Product Review - Apple Airport Extreme Base Station 802.11n w/GigE

Update:  As I find solutions to these problems I'm updating this post.  I felt it was very hypocritical of me to not allow Apple Support a chance.  I've been in the direct firing line of an angry customer who was ready to throw my product in the trash when in fact there was nothing wrong with the product.

Apple might do a lot of things right, iPods, iPhones, Macbooks, Operating Systems to name a few.  What ever magic they have, they sure don't share it with their networking folks.

I've had a Linksys WRT54G for several years and it started getting really flaky.  To the point that it wouldn't do certain things like allowing a DMZ host or port forwarding.  It was time for a replacement.  Since I move a lot of big files around my home network, I thought I would go for a router based on the 802.11n draft.  Since the Airport Extreme is price competitive and had GigE for the built-in switch, I thought I'd give them some of my dollars versus Cisco/Linksys.  What a huge Perhaps a mistake.

Here are the issues I've had, and I'm not alone.  Almost every issue I've had has been experienced by many others on Apple discussion forums.

  • Unit drops all wireless connections, need to reboot the router to recover.  -This happens several times a day.  My 12 year old is now convinced that Apple sucks. Solved!
  • Unit crashes when moving data from airport disk.  -This almost always at around 600 MB. Solved!
  • 3rd party Wireless G clients cannot connect using WEP or WPA/WPA2. -Had to rely on MAC ACL for security.  Solved...Sort of.  See Update 4.
  • Shoddy VPN throughput.  -Sun Ray from home is unusable due to packet loss.  Solved!

Many of the folks on the discussion boards are on their 2nd or third AEBS after returning them to the Apple store.  That's far too forgiving in my opinion.  Twice maybe, three times?  No thanks.  I'm going back to Linksys, even though I threw away my box and will have to pay a "re-stocking fee".

Update 1:

Apple Support believes all my problems are caused by interference.  They could have a point.  I've used channels 1, 6, and 11 and it looks like so have my neighbors.  Trying channel 9.  If this is stable, will try WPA next.  Could also get rid of my "legacy" G gear and go to the 5 Ghz ranges (pure N) which it seems I would be the only one for the time being.  iStumbler is a must have app for troubleshooting wireless networks!

 

Update 2:

Lowered MTU to 1364 and Sun Ray from Home is functioning normally again.  Will take screen shots for another importance of MTU blog posting.

Update 3:

Changing channels did seem to fix the Airport Disk and large file transfer problem too.

Start 

 

So far so good 

 

 

Alright! 

 

 

Sweet!

 

 

Update 4:

3 of my six older 802.11b/g devices will now connect via WPA/WPA2.  However, two of my most critical devices, SMC 2870W bridges out to my lab will not connect over WPA or 128 bit WEP (the WEP Key the AEBS supports).  Temp work around until someone sells a decent 802.11n bridge is was to fire up an older AP I had out in the garage (loaded up with OpenWRT) and chain that to the airport for these devices.  Of course they are now on a different network and I have to go change all the fixed IP's out in my lab.  Not a good solution, but most likely the fault of these older devices.  On the plus side, I may move all the 802.11b/g devices to this AP and put the AEBS in pure 802.11n mode.

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About

My name is Craig Bender aka ThinGuy. I'm a Principal Software Developer for Oracle's Virtual Desktop Engineering group.

I architect and evangelize the use of Oracle's Desktop technology including Sun Ray, Secure Global Desktop, and Oracle VDI.

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