MacInTouch Amazon link...

AirPort issues/alternatives

Channels
Apple, Security, Products

Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Engadget got a statement from Apple confirming that it's abandoning its AirPort products
Apple discontinues its AirPort WiFi routers
The longstanding rumors of Apple exiting the WiFi router market were true: the company is officially discontinuing its AirPort and Time Capsule base stations. An Apple spokesperson told Engadget that the company would continue to provide hardware and software support (such as patching bugs and vulnerabilities), but the devices themselves will only be available "while supplies last." The tech giant will post a series of knowledge base documents over the next few weeks to help guide customers wondering what to buy.
 


I really don't know if I trust the other makers. Browser based control for settings has a lot of security problems. If one makes a preference pane in System Preferences, I would be fine with that to control the WiFi router and for the router to be only controlled by that preference pane.

Yeah, a year ago I saw the writing on the wall but didn't want to believe it.
 



Oh great. Do any other wifi routers support Airdisk and printers?
For various reasons I retired my Airport and am (reluctantly) using the Cisco hardware Comcast supplies. I can’t vouch for Airdisk, but WiFi printing from the 2 OSX and 4 iOS devices in our household has been working properly.
 


I use the TP-Link Deco Mesh routers and AirPrint works fine with them. All the Macs and the various iDevices haven’t had any issues printing anything. However they don’t have USB ports on them (other than the one for powering them), just two Ethernet ports. I’ve only ever used my Mac for any sort of disk sharing.

They don’t have a web interface to them; you need an app on your Android or iOS device to do all the setup and control.

While they really are entry level mesh WiFi routers, they more than serve my needs.
 
Last edited by a moderator:


Progress is supposed to be good, but in this case, it may be just the opposite. I was there (in 802.11) when Art Astrin from Apple and I were working with kits supplied by KarlNet that used prototypes of the Lucent 802.11b PC card in a quite ugly mechanical card cage to implement the first WiFi access points. This device became the first Apple AirPort circa 1997. The original AirPort included a dial up modem and an Ethernet connection.

Just think of it, a PowerBook 3400 with a color screen, and a plug-in WiFi PC card operating at 11 Mb/s, with a range of around 300 ft. At that time this was as good as it gets! I still have an AirPort flying saucer in its original box, although it was internally upgraded to use a Lucent Gold 802.11 card which supplied "advanced" 128 bit WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy). Ah, memory lane, it's so long, yet so short.

In my opinion, the Apple of today is bigger than ever, yet spreading itself too thin with resources concentrating on the commodity wireless phone market. Being a 25-year veteran of Motorola (past, when it was a leader in technology), I saw what happened to a company that put all their eggs in the cellular telephone basket. In summary, Motorola's short-sighted management (Ed Zander and beyond) took a 30+ billion dollar company and reduced its value to less than $10 billion in less than 4 years. Don't think it can't happen to Apple. It already has in the past under the CEO who fired Steve Jobs and his predecessor. Check out the Apple stock price on July 2, 1997, just before SJ returned to Apple. The week before SJ returned to Apple, I was on a call with Gil Amelio discussing Apple's quite schizophrenic product offerings, and how Motorola was on a path to eliminate over 100,000 Macs in favor of Dells running Windows NT 4. SJ knew this was happening, as well, and one of his first actions upon returning to Apple was to assure customers like Motorola that Apple had their back. Sadly, after SJ's return, Motorola did move away from Apple's Mac platform for their mainline PCs, but returned several years later after Mac OS became Mac OS X.

I know I've strayed way off topic here, but the point is, Apple is not invulnerable to its bad decisions. As of late, Apple's overall product quality has faltered. Imagine shipping an OS update with a blank root password vulnerability! Even more so, how about that man behind the curtain that intentionally slowed the performance of your "i" device because it might self-destruct under a low battery condition? These kind of mistakes, or bad decisions, are borne of a company that's out of control, not because it's not trying, but because it's too big and has poor internal communication of basic information necessary for its day-to-day decision makers to properly function.

As for the AirPort, RIP my friend. You broke a lot of new ground, and were essential to today's wireless landscape. At the Age of 21, your parent has determined your destiny, in the hall of Apple product past.
 


Did you see those Linksys Velops at the apple store? They are not cheap (at Apple store... a 3pack is almost $500). Some "Apple" networks I had set up in the past (need of overhaul) that are running last gen Airport Extreme and Expresses, were damn simple to set up and maintain (once Apple finally had an Airport Utility app). Anyone have these? Thoughts? Pros? Cons?

