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Joining a wireless network

1656 Views 9 Replies Latest reply: May 22, 2013 3:32 PM by LaPastenague RSS
Billv34 Calculating status...
Currently Being Moderated
May 20, 2013 10:18 AM



I am trying to move from one set-up to another.


In my current set-up, I have an airport extreme base station connected by ethernet cable to a modem. The base station creates my wireless network, and its hard drive contains my itunes music library. I also have an airport express in another room connected to my stereo, to play my itunes library.

I am looking to change this set-up for the following reasons: (a) Based on the recommendations on these boards, I am going to move my itunes library to an external hard drive. The disk on the base station is spinning up and down all the time, and disconnects from itunes regularly (for which I have searched in vain for solutions -- and have made workable only by some rube goldbergian set-up that is somewhat ingenious, if I don't say so myself). However, it's time to face facts and get itunes off the base station. (b) My new comcast modem is able to serve as a router and create a wireless network of its own.


So my desired set-up, which I have not been able to complete for reasons explained below, is as follows:


1. Detach the ethernet connection between the base station and the modem.

2. Set up the base station away from the modem, connected to the new hard drive and a printer.

3. JOIN the new wireless network with the base station, and have it serve as a print server with attached storage.

4. I don't want it to extend the network, because I don't need it to. And I don't want it thinning out my wifi signal.


Here is my problem. When I try to change the settings of the (still ethernet connected) base station to "Join a wireless network," my new network does not display in the available networks list. All of my devices are on this network, so I know it works. The list includes many networks in the neighborhood, so it is not a signal strength issue. Also, the base station set itself to bridge mode when the new network, connected by ethernet, was created. If I unplug the ethernet cable to the base station, I lose access to it in airport utility.


In addition, when I try to join the new network with the express, the network is not in the list either.


This is a possibly convoluted way of asking, can the base station hop on a wireless network, not extend it (sending out a wireless signal and diluting the signal), and serve as a print server? If so, why isn't it seeing my new wireless network?


Thank you.



Airport extreme base station
  • LaPastenague Level 7 Level 7 (32,660 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 20, 2013 3:07 PM (in response to Billv34)

    Thankyou for the Rube Goldberg reference.. that was new to me.



    The problem you currently have is kind of similar from the sound of it.


    Are you using v5.6 utility? If not please do so.


    The v6 airport utility is not good at outside of apple walled garden setups.


    If you run Mountain Lion you can still use 5.6 utility by doing the following.. not quite Rube Goldberg type trickery.


    How to load 5.6 into ML.


    1. Download 5.6 for Lion.

    Click to open the dmg but do not attempt to install the pkg.. it won't work anyway.



    2. Download and install unpkg.



    Run unpkg on the desktop.. it is very simple.. drag the AirPortUtility56.pkg file over to unpkg.. and it will create a new directory of the same name on the desktop.. drill down.. applications utilities .. there lo and behold is Airport utility 5.6 .. drag it to your main utilities directory or just run it from current location.



    You cannot uninstall 6.1 (now 6.2 if you updated) so don't try.. and you cannot or should not run them both at the same time.. so just ignore the toyland version.. the plastic hammer.. and start using 5.6.. a real tool.


    For screen shots see this post.


    You should know that you are still causing double hop network with join a wireless network.. I do not consider this to be a problem for printer but it is a big issue on hard disk connected to the AEBS.. they are slow to begin with.. and double hop wireless will reduce the speed by half.


    In "join a wireless network" apple setup turns off the ethernet ports.. so you cannot plug anything behind the AEBS to connect to the printer or hard disk.. and no direct wireless connection either.. everything is double hopped through the main router.

  • LaPastenague Level 7 Level 7 (32,660 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 20, 2013 4:16 PM (in response to Billv34)

    I am not on Mountain Lion, in fact I am not yet on Snow Leopard.


    Impressive.. you are on a v4 or v5 of the utility in that case.. and should have no issues with "Join a wireless network"


    What model exactly is the AEBS? What firmware is it running?

    wirelessmode options.png

    It actually doesn't even appear as an option in v6 utility.


    When I select join a wireless network, I can choose my modem wireless. ie non-apple network.


    Screen shot 2013-05-21 at 8.50.48 AM.png

    If the wireless from your modem is a no show.. that could be caused by a number of factors.


    1. You have selected 40mhz and the AEBS cannot connect to it.


    2. The name is wrong or security is wrong.

    Start over with a very simple name.. (if you have something complicated.. make is short, no spaces and pure alphanumeric) and no security on the main router. (This is just a test.. as soon as you can see the wireless name.. put the security back on. WPA2 AES with a 10-20 character pure alphanumeric passkey.. mix of upper lower case and numbers). 


    3. Channel is off or you put in hidden SSID.

    Certainly do not ever hide the SSID. It is useless and stops other devices from working.

    Try fixed wireless channels and test in order, 11, 6, 1 as these are the only non-overlapping channels at 2.4ghz.




