Macworld Masterclass: Fix wireless networking

Get faster and more stable network connections, with these easy-to-implement tips and tricks

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  • tsnet03 Intro
  • tsnet01 1. Wireless networking
  • tsnet02 2. Encryption protocol
  • tsnet03 3. Alternatives to AirPort
  • tsnet04 4. Fixed IP
  • tsnet05 5. Entering details
  • tsnet06 6. Network locations
  • tsnet07 7. Home and away
  • tsnet08 8. Adding host entries to OS X
  • tsnet09 9. Finding IP addresses
  • tsnet10 10. File sharing
  • tsnet11 11. Connect to Windows
  • tsnet12 12. Map a network drive
  • tsnet13 13. Use Dropbox
  • tsnet14 14. Improve sharing on iTunes
  • tsnet15 15. Use the web server
  • More stories
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Intro

Home networks, driven by WiFi, are now commonplace. Pop open your MacBook just about anywhere and AirPort is likely to detect half a dozen or more WiFi connections within immediate range. Welcome to the future. Things can sometimes still go wrong – and there are few things more frustrating than flaky WiFi. Fortunately, we know some tricks you can use to get stable, faster connections. We’ve pulled together 15 practical tips, showing you all the ways to make your Mac’s network connection work better for you.

We even explain how you can do things with your network you might have overlooked. From creating ad-hoc network connections to improving password success, it’s all here. Let’s get tweaking...

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Next Prev tsnet03

Home networks, driven by WiFi, are now commonplace. Pop open your MacBook just about anywhere and AirPort is likely to detect half a dozen or more WiFi connections within immediate range. Welcome to the future. Things can sometimes still go wrong – and there are few things more frustrating than flaky WiFi. Fortunately, we know some tricks you can use to get stable, faster connections. We’ve pulled together 15 practical tips, showing you all the ways to make your Mac’s network connection work better for you.

We even explain how you can do things with your network you might have overlooked. From creating ad-hoc network connections to improving password success, it’s all here. Let’s get tweaking...

 

Step 2 of 16: 1. Wireless networking

If your Mac is fitted with a wireless or AirPort card, it should automatically detect all WiFi connections within range – enabling you to connect to the router using a predetermined password or phrase. The stronger the connection, the more filled in waves show in the icon.

 

Step 3 of 16: 2. Encryption protocol

AirPort is usually good at detecting what password encryption protocol your router is using. If you have trouble connecting with your password, try logging in to your router configuration page (check with your ISP for instructions). In the wireless settings section, take note of the encryption protocol and apply it manually when you connect with AirPort.

 

Step 4 of 16: 3. Alternatives to AirPort

If your Mac is too old to have built-in WiFi, either find a compatible AirPort card (which can be an expensive search on eBay or similar) or use a USB WiFi dongle. We’d recommend the latter – but make sure that the device comes with drivers for your Mac, or you may have to scour the web to find them.

 

Step 5 of 16: 4. Fixed IP

You can speed up connectivity by specifying a fixed IP address. Go to System Preferences > Networking and select AirPort (or Ethernet if the connection is wired). Click Advanced then TCP/IP. Make a note of the currently assigned network settings. Choose Manually from the Configure IPv4 drop-down menu.

 

Step 6 of 16: 5. Entering details

For IP Address, Subnet Mask and Router, enter the numeric addresses you noted down at the previous stage. In the DNS section enter 8.8.8.8, 8.8.4.4 – this will use Google’s open DNS lookup service, which is faster than most ISPs. Click Apply to enjoy your new, faster and more stable settings.

 

Step 7 of 16: 6. Network locations

With a fixed IP address, you may have problems trying to access WiFi outside your home network. Network Locations enable you to create different configurations for different environments. Start in System Preferences > Network and choose Edit Locations from the Locations drop-down menu.

 

Step 8 of 16: 7. Home and away

Select the current connection then click the gear icon and choose Duplicate Location. Name this Home. Return to the Edit Locations section and click the Plus icon to add a new location. Set Configure IPv4 to Using DHCP and name this Away. Choose this to connect to other WiFi stations.

 

Step 9 of 16: 8. Adding host entries to OS X

Speed up access to favourite sites by adding them to your hosts file, so your Mac doesn’t need to look up the address online. Open the Terminal and type: sudo nano /private/etc/hostsz

 

Step 10 of 16: 9. Finding IP addresses

Go to Applications > Utilities and open Network Utility. Click the Lookup tab. You can enter the URL of any website here and it will return the IP address, along with other useful information. You can further configure what information is returned using the Select Information to Look Up menu.

 

Step 11 of 16: 10. File sharing

Want to make files on your computer accessible to other Macs on your network? You’ll need to enable File Sharing in System Preferences. Go to System Preferences > Sharing and tick the File Sharing box. While you’re there you’ll see a few other things you can enable. Let’s have a look at them.

 

Step 12 of 16: 11. Connect to Windows

Connect to Windows  If there’s a Windows share on your local network, connect by using network protocol Samba. With the focus on Finder, hit Control-K. In the dialog that appears enter smb://pcname/sharename. Replace ‘pcname’ with the PC’s network name and a shared folder name. You’ll be prompted to log in.

 

Step 13 of 16: 12. Map a network drive

The steps in the previous tip will add the Windows drive to the Finder, automatically. To make it easy to add the shared drive in the future – or, indeed, any networked resource – click the Plus icon when you’ve entered the Samba URL to add it to a list of favourite servers. If you don’t know the share name, you can leave it off. OS X should give you a list of shares.

 

Step 14 of 16: 13. Use Dropbox

Want a less nerdy way of sharing files between multiple machines on different operating systems? The free version of Dropbox offers 2GB of storage. It behaves just like a documents folder on your system, except that it automatically backs up online and is accessible on every machine on which it’s installed.

 

Step 15 of 16: 14. Improve sharing on iTunes

With iTunes 10.3 you can improve the sharing feature by going to Preferences and disabling Share my library on the local network. Next, go to the Advanced menu and choose Turn on Home Sharing. The old Share My Library feature is superceded by Home Sharing.

 

Step 16 of 16: 15. Use the web server

OS X has a built-in web server. It uses Apache HTTPD – and is ideal for sharing files or testing sites. Enable it in System Preferences > Sharing and tick Web Sharing. You can add pages to the site in /Library/WebServer/Documents and see your site at http://localhost or http://127.0.0.1.

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