I'm all for the mesh and beam-shaping, along with better security, but I haven't seen anything that works with ubiquitous coverage, simple (but also granular) setup, and is inexpensive. Many older homes (and newer contemporary ones) have problems in building material to overcome. Glass (reflectivity, metallized), metals (steel framing, support, rebar, aluminum frames/doors), and stone (plaster with metal lath, cement walls, foundations). Although some issues can be resolved (at expense), there still seems to be no simple, secure and easy to manage solution. Thoughts?

Also, seems that the speed of new 802.xx has been slowing down. A/C/N have been standard now for a few years. And B/G remain, although much less secure.
 


I’m curious if it’s possible to continue using an Airport Express to extend a non-Airport network. I currently have a Time Capsule as my router but could use the router feature on my cable modem (currently in bridge mode). However, I’d like to be able to use AirPlay. I’ve done some research and, at this point, am confused. Clarification would be appreciated, particularly from folks who have actually done this (or tried it).
 



What about the Airport Express ability to send Airplay audio to an amplifier with a standard minijack to RCA cable?

What can substitute for this?
 
Last edited by a moderator:


Engadget got a statement from Apple confirming that it's abandoning its AirPort products
Saw this yesterday, and was truly saddened. We knew it was coming, since December, 2016.... which is why I bought three AirPort Expresses then. Just hope Apple continues to support AirPort Utility for the foreseeable future.

I've never lived in a house large or metal- and brick-rich enough to warrant a mesh network, and never thought of an extender, either, until I got an IoT doorbell that is, after all, mounted outside the house, next to a metal front door, surrounded by the brick front of the house. And anyplace I live from now on is likely to be smaller, so the Express and the Utility are just what I need.
 


Yeah, a year ago I saw the writing on the wall but didn't want to believe it.
I've been using Airports for years. As soon as the announcement was made last year, I upgraded my older (flat) Time Capsule to the newest Airport Extreme version. Hopefully it will last until this Dodderer™ departs this mortal coil.
last gen Airport Extreme and Expresses, were damn simple to set up and maintain (once Apple finally had an Airport Utility app). Anyone have these? Thoughts? Pros? Cons?
Yes, simple to set up. For a consumer router, it's more than granular enough. I actually used one in a commercial setting, a newspaper with about 50 users plus the usual collection of phones and other wireless devices. It was fast enough to handle the then-new fiber optic connection to the outside world, had better Wi-Fi than the other midrange routers I tried, and better throughput.

One big advantage is, I believe, security. I kept reading how most consumer routers, especially those manufactured in China, had backdoors built in, not to mention other general vulnerabilities. And anything using a web-based admin could be vulnerable, even if you turn off outside admin access. I believe Airport Utility provides much better security, even if that's partly due to it being such a low profile and low population for hackers to bother with.
 


Did you see those Linksys Velops at the apple store? They are not cheap (at Apple store... a 3pack is almost $500). Some "Apple" networks I had set up in the past (need of overhaul) that are running last gen Airport Extreme and Expresses, were damn simple to set up and maintain (once Apple finally had an Airport Utility app). Anyone have these? Thoughts? Pros? Cons?

I'm all for the mesh and beam-shaping, along with better security, but I haven't seen anything that works with ubiquitous coverage, simple (but also granular) setup, and is inexpensive. Many older homes (and newer contemporary ones) have problems in building material to overcome. Glass (reflectivity, metallized), metals (steel framing, support, rebar, aluminum frames/doors), and stone (plaster with metal lath, cement walls, foundations). Although some issues can be resolved (at expense), there still seems to be no simple, secure and easy to manage solution. Thoughts?

Also, seems that the speed of new 802.xx has been slowing down. A/C/N have been standard now for a few years. And B/G remain, although much less secure.
Ed,

There is no difference in security between all current 802.11 protocols. It is specified in the standards as 802.11i. For a great overview, including historical WEP and 802.1x, see:

https://www.sans.org/reading-room/w...ss-network-security-standards-mechanisms-1530

You are correct that the newer 802.11 protocols (after 802.11 a/b/g) have in many cases reduced range, and significantly greater challenges with what I will call data symbol integrity. This is due to the increased complexity of the advanced modulation and coping with real world channels that absorb, distort, reflect, and otherwise smear the energy and phase components associated with the ideal signaling. Don't think for a second that the IEEE working groups are neglecting such real world effects in their standard-making process.

