Mac Tip #275/07-Feb-2007
All new Macs come equipped with built-in wireless networking hardware. That means that you can easily connect any recent Mac to a wireless network, such as those now commonly found in cafes, hotels, offices and even ordinary homes.
The Macintosh wireless technology is called Airport. In order to use wireless networking you need not only the Airport card in your computer, but another piece of hardware, such as an Airport Express to communicate with.
This is a lot like television or radio: you need both a television to receive and play the broadcasts and access to a TV signal.
Here’s how I have wireless set up at home, with my cable Internet connection.
My cable provider supplied a cable modem that receives the signal they send out. An ethernet cable runs from the cable modem to my Airport Express. That cable gives the Airport Express access to the Internet.
The Airport Express broadcasts the Internet wirelessly to my three Macs and to any visiting computers that have a working wireless card. A recent visitor, for example, had a laptop running Windows XP, and was very pleased to be able to use email and surf the web while at our place.
I also have a small, cheap Brother laser printer connected via a USB cable to the Airport Express. This means I can easily print, by choosing Print in the normal way, but without connecting any wires to my computers.
There’s a cheap Home Theatre in the Lounge. A cable runs from the Airport Express audio output to the inputs on the Home Theatre. This lets me play music, podcasts and other things from my computer, using the better speakers of the Home Theatre, and again, without connecting any cables to my computer.
The wireless technology also allows me to network the three Macs together. I can easily share files between computers, with no physical connection.
Wireless networking and wireless Internet do have their drawbacks, such as poor range and a need for security, but I’ll leave those topics for another Tip.