Take Control of Your Airport Network
Posted: 23-Sep-2004

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: TidBITS

B+

Reviewer: Rick Pancoast $10.00


Take Control of Your Airport Network
By Glenn Fleishman
eBook in PDF format, 152 pages, 2.6 MB
download
Aug 28, 2004, US $10 (
Free Excerpt)

What the Book is About
"Take Control of your AirPort Network" by Glenn Fleishman is a very good treatment of purchasing and installing an AirPort wireless Local Area Network (LAN) and how to make it run at best efficiency and with good security. The "Alphabet Soup" of wireless networks is also demystified with a good description of the wireless network features and pitfalls.

The eBook begins with wireless basics and purchasing decisions, moves through installation and configuration, provides advice on extending the wireless network range, and finishes with how-to information on security to protect your AirPort network from interception.

Target Audience
The level of reading is novice, but some of the explanations need to be read a few times, especially if you are not thoroughly familiar with the terms and acronyms, in order to understand the author's point and description of the feature or problem area.

What to Expect
The book provides a good background on wireless networking, and a good description of the Apple wireless product line, including features and how to tell the different products (which by Apple tradition, have no part numbers) apart. The very new "AirPort Express" capabilities are also described very well and the author provides the pros and cons of setting up a software base station in OS 9 and OS X. Various idiosyncrasies with AppleTalk support are discussed, with reasonable solutions provided. The author provides excellent advice for selecting and positioning equipment to provide the most practical and efficient use of your wireless network. I did not even know that Apple had AirPort Management Tools 1.0 available for download on their website!

A good treatment of common internet connections is provided, including dynamically assigned IP addresses using DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), logging in to a DSL provider via PPP over Ethernet (PPPoE), and how to deal with Media Access Control (MAC) address restricted cable broadband, including MAC address cloning. A procedure is provided for setting up a static IP address over the broadband network. There is also a description of how DHCP and NAT (Network Address Translation) work together to take a single dynamic address that is provided by most ISPs and multiply it transparently on your Local Area Network. It explains what to do when the DHCP/NAT combo doesn't cut it, and why you need to make sure you run only a single DHCP server on your Local Area Network so that you don't get your ISP service cancelled. Great instructions are provided for configuring DHCP with your AirPort, with plenty of notes, tips and figures provided to avoid problems and pitfalls. Explanations are provided for four methods to add DHCP service to your network.

Sections are provided for improving coverage area, range and security. A description of the channel frequency layout for Wi-Fi access points helps to avoid performance-limiting interference. A section on configuring a Wireless Distribution Service (WDS) describes how to extend an AirPort network without running wires between locations, with many useful tips, sidebars, figures and notes provided for insight into Apple and non-Apple WDS. HomePlug can extend your LAN over your house wiring and an antenna (although sometimes illegal) may help to increase range. A section is provided on the problems encountered with AirPort range on the Titanium PowerBook, and another section provides insight on wireless cooperation with your neighbors. The last section on security for your wireless network describes the three L's of security: likelihood, liability and lost opportunity, as well as WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) protection and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), including the new 802.11i standard. There is also a brief discussion of application security techniques, such as secure Webmail, FTP over SSH, SSL email, Authenticated POP, Authenticated SMTP and VPN.

Finally there are four appendices which discuss AirPort Management Tools, Connecting Without AirPort Adapters, Configuring AirPort Express, and Configuring Software Base Station.

Highlights
The author constantly provides information on less expensive and alternate options to setting up your wireless network - even to the point of sometimes recommending non-Apple solutions - when they make sense. The book provides a very understandable description of the features and pitfalls of a wireless network. Most valuable is the description of the various acronyms associated with a wireless network, and the procedures provided in the appendices alone are worth the purchase price of this eBook.

Mac Guild Grade
B+ (Great)

Final Words
Overall, this eBook provides essentially an operation and maintenance manual for any AirPort wireless Local Area Network, even those that contain some non-Apple components. Just about everything you need to know about purchasing, installing, maintaining and providing security for a wireless LAN is included. Procedures are provided for connecting computers to your network, without inadvertently aggravating your ISP provider, and for extending your network without interfering with your neighbor's wireless LAN. Wireless LAN security tips are given for those in populated areas who believe their LAN may be compromised by intruders. Valuable appendices are included which describe AirPort Management Tools, Connecting Without AirPort Adapters, Configuring AirPort Express, and Configuring a Software Base Station.