information can be found at www.apple.com.au/airport.
It would be great to have Internet access anywhere in your house and not have to worry about tripping over network cables, wouldn't it?