With help from The Vicar, here and here, I was able to get the Time Capsule up and running. I elected to create a brand new WPA2 network, using the TC as the router; my old (non-“n”) Airport Express is now sitting next to the HP printer/scanner, acting as a print server. I used the Vicar’s trick of doing the initial TC configuration via an Ethernet link between my PowerBook and the TC, but I still had plenty of other hoops to jump through. In several places, it wasn’t sufficient to click “Renew DHCP”; I had to actually power cycle the cable modem to get things straightened out.

Never mind; it’s all working now. But no thanks to Apple; their supposedly “plug and play” configuration software was a disaster. I know that the number of permutations that they have to deal with is mind-boggling, including a gazillion non-Apple devices, but even so they botched this one. I was trying one of the simplest use-cases – adding a Time Capsule to an existing all-Apple network – and they couldn’t even get this right. Apple has demonstrated in the past that it was willing to hold up a product until the quality (hardware, software and documentation) was good enough; in this case, they failed to exhibit the necessary courage. (Time to re-read the “Evil/Genius” article in Wired.)

And now I have to update the configuration of all of my WiFi client devices. I just did my iPhone; next up is the Nintendo Wii….. Thanks, Vicar!

2 Responses to “Clue: The Vicar, in the Living Room, with a Time Capsule!”
  1. The Vicar says:

    Actually, this suggests that the firmware update doesn’t actually break anything — it just turns off the “this is a brand new base station” flag in the Time Capsule, so it stops broadcasting itself as a device in need of configuration. But since it doesn’t come preconfigured for anything, that means you can’t get at it over wireless any more.

    Incidentally, I have to agree with you: AirPort Utility really doesn’t work very well. I’ve been using AirPort since the very beginning. I bought the original graphite base station to go with an original clamshell iBook, upgraded to an Extreme with an iBook G4, added a couple of refurbished Expresses for AirTunes and a network printer, and finally replaced the Express at the printer with the Time Capsule. So I’ve been dealing with the software for a long time, and with each iteration, it has grown slightly harder to use.

    The only thing in the configuration software which I would say is a definite improvement is the WDS auto-setup which showed up when I set up the Expresses, but I couldn’t get that to trigger on the Time Capsule. (It may have been removed. It’s been a while since then.)

    Of course, before we criticize Apple too hard, I have to admit that there are two mitigating factors:

    1. The Time Capsule is significantly more complex device than any of the other AirPort devices. In a sense, it’s actually two widgets pretending to be a single one: a wired file server stuffed into the case of a regular Base Station. (On the other hand, they could have rewritten the setup assistant so that you could have the same setup options as an ordinary base station, and then had the storage aspect pop up at the end, after you got the device onto the network.)

    2. Considering the capabilities of the device, the AirPort utility isn’t by any means bad. I don’t mean it’s actually good, I mean that network administration utilities can be much much worse. I’m not a network person at all — just a sort of jack-of-all-trades computer geek. The other day I had to configure a Netgear managed switch, and I can tell you that the AirPort Utility at its worst is dramatically better than even the best parts of the Netgear web interface. (And you have to deal with a serial-port-driven command-line interface to get to the web interface!) At least the AirPort utility has sensible defaults and help which occasionally gives you information which you can’t deduce by reading the labels of the controls.

  2. alecm says:

    I should have been in touch earlier; I have an AirPort Extreme which can only be described as bloody minded; it’s been hardware reset half a dozen times, I rapidly gave up trying to use it as a router, and it’s often faster to reset the configuration from scratch than it is to poke it and hope some change takes effect.

    It is now participating in my house wireless network, am hoping that the Air is talking 11n to it, rather than 11g to the DSL moden and thence to the Air. Have not yet established how to determine which media type it is using.

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