I’ve been using Apple networking gear for a long, long time. I started switching the house over to Applely things in 2005, and about five years ago, I succeeded in getting everything in house sporting a Cupertino logo.
And it’s largely been a great experience. But sometimes, bad things happen to good gear.
Over the last week, I’ve been having some weird things happening on the network inside the house. I’d set it up years ago with a 4th generation Airport Extreme downstairs, close to the U-verse gear, and a 2nd generation Airport Express upstairs to extend the wireless network through the house. Great plan, and it’s been solid as a rock.
At the time, I’d gone to great lengths to logically separate Uverse’s physical/wireless from my internal network. I’d had some real trouble with AT&T’s DNS being really slow, and that drove me to separate the networks for a reason I coulda solved so much easier. That was years and years ago, and needless to say, I didn’t document what I did, how I did it, or what should be what on the network. That little lack of detail kinda hampers troubleshooting.
After working most of the week thinking there was a problem on the U-verse side (resetting their gear twice), I finally began to realize that something on my side was obviously wrong. As I worked through it last night, my trusty Airport Extreme would no longer take a configuration. That was a sign.
So, I started researching what Apple had out there, and found the Airport Extreme 802.11ac. This unit was two generations later than mine, and would talk more quickly with our recent devices by using 802.11ac. Nothing wrong with that. Repair and an upgrade? I’m good with that!
We have the good fortune living with fifteen miles of two Apple stores, and three Best Buy stores with Apple sections. If I need something Apple, I can usually get it locally. (Unless you’re looking for the new MacBook but that’s a story for another post.) I looked at the closest Best Buy, and they had exactly what I needed in stock … and I had a 4x Reward Zone points coupon. Perfect.
And it was on sale ($11 off). Even better.
I walked in, and the shelf sporting the Airport Extremes was empty. Ugh.
Have you tried to find a floor associate at Best Buy on a Friday night? Apparently, that’s either the point of lowest staffing, or the time during the week when the whole staff is pulled into a meeting. I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally found someone who could help me. He was quick to tell me that he thought they were out of ’em, because someone was looking for them earlier in the week and couldn’t find them. I told him that I had their website up on my iPhone, it said they had them, and I could order one online right now, and pick it up right there. He walked off to find one. 🙂
Despite the portents of inventory-related doom and despair, he was able to find that they had plenty in stock. He just didn’t know where they were. Five or ten minutes later, he turned a corner, Apple goodness in hand. Woot!
I got it home, prepared Becky for all the swearing she was gonna hear from the basement — me and networking don’t get along — and proceeded to start trying to bring the new device up. Now, when you can’t get into the current network device, it’s hard to capture its configuration to transfer to the new one.
Did I mention I had no documentation on what I’d done?
I plugged ‘er in, attached the WAN and LAN cables, and hoped for the best. I brought up the Airport Utility on my laptop, and it found the new device quickly. And then, the heavens smiled upon me.
The utility asked me if I was gonna replace the old Airport Extreme with the new one, and proceeded to move the configuration over. I was stunned. In fairness, I still had to do a little tweaking, as all that weird separation I did years ago didn’t entirely move over.
And frankly, I didn’t need all that separation. There was no reason to separate the networks just because of DNS. I changed the DHCP server on the new Extreme to propagate a different DNS than AT&T’s, and all was well with the world.
But, the upstairs Airport Express still wasn’t playing nicely. I tried resetting it several times, including taking it back to factory defaults, and never could get it connected to the network correctly. A little time with Uncle Google, and I found someone mentioning that you could take a newly refreshed (or purchased) Airport device, and configure it in the wi-fi settings of the iPad. That was new news to me.
So I tried it. The wi-fi settings saw the “blank” Airport Express, and asked me if I wanted to use it to extend the existing network. YES!
And sonofagun, it actually worked. The Apple networking magic was truly wonderful, and saved the backside of both me and my network. Color me very, very impressed.