    What do you mean by "double hop network?" Am I creating an extra step in the network, and if so, how else can I get my printer and disk storage on the network? I figured by not extending the network, I would be avoiding dragging the network speed down.


    Does my goal seem reasonable, at least, to separate the AEBS from its ethernet bondage?


    All packets to the AEBS go.. client--main router--AEBS Then respond.. AEBS--router--client. If the client is connected by ethernet that is fine.. but if the client is wireless connected then ...

    That is double hop wireless.. all packets are double handled.


    I think you are misunderstanding the difference between bridge and extend (repeater) wireless.


    Bridge by wireless is a single hop.. as long as the client is connected by ethernet.

    If the client connects by wireless it is always double hop..  In this mode, "join a wireless network" AEBS shuts off its wireless and ethernet. So nothing can directly connect to the AEBS (or TC) so it must connect on the wireless bridge. The Express is different.. the express does offer ethernet connection. For reasons beyond me.. what is not allowed for multiple ethernet devices is allowed on the Express.. maybe a marketing opportunity??


    So no, your goal is not reasonable.. due to Apple deciding how this is going to work for you and removing the options of repeater by WDS or universal mode unless it is to another Apple router.


    Ethernet is not a bondage.. it is fast, secure, vastly trouble free. Hugely better than that voodoo that is wireless networking. Yes, to be neat you need to pay for it to be installed in the wall properly but the end result is a network that can be trusted. Not like wireless. Which works fine with enough offerings of chicken livers to the gods of ether and suitable ceremony of shaking bones and rattles.


    Homeplug (Ethernet over Power) is another way around the installation of real ethernet. Without summing the voodoo gods. It is still not predictable.. but once installed and established tends to work without issue whereas wireless is gremlin driven.

  • LaPastenague Level 7 Level 7 (32,660 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 21, 2013 2:58 PM (in response to Billv34)


    I'm not sure I understand the bridge method, because when you say "bridge by wireless" with ethernet to the client (my computer, I assume), I don't think I can get into bridge mode with the ethernet not attached to the AEBS. It seems like the AEBS can only be unattached to the modem in "join" mode. Here are some related questions....


    I was trying to give the general principle.. but I did also tell you the AEBS is a device that is hamstrung by Apple.. as soon as you enter "join a wireless network" it is a pure client to the network.. utterly useless as a network component.


    I am wondering actually what is joined to what in your working layout.

    Put up some screen shots of the present setup. Look at the info you can get out of the airport utility. 


    eg. Go to the logging of the airport utility and have a look at the connections from express and the AEBS.






    A. Your point about double-hopping versus using an ethernet cable is well-taken. I will either move my cabling around the house and move the cable modem, or move the ethernet cable around the house. However, as noted above, the client computer will not be connected by ethernet to the AEBS (i'd like to wander with it). The AEBS will be connected by ethernet to the modem, as it is now. Will I still be double hopping, with just one step in the hops over wireless rather than two?


    A1. If I am in bridge mode, with the ethernet cable connecting the AEBS and modem, and thus sending out a wireless signal from my base station that I don't need, will that reduce the wifi strength from the network?


    B. Will joining the airport express to the network rather than in "client" mode have any adverse effects, if those modes are indeed different?


    C. How do I get back to bridge mode from the "join" configuration on the AEBS, should I decide to revert?


    I really appreciate the time your time --



    A. No double hop.. if the modem... ethernet .. AEBS.. wireless .. Client.

    Just count them.. anytime you have a wireless bridge then you start down the double hop track.

    Use ping.. open a terminal and type in ping then IP of the modem.. and see how long it takes to get packets back.. the more hops the longer it takes. Do a speed test.


    A1. I am not 100% understanding the question here. If you mean,, you have wireless from modem.. plus wireless from the AEBS that is no problem.. You setup roaming network. Same ssid same security/password.. different channels.. wireless has multiple channels to differentiate different AP units.. read the apple document.


    You are doing this with a mixture of apple and non-apple routers but that is irrelevant.

    The only difference I would make is having both on fixed wireless channels. For 2.4ghz there are only 3 non-overlapping channels, 1, 6, 11 all the rest interfere with each other. So set one router to 1 and the other to 11. Easy. 5ghz has more channels but range is so poor it is less of an issue. 


    B. The Express should be extended from the TC in this case. Use the Apple Extend wireless.. not Join wireless.

    Again read the apple docos.


    C. Ahh.. good question.. you need to reset the TC.. join is a really hard thing to get out of. Just do factory reset.

    Read the reset documents.


    Read the docos.. then you will be as smart as me!!


    Well after you play around a bit.. i am not that smart.. it is just I am used to playing.

    Read the docos.. then play.. when something goes wrong.. reset and start over. It is no big deal.. you cannot harm anything.

