Posts Tagged ‘mac’

Airport Extreme Frustrations

Wouldn’t you know it, I make a glowing post about Apple computers and that very day I experience extreme frustration with our new Airport Extreme N Base Station. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Airport Extreme is a great router for most people (and was packaged just as well as the Mini), but Apple should have acknowledged that it doesn’t work with all older Macs.

I still love the Mini, but am currently frustrated with Apple for poor support for their old computers. I don’t expect them to continue to support old hardware forever, but they should acknowledge what no longer works. Unfortunately, running the Airport with my Powerbook using Mac OS 10.4.11 causes the Powerbook to crash constantly. I called tech support, and they are aware of the issue, but no fix is in sight (I’d seen support posts back as far as last December about this problem, but no notice of it on the Airport’s product page, which indicates any Mac with Airport is compatible, though they list OS versions for several other features, such as 10.2.7 for shared printing and 10.4.8 for sharing a hard drive — we meet those requirements, but nothing is said about 10.4.11 on PowerPC computers crashing with the wireless N router). At the moment, it’s working without the N enabled, but that defeats the purpose of buying a router that will last when we upgrade our hardware. I can buy a Wireless G router for fraction of the cost of the Airport (which I bought refurbished).

I could upgrade my system to 10.5 to solve the problem, but that would cost me as much as or more than the router cost, and I’ve considered upgrading in the past and haven’t felt it was worth it, in part because iMovie 09 won’t run on my old PowerPC computer. I can’t upgrade to 10.6 (the current OS) because you need 10.5 to do so and you can’t install it on PowerPC computers either. Apple switched to Intel processors a few years ago, and they have basically abandoned their old computers.

To be fair, Macs last longer and work better than most PCs I’ve worked with. Apple has done as well as most computer companies to make sure their products are backwards compatible, but the Airport is a noteworthy exception. I’m not even that upset that the router doesn’t work with all old computers — that would be too much to expect, I suppose — but Apple should acknowledge this on their product page under the System Requirements as soon as the issue was confirmed (at least 8 months ago). If you can’t support old hardware, at least let consumers know what is and isn’t supported so we can make an informed decision. Now I am faced with the decision of whether to upgrade or to return the router and buy a cheaper alternative.

I will say that Apple’s Support team has been pretty good with this, though the first person I spoke with wasn’t familiar with the issue. She did get me to try a work around that didn’t work, and they did offer to sell me the upgrade, which you can’t find on the Apple Store by yourself. I will post an update on what my final decision is.

I am also impressed with the Mac community. I figured out what was causing my crashes (Apple calls them kernel panics — and they do cause panic, esp. when they’re so uncommon on a Mac) thanks to the blog Shaniac-iMac, which led me to Apple’s support discussions of the issues. I’ve always loved the free email Mac newsletter Tidbits and I’ve gotten lots of help on using and maintaining older Macs from Low End Mac and iFixIt, which helped me to upgrade two hard drives that were dying on my Powerbook and Kim’s iBook last year. I only wish that Apple would acknowledge that users expect their computers to last longer than a few years and continue to support older models longer. There’s no need to throw away an old computer that still works, but it’s frustrating when new hardware causes the old hardware to stop working.


It’s summer, and among the many home improvements we tend to get to when we can (roofing, painting, etc.), it’s a time when we sometimes upgrade our technology. Recently we purchased an LCD TV and a Mac Mini to surf the web and watch movies with, and generally use as our main home computer so we won’t have to replace our laptops or the ancient Mac that Aidan has started using. Why do this in the summer? It’s when I have a little extra time to shop and install these things.

All these purchases have me thinking about my curious relationship with technology. Though I’m generally known as technically savvy — I teach online, manage my department’s website, help others with the A/V equipment at school, and even do some light programming in my spare time — in many ways I’m a Luddite. We don’t own a microwave, and I’d just as soon never get one! A gas stove is ideal, and I prefer a wooden spoon and a sharp knife to the latest kitchen gadget. Some technology just doesn’t need improvement.

Similarly, I can’t stand cell phones, and to be honest I’m not a big fan of phones anyway. I wouldn’t be caught dead without my land line, but I’d rather not use it unless absolutely necessary. Email, on the other hand, is wonderful, and the occasional call on Skype is a good replacement for long distance, especially if it involves video conferencing with my family or with a student in my online classes.

I’d rather walk or ride a bike than take the car, whenever possible. But we’re thrilled to have Netflix in a small town where art movies rarely ever make it into the theater and the video stores (which recently have all closed, driven out by mail services and the DVD vending machines) had very limited choices. Streaming movies makes it even more convenient, but I have no use for cable or satelite TV — we still get our broadcast TV over the airwaves, though we’re glad that digital TV has improved the reception dramatically.

Computers are my biggest weakness, where technology is concerned. I have owned 5 Macs (the Mini is the 6th) since 1988, when I bought my first used Mac SE (and I’ve had three Macs in my office at school). I have always loved Macs for two reasons. They work (with very few system crashes or viruses) and they last. My Powerbook 5300, though incredibly slow and unable to connect to other computers thanks to a burned out ethernet card, still boots up. We don’t use it and need to recycle it. I sold my other two oldest Macs years ago, but Aidan still uses my 10-year-old G4 Tower on a daily basis, and Kim and I have 5 and 6 year-old laptops that function perfectly well. I’m hoping to get a couple more years out of mine before it gets too long in the tooth and gets passed down to Aidan. None of these computers is so out of date that it won’t function perfectly well (though the G4 needs a newer operating system, if we want it to run more recent software, and we have added memory and replaced a few hard drives over the years).

My biggest beef with computers, though, is that they ought to last longer than they do. They work, but can’t keep pace with the changes in the latest software after a few years. The other beef I have with them is that they waste so many resources, which is why I’m so happy with our Mini, which is 7.7″ square and about an inch and a half tall. It doesn’t take up much space, and it doesn’t waste many resources. Apple has also improved its packaging so that nothing comes in styrofoam anymore. They’ve turned their design expertise over to their packaging, and have designed boxes that use a minimal amount of cardboard and a little plastic wrap to cushion the equipment during shipping, resulting in smaller, mostly recyclable packages.