Monday, March 17, 2008

Airport Express - Your networked swiss army knife

Apple Insider first announced that Apple's Airport Express may be getting an upgrade. This is fabulous news! This little "travel router" is massively under rated as an Apple product. It provides AirTunes capability which allows you to stream to up to 4 places on your network simultaneously. This is like having a whole house sound system on the cheap. Connect the head phone jack to a sound system and use iTunes to stream music. Want to network a printer? Connect with a USB cable to the Airport Express and away you go. It is appropriate that the information about the upgrade to the Airport Express leaked via the Swiss Apple Store site because this great little device is like a Swiss Army Knife when it comes to networking. I have linked to Amazon for product information in this post but you may want to go to Apple's own store. Pricing for the Airport Express is just $99 at Apple and the new 802.11n wireless router is available now. Same price, up to 5 times faster with twice the range. What's not to love? I use my Airport Express routinely at work. Indeed, I probably use it more often than I use my laptop power supply. I drop it in my pocket with a Retractable Ethernet cable when I head to a meeting. Plug it in the wall, jack the cable in to a nearby Ethernet connection and my default secured connection comes up and is available. Some hotels provide wired access in their hotel rooms, but not wireless access. Plug and Jack and bingo! Wireless freedom! I am always coming across interesting ways to use this device. The Keyspan Express Remote Control is a case in point. If you connect this to an Airport Express you can remotely control your iTunes running on your laptop or PC in another room. AirTunes only works with iTunes. What if you want to stream the soundtrack of a video or maybe even my favourite radio streaming site, Pandora? You need Rogue Amoeba's $25 utility, Airfoil. This little software application for your Mac let's you use the AirTunes feature of the Airport Express from any application on your Mac. Very neat! So, for those new MacBook Air users. Why bother with a USB Ethernet adapter? Carry an Airport Express instead.


  1. Great article! The purpose of the APX is a little confusing on the Apple site, this really helps though. I bought one this morning for my dorm. I'm excited :)

  2. Tanner, good luck with your Airport Express. The Apple documentation is pretty good for helping with setup and the admin tool works well but some of the more esoteric configurations can require you to do some experimentation.

    I had fun trying to get the Airport and two airport Extremes in to a wireless distribution system.

    Best advice is to start with the basics, get that working and gradually add the extra features.