IEEE 802.11s defines mesh operation. It has been on the drawing board since 2004, becoming a standard in 2012. The long cycle time in completing this standard was necessary because of the dynamic nature of the wireless landscape and extreme growth in WLAN applications during the last 10 years.

If you are interested in details about mesh networking in WiFi applications, see:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224116334_IEEE_80211s_the_WLAN_mesh_standard

For the history, see:

http://www.ieee802.org/11/Reports/tgs_update.htm

Now, my simple answer is the IEEE and implementers have developed many new products which realize improved throughput, QoS, decent security (WPA is proprietary, and was recently 100% cracked), as well as overall improved reliability. However, software that allows a casual home user to take advantage of all the new bells and whistles does not exist.

There are commercial system management applications that allow management of IEEE wireless networks, but none of them are affordable to a home user, or even for a SOHO user. Thus, Apple's exit from this business segment will leave quite a hole for Mac users. See Ric's many comments on Mac marginalization relating to "Windows only" products in the area of WiFi. I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that a IEEE standards based access point never was and never will be "Windows only." What happens is manufacturers spin a Windows setup application, and leave out the Mac. However, almost every router or access point responds to http://192.168.1.1 with admin admin as the username and password. These are web based appliances, and shame on manufacturers that sell them as "Windows only," or ever worse as "Windows certified."

On the other hand, Apple's exit creates a great opportunity for a motivated individual to create an Apple-centric solution that will support all of the exciting enhancements pioneered by Apple that leverage wireless connectivity and ubiquitous seamless communication of information between capable devices.

It would certainly be helpful if Apple would consider open-sourcing their legacy technology in this area, both hardware and software, to facilitate further development of products supporting the Apple ecosystem.

Lastly, Apple needs to stick to the roots of OS X, as an open source operating system. By this I mean publish details for the many enhancements to the Apple ecosystem, and license SDKs as reasonably as possible, allowing folks from high school to large companies to build innovative devices and applications without requiring significant financial resources.

I hope this helps.
 


I will be sad to see the Apple routers go. They didn't use the same software as most routers and no PNP. So the basic security seems to be very good. But with the way the router market is going, it is probably better for Apple to put these resources into other products.

If Apple continued with routers it would need to offer mesh offerings and isolate traffic between segments. Since it is very important to isolate IoT traffic from all other traffic, the last is very important and being offered by the better SOHO routers. While my Apple router has two segments, main and guest, I don't believe the traffic from one is invisible to the other as it goes out over the Internet.
 


Apple Airport products were mostly a great entry-level product into the WiFi / Networking world: Relatively simple to set up, and apart from the first generation of base stations, relatively bomb-proof.

The first generation Apple Airport was a hardware design disaster waiting to happen. A thick plastic clam-shell hermetically enclosed a set of delicate power supply capacitors and ensured that they were cooked to perfection, usually right after the warranty expired. Ambient heat and use of the modem accelerated the deterioration.

Hilariously, Apple eventually even created a secret knowledge-base article allowing refurb replacements. Nuts. I perforated my enclosures and replaced many capacitors for friends and family who suddenly had $300 paperweights. They all worked for years after that, eventually obsoleted by the fast-evolving 802.xx developments.

Later revisions of the Airport base stations seemingly relied more and more on in-house Apple development. Thus, instead of using the same hardware as the Lucent RG1000 motherboard found inside the silver model, the 2nd gen Airport base station switched to a RISC processor (from a 486!) but still used an Airport-branded card (instead of Lucent Orinoco Silver). Only later Airport base stations contained 100% Apple-designed RF systems right on the motherboard.

Unless there is a sudden gusher of new unlicensed bands, I don't see significant improvement opportunities over 802.11ac. The physics simply aren't there yet. For example, the fastest WiFi systems out there (advertising gigabit speeds) practically require the laptop to sit next to the router without any barriers in the way. How is that an improvement over wired gigabit or even 10GBe connections? My thunderbolt cable not only charges my laptop, it can also provide a 10GBe connection to my switch.

I also have yet to hear of a zero-day compromise of Apple Airport hardware, unlike many compertitors. Yes, Apple has had to update its WPA implementation to deal with weaknesses in industry consortia encryption (KRACK, et al) but the actual OS running the base stations seems to be secure.

Of the 20-odd Extremes I've installed for friends and family, I have yet to have one fail on me. I only buy them "used - good" on Amazon, as scuff marks don't bother me. My "clients" enjoy the lower prices; I enjoy seeing how happy they are with the excellent performance of the Airport base stations. Plus, once set up, I never hear from them about the Airport(s) again. It just works.

