Mac AirPort

My officemate’s daughter has just started her Freshman year at the Yoo-Dub. She needed a computer and I, of course, supported the Mac laptop. After talking to the people at the Mac store and having her questions re: PC vs Mac answered, she opted for the MacBook. She brought it into the office for some pointers. (I’m not a Mac Authority, but I could help her set it up.)

I showed her how to use the built-in AirPort wireless. There were probably half a dozen signals, and one was not password protected. Yeah, we stole a little bandwidth as I showed her how to use it so that she would be able to get online using the provided Wi-Fi in her dorm. Another day she brought her MacBook in so I could help her with another question. Since I knew she was coming in that day I brought my PowerBook. She still got several signals, but I could only pick up one or two.

Why would her MacBook be able to pick up more signals than my PowerBook? Has the wireless modem improved that much in two or three years? Or is there something wrong with mine that limits its reception range?

The MacBook has much better WiFi performance, mostly because it is in a plastic case, vs. the metal case of the PowerBook.

Yeah, my aluminum G4 PowerBook as pathetically limited range in comparison to plastic-cased PCs. You can buy an antenna that plugs into the PCI slot, or just use a seperate PCI 802.11g adapter to get substantially better range. One of the downsides of having a metal case is that it acts as a shield. Be thankful, the old TiBooks were even worse, reportedly. On the other hand, I’ll note that my PowerBook looks as pristine as it did the day I pulled it out of the box, while Dells and HPs generally look pretty shopworn after a couple of years, and the very functional but poorly designed Toshibas and ThinkPads tend to look like they’ve been run over by a semi after a few years of regular service.


Do you have a brand?

Yeah, I like my metal computer. Coworker’s daughter’s MacBook is white plastic and it just doesn’t look as good.

I haven’t been able to get to the Mac store yet, but I did get to Radio Shack and Office Max at lunch today. Both places said they’ve never heard of a PCI antenna, and said I’d have to get a PCI wireless card and use it instead of the AirPort. I did find a MacWorld article that mentions an external antenna, the cord of which is threaded through the PCI slot; but it was written four years ago and I didn’t see the antenna when I went to the vendor’s site.