AirPort alternatives

Introduction

Farallon introduced the SkyLine range of wireless products before Apple introduced the AirPort. The latest additions to the range include a PCI card and NetLine, a broadband gateway that also acts as a wireless hub. The AirPort is as an Apple product, and is extremely simple to use. The SkyLine is a little less straightforward, but no big deal. The instructions are clear and helpful, so anybody who can connect a normal network should have no trouble setting up a wireless one. However, unlike AirPort, SkyLine doesn’t do communicate using AppleTalk. It offers communications over IP only – though AppleTalk over IP is fine, normal AppleTalk isn’t supported. Where SkyLine really comes into its own is when you connect to the NetLine Wireless Broadband Gateway. This connects to an ADSL or cable connection, and lets you connect to it wirelessly. BT’s ADSL connection doesn’t let you use the Farallon box as the broadband gateway, but you can still use it with the ethernet version. You simply connect the NetLine box to your machine to set the IP address, then hook it up to the BT router. I tried the whole setup running a Power Mac G4 466, a PowerBook G3 and an older PowerMac 7500. The G4 was connected with ethernet, and the other two machines were using SkyLine cards. The NetLine WBG lets you connect as many SkyLine or AirPort cards as you like – though the bandwidth will suffer if too many people are sending big files. But, it’s no big deal to add another NetLine WBG. Pre-AirPort-ready desktop Macs can now take advantage of the SkyLine PC card by using the new PCI adaptor. You add the PCI card, which then provides a slot for the SkyLine card. Before this, I was sceptical of the usefulness of making a desktop Mac wireless. However, the speed has improved and the price has fallen enough to make it worthwhile. Considering the cost of professional custom cabling, wireless is becoming more attractive the cheaper it gets.
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