I don't doubt that these Extremes will become obsolete at some point in the future, just as the silver 1st Gen models are today. But I expect to get several good years of use out of them before switching to Ubiquiti or whoever will be the next vendor of WiFi choice.
 


It seems like Apple is doing everything it can to turn over its customer base that values the Mac-centric Apple ecosystem. This is to facilitate a shift from productivity devices (Macs) to consumption devices (iOS) and transition from being primarily a hardware company to a services company. IBM took similar steps in the 1990s (exiting the desktop PC business) and the 2000s (exiting Think Pad).

If Apple wants to become an entertainment services company (it is one already, arguably), it has to please its providers, who don't want everyone with a Mac Pro making content that the studios/publishers don't control.

I'm not sure Steve would be happy with these changes, but it's smart even if it angers us because of how highly dependent Apple is on silicon fabrication R&D it does not control. When Moore's law hits a brick wall (@ 3nm), Apple's current business model will go with it, so it has to make this transition. Steve did tell Jony and Tim that it's now Tim's company and vision and it shows that Tim is doing just that. I'm so not happy about any of it.
 


My understanding was that Back To My Mac depends on having an Apple AirPort. Is that not true?
Back To My Mac works just fine via other devices. Use of an Apple Airport Extreme or Express is NOT required.

The big loss here will be the eventual demise of Airport Utility and secure management of Airport base stations hundreds of miles away. Currently, the farthest away device I manage is a Gen 5 Airport Extreme 635 miles away. The closest is about 36 inches away. All use the same interface and are equally easy to manage.

Another loss will be the XML configuration file, which is human readable except for encrypted data (authentication data), and which can be extremely useful in some situations. Other home routers tend to store configurations in binary blobs which are not self-identifying, among other faults.
 


My understanding was that Back To My Mac depends on having an Apple AirPort. Is that not true?
As far as I know, that's never been the case. All you need is a router that supports UPnP or NAT-PMP so your Mac can configure the router to forward a port to let other systems reach your system across the internet.
 


Have had several Airports including the first. T'was sweet. With a couple of minor issues they've been flawless, and the utility has been a model of accessible technology. I have the 5th gen and wish to update to ac (don't need mesh/beam) but frankly don't know what/who/where to buy one. There's certainly plenty of models on the market. I need 3-4 Ethernet ports, hopefully a couple of USB3 ports and of course the upstream WAN. Who's making good ones? How severe are the security problems? Any idea where to go to examine reliability? Would I be better off with a simple WiFi transceiver then go out to an Ethernet router? Basically any input here would be appreciated.
 


As far as I know, that's never been the case. All you need is a router that supports UPnP or NAT-PMP so your Mac can configure the router to forward a port to let other systems reach your system across the internet.
But only if you have your Mac configured to never sleep.

The AirPort devices support Wake on Demand and Bonjour Sleep Proxy.
This allows Back to My Mac to work transparently, without any advanced user knowledge. Notice that Apple only documents Back to My Mac as working on AirPort devices, and Bonjour Sleep Proxy only on AirPort or Apple TV.

Without this support, you either need to keep your Mac awake, or you need a router that can pass or trigger Wake-on-LAN magic packets from the WAN (public Internet) side. This is not easy. If there is a way to do it on my relatively new Netgear router, I haven't found it.
 


Another loss will be the XML configuration file, which is human readable except for encrypted data (authentication data), and which can be extremely useful in some situations.
I haven't experimented with the Import/Export Configuration File feature of Airport Utility. Can that file be used as a way to configure the features that were lost with the move to the latest version of Airport Utility?
 



Back To My Mac works just fine via other devices. Use of an Apple Airport Extreme or Express is NOT required.

The big loss here will be the eventual demise of Airport Utility and secure management of Airport base stations hundreds of miles away. Currently, the farthest away device I manage is a Gen 5 Airport Extreme 635 miles away. The closest is about 36 inches away. All use the same interface and are equally easy to manage.
James,
Thanks for the reminder on remote management; I had completely forgotten about that for the last umpteen years. Really handy!
 


I too am mystified at Apple's slow-motion abandonment of Wifi. There are a gazillion players in the Mesh wifi space, so it seems like it would have been relatively trivial for Apple to acquire some of this tech and release it in an Insanely Great package -- and what the business case for NOT doing so might have been is especially mysterious to me, since Apple has ostensibly declared that they want to be a player in the IoT / Home device control space: integrating that through an Apple router seems obvious.