    Learn in a scientific play method.. (Called experiments instead of play, write down layout and settings and results of each experiment).. as opposed to kids play. But people are scared I will mess up and make a mistake.. and everything will be dead.. no.. you just hit reset and start over.. that is how you learn. Do it .. just do it.

  • LaPastenague Level 7 Level 7 (32,660 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 22, 2013 2:15 PM (in response to Billv34)

    I have no wireless clients on the AEBS -- they are all on the new comcast network supplied by the modem/router, to which the AEBS is a bridge, connected by ethernet.


    You will find the laptop works better on the AEBS wireless generally.. that is why you still should use it.


    Access to the AEBS via the comcast is fine.. you are ethernet linked from the comcast to AEBS.. but you are losing the better wireless device. Apple stuff is deliberately created with slow speed on 2.4ghz.. anytime you can be near the AEBS and use 5ghz it is double the speed.. That does make a difference for copying files to a hard disk.. it also reduces the wireless load on the comcast. Remember wireless is single channel half duplex.. unable to handle more than one device at once. Ethernet is mulitchannel duplex. Far superior. But by splitting wireless loads you are helping both devices.


    Should I match the AEBS SSID and password to the comcast router SSID and password?


    Yes, I said it still applies to your situation.. even though you have mix of apple and non-apple router. Roaming network setup is way to go.

    All SSID should be short, no spaces and pure alphanumeric. Following the comcast is fine. Use WPA2 AES in that one = WPA2 Personal in the TC.

    Only difference as I said to the apple article is using fixed wireless channels. Since two devices set to auto is not imho a great idea.


    Create a wireless network is the only way wireless will work.. in this setup. If you extend or join you are back into hopping.


    Also, this KB article suggests that for my purposes, my express should join the network and not extend it since it is merely used to connect to my stereo for airtunes.


    That one is outside my "scientific" experiments.. use your own. This is a few minutes of adjusting settings. Extend is always as far as I can see the right way to go. Why join would be superior in this case, no idea. Try it.. old engineering method.. suck and see.


    My main concern throughout has been to minimize the signal loss that could occur through the existence of multiple routers on the network.


    Just use fixed wireless channels.. set to one of the three non-overlapping.. 1, 6, 11 and you can run three devices without issues.


    It seems that by connecting the AEBS by ethernet to the router (even though it creates a new, unused network), I won't lose signal.


    Correct because you set one to channel 6 and one to channel 11.. for example.


    It also seems from reading the internet that I will lose signal merely by having the express out there -- perhaps by keeping it in client mode it won't.


    I think you are not following .. there is no loss of signal.. the two devices are locked to each other. They have to be on the same channel to talk to each other.. but they cannot talk at the same time. And there is no information passed if they both listen at the same time. That means only one can talk.. the other listens. As soon as you introduce two wireless devices linked together.. if any device then connects wirelessly then you have double hop. It doesn't reduce the signal.. it halves the speed.


    Think in pictures..




    Router 1 (comcast channel 1) ---- wireless client.


    Router 2 (AEBS channel 11) ---- wireless client.


    Router1 and Router2 can both handle a wireless client.. they can both send full wireless speed info to each wireless client at the same time. Because they are linked by ethernet there is no slow down.





    Router 1 (comcast channel 1) ---- wireless client1

                                                 ---- wireless client2


    Now you have two devices on the same wireless .. they share the bandwidth because wireless is not able to do multiple clients at once... it talks to wireless client 1 and then client 2.. each gets a time slice. Say 50% each so half the speed of example above.





    Router 1 (comcast channel 1) ---- wireless AEBS--- wireless client 1 and 2.


    Now you have two devices on the same wireless.. but the speed is half again. So 25% of the first case. Actually worse than that because wireless is inefficient at handling this scenario.


    There is no reduction in signal.. indeed you might do this setup to get good signal to a far location in the house. But every packet is now double handled.

    It goes like this..

    wireless 1 Tx packet to AEBS

    AEBS Tx packet to Comcast.

    Comcast Tx return ACK packet to AEBS.

    AEBS Tx return ACK packet to Client 1.


    Then wireless client 2 gets a turn.

    Same deal.

  • LaPastenague Level 7 Level 7 (32,660 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    May 22, 2013 3:32 PM (in response to Billv34)

    A Mac will automagically choose the band with the highest speed..


    See Bob's post here.


    He is very clued up in the wireless area.. and you can ask for him to post as well. We do try and not post over each other as that just confuses things. (as if we didn't have enough confusion, different opinions make it that much harder).


    Still and all, I am less sanguine about the AUTO abilities of wireless.. it is simple.. trivial even to change the name of the SSID for 5ghz.




    Click on the Wireless Network Options.

    Screen shot 2013-05-23 at 8.29.08 AM.png

    Change the name of the 5ghz.. voila.. done.. hard wasn't it.


    Play man.. open every single page of the Airport utility.. change every single setting.. until you know them all.. write them down.. take a screen shot and name them. In no time you will know more than the average Apple technician.


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