As I mentioned in my review of the Airport Express, I bought it solely for the purpose of using Airtunes to stream my upstairs computer with my downstairs living room stereo. It does so flawlessly.
However, since I knew I as going on vacation I mentioned that I would bring the AE along and see about using it as a wireless network in my hotel room. I did just that, and here are my thoughts on it.
First, since there’s only one Ethernet jack at the hotel, there’s a sort of “chicken and egg” dilemma. I can’t plug the AE into the jack first because the network is not yet established (have to pay the fee and login). But if I plug the MacBook in then how do I get the AE involved?
The answer is that you’ll plug the MacBook into the AE and configure it as you need to (even though there’s no Internet to share at that point), and then plug the AE into the established Internet connection.
While I did not take extensive notes or screenshots (sue me, I was on vacation!), the process went something like this:
- Plug the MacBook into the Ethernet jack and establish the hotel’s connection. In the case of the Disney hotel this involved agreeing to their fee, and then calling the front desk to get the login code required. At this point I have high-speed Internet access, but it’s strictly terrestrial.
- Plug the MacBook into the AE and use Airport Utility to find it (via Ethernet) and configure it as a Bridge. You’re establishing a wireless network to the AE whose sole purpose is to “bridge” wirelessly whatever terrestrial network you’ll plug into it. You name the wireless network (I called it “Disney”) and establish a password, but as a Bridge it doesn’t really need any other information than that.
- Plug the AE into the Ethernet jack and use Airport Utility to find it again (this time via airport and the “Disney” network). In my case it was flashing yellow and prompted me to either create a new network or use it as a Bridge. I chose the latter and the light went green. I was in business!
This worked flawlessly for the entire week at the hotel with the MacBook, two iPhones and an iPod touch.
While this is a happy story for Apple, it’s not one for Disney. Their “high-speed” Internet was a joke. I had a great EDGE connection on the iPhones and sometimes it seemed to work as well as the WiFi did on the MacBook and iPod touch. This was not related to WiFi, since even when plugged directly into the Ethernet port the speed was the same. And Disney wanted $10 a day for this!
Back at home, I plugged the AE back into my stereo, then had to switch the MacBook to the “Disney” network (it couldn’t find it on my home network), and reconfigure it as I had done in my original review — putting it back on my home network in the process.
There was a time I lived on the road, spending more time in hotels than I did my own place. I don’t do so any more, but taking the AE on any road trip seems a no-brainer to me. I really liked the way it worked.