For my part, I've set up a Linksys Velop 2-node station at home, and about 6 Netgear Orbi systems for clients. Here is what I can relay about those experiences:

- Velop has a design issue: both units are identical (instead of having a specific Router and specific Satellite unit, as in most competing products). The units have 2 Ethernet ports, EITHER of which can be attached to the router; the device is supposed to "detect" which is the router, and which is something else. Unfortunately, if we have a blackout, upon restoration of power my Comcast modem (in bridge mode) will assign its DHCP to my HP Printer -- attached to the satellite in my case -- which has the effect of leaving the entire network off-line from the Internet. When this happens, I have to physically disconnect the printer, restart the modem, wait for the router to come back on line, then plug the printer back in. FAIL.

- Orbi has a dedicated router with a dedicated yellow WAN port, several satellite options available, and a very good out-of-box experience. That is, unless you want to use the "Ethernet backbone" feature to connect the satellite(s) through house wiring -- which is a great feature that Velop lacks. Unfortunately, that implementation is horribly buggy, and even when it is working properly, the web-based controls literally do not identify the satellites as such any more; they become just another "connected device." In both implementations where I had to set this up, it took more than two hours and in one case a call to tech support to get all the pieces -- firmware, order of operation, etc. -- correct. With respect to the tech support call, confusion was injected by the fact that they had (apparently) withdrawn the firmware that the devices shipped with; the web site was offering an earlier version than the device shipped with, without explanation. I was fit to be tied.

Fortunately, I can report that once properly set up, both Orbi and Velop have been nearly flawless; coverage is fantastic, speed is fast, reliability is high. Just watch out for DHCP issues if you have a power interruption with Velop.
 
Last edited by a moderator:


What about the Airport Express ability to send Airplay audio to an amplifier with a standard minijack to RCA cable?

What can substitute for this?
You can continue to use your Airport Express as an AirPlay receiver, in one of two ways:
1. You can try to add it to an existing, non-Airport WiFi network, either by "joining" as a client or by "extending." This may or may not work - your mileage may vary.
2. You can connect the Airport Express to the same LAN via Ethernet. It may be preferable to then disable its wireless functionality altogether. AirPlay reception will continue working, as long as the device transmitting AirPlay audio is connected to the same network either via WiFi or Ethernet.

I use my Express the second way at home, and I have been involved in a number of home audio installations where Airport Expresses were deployed in the latter fashion as well, and they work as expected.
 


Engadget got a statement from Apple confirming that it's abandoning its AirPort products
I currently use an Airport Express to create a single wireless access point within my ethernet LAN (all Macs), and importantly, allows streaming of music from iTunes with an audio output into a high-end analog stereo system. Does anyone know of another router that allows streaming of music in this manner?
 


You can continue to use your Airport Express as an AirPlay receiver, in one of two ways:
1. You can try to add it to an existing, non-Airport WiFi network, either by "joining" as a client or by "extending." This may or may not work - your mileage may vary.
2. You can connect the Airport Express to the same LAN via Ethernet. It may be preferable to then disable its wireless functionality altogether. AirPlay reception will continue working, as long as the device transmitting AirPlay audio is connected to the same network either via WiFi or Ethernet.

I use my Express the second way at home, and I have been involved in a number of home audio installations where Airport Expresses were deployed in the latter fashion as well, and they work as expected.
I have it configured as 2, but working also as an access point, providing WiFi to the second floor of the house.

The question is... what will happen when Airport Expresses are no longer available? What product can send airplayed content to an amplifier via a standard AUX cable?
 


- Orbi has a dedicated router with a dedicated yellow WAN port, several satellite options available, and a very good out-of-box experience. That is, unless you want to use the "Ethernet backbone" feature to connect the satellite(s) through house wiring -- which is a great feature that Velop lacks.
I'm not completely clear about what you're describing. Are you talking about bridging the units through in-wall Ethernet cabling? Or does Orbi include power-line networking to bridge them through your AC wiring?

If you're describing the former, Velops can be linked via Ethernet or wireless. If you're describing the latter, that's a really cool feature that I haven't seen anywhere else. (In my case, I'd probably bridge them with Ethernet connected via my existing power-line network transceivers)

What product can send airplayed content to an amplifier via a standard AUX cable?
I haven't heard of any third-party routers with this capability built-in, but I have seen plenty of non-router devices that can receive AirPlay, including many amplifiers/receivers.

If you want to stream video as well as audio, I think the only option is Apple TV. Which is sad, since my amplifier (which can receive AirPlay audio) is attached to my TV.
 


Amazon disclaimer:
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts