Hack 77. Manage Multiple AirPort Base Stations

Managing one AirPort Base Station is easy enough, but managing multiple stations can be an exercise in repetition. But it doesn't have to be.

Managing an AirPort Base Station is easy enough using the AirPort Admin Utility (/Applications/Utilities). In fact, one of the strong selling points of the AirPort Base Station over other wireless access points is the ease of use of the configuration tools compared to the web configuration interfaces found on the others. But there is a feature of the AirPort Admin Utility that you might not be aware of: the ability to save and load configurations.

At first glance, the ability to save and reload an AirPort Base Station's configuration might seem superfluous. After all, once the base station is configured, what's the point? Well, there's at least three that we can think of:

  • Having a backup of your configuration is never a bad idea. If you have a simple configuration using just DHCP and no access control, losing your configuration is not a big loss. But if you've spent quite a bit of time adding lots of AirPort IDs (née MAC addresses) into the access control settings, you'll want to preserve that work somewhere.
  • It allows you to have multiple configurations, which is handy for when you travel with your base station. For example, you could save your home configuration before you leave, then tweak the base station to work with whatever hotel or conference-room networks you encounter, and then reload your home configuration when you return.
  • If you have multiple base stations, having one configuration that you can upload to all of them, making small tweaks as necessary, can be a godsend compared to manually making sure that all of their settings are correct.

To save your configuration, open your base station in AirPort Admin Utility and go to File Save a Copy As. This saves a file with the extension To upload a configuration to a base station, completely replacing its current configuration, go to the File Import and select the 5.16.1. A Power Tool for Configuration Management

As nice as it is to be able to store and modify .baseconfig files for individual base stations, it's not the greatest solution for network administrators who need to take care of multiple base stations, especially when they need to update a particular setting across all of their base stations at once. In April 2004, Apple released a new tool, the AirPort Management Utility, to help manage networks with a number of base stations. You can download this tool as part of the AirPort Management Tools download located at http://www.apple.com/support/airport/.

AirPort Management Utility trades the hand-holding interface of AirPort Admin Utility for a power user's interface that gives you direct access to all of the tweakable properties of each base station, as shown in Figure 5-24.

Where AirPort Management Utility really shines is in its ability to edit the same property on more than one base station at once. For example, if you want to change the network name for multiple base stations on the local network, you can select the base stations and make a change to a single line, as shown in Figure 5-25.

Figure 5-24. Airport Management Utility in action

AirPort Management Utility will take care of updating the value on all of the base stations simultaneously.

5.16.2. Tweaking Placement of Base Stations

Another task that falls to administrators of wireless networks is the placement of base stations to best serve the machines for the network. Quite frankly, the signal strength meter on the menu bar leaves quite a bit to be desired as a tool to help get the best signal possible. Luckily, we now have the AirPort Client Monitor, another tool that comes as part of the AirPort Management Tools package. This tool not only reports signal strength much more accurately than the menu bar meter, but it also reports the noise on the connection, as well as the bandwidth available, as shown in Figure 5-26.

By using the AirPort Client Monitor, you can gather information about any computer and position it for best network performance. This tool fails, however, when you need to balance the position of a base station against multiple machines. Sure, you could run back and forth between Macs and see their signal strengths one at a time as you make adjustments. But that would be the proverbial pain in the rear, not to mention a major threat to the soles of your shoes.

Figure 5-25. Editing values for multiple base stations

Never fear; your soles are safe. Simply fire up AirPort Management Utility, select a base station, and click on the Monitor tab. This produces a chart of the signal strengths of all of the computers that are using that base station, as shown in Figure 5-27.

The only thing needed from you is a translation of the AirPort IDs reported to the actual machines, but once you know which AirPort ID belongs to which machine, you'll be able to tweak the position of the computers and the base station to get the best signal possible to all machines.

James Duncan Davidson

Figure 5-26. Tracking the performance of an AirPort connection

Bluetooth, Mobile Phones, and GPS

Network Discovery and Monitoring

Wireless Security

Hardware Hacks

Software Hacks

Do-It-Yourself Antennas

Wireless Network Design

Appendix A. Wireless Standards

Appendix B. Wireless Hardware Guide

Wireless Hacks
Wireless Hacks: Tips & Tools for Building, Extending, and Securing Your Network
ISBN: 0596101449
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 178

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