O'Grady's PowerPage » wireless

Growing number of users cite Wi-Fi connectivity issues with 802.11ac-equipped MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Friday, June 21st, 2013, 05:15
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software, wireless

To be fair, this is what they invented firmware updates for.

Per Gizmodo, some early adopters of Apple’s latest MacBook Air models have found their new thin-and-light notebook will unexpectedly and repeatedly drop its wireless connection.

A growing discussion thread on the Apple Support Communities website details the connectivity problems being experienced by numerous users. The problems appear to apply to both the 11- and 13-inch varieties of the recently updated notebook lineup.

In addition, an anonymous source from an Apple retail store in London said that their store has had complaints about wireless connectivity for the new MacBook Airs that are “well above average.”

In the thread, users say they’re experiencing the problems across a range of routers, including Apple’s own AirPort accessories. Users say they can initially connect to a Wi-Fi network, but that connection will drop after a short period of use.

At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be an available solution that addresses the problems seen by all users, though some have had success with various routers or even different placement of the MacBook Air.

The updated MacBook Air lineup launched last week at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. In addition to faster 802.11ac connectivity, the notebooks also feature Intel’s latest Haswell processors, helping to enable battery life as great as 12 hours.

The new MacBook Airs are also priced US$100 less than their predecessors, with the new low-end US$999 11-inch model packing 128 gigabytes of flash storage.

If you’ve picked up the new MacBook Air and noticed any issues with Wi-Fi connectivity, please let us know in the comments.

AT&T updates carrier settings, pushes Wireless Emergency Alerts

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, 07:39
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software, wireless


This was a weird thing that popped up, but it’s hard to argue with the Emergency Alert System.

Per The Mac Observer, wireless carrier AT&T began pushing an update to iPhone users over the weekend that adds support for Wireless Emergency Alerts. The WEA system sends text messages to smartphone owners alerting them to physical threats like earthquakes and tornados, man-made disasters, AMBER Alerts, and Presidential alerts.


The update is being pushed to the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5, and doesn’t require any action on the user’s part since it’s delivered over the air. Once installed, alerts will appear as special text messages and are delivered based on your location. For example, if an AMBER alert is issued for a missing child and you’re in the same city, you’ll see the notification.

The update is free, and since it’s a carrier-supplied update, it won’t appear in iOS 6’s built-in Software Update feature.

Sprint adds 4G LTE access to 22 additional U.S. cities

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, June 18th, 2013, 06:48
Category: iPhone, News, wireless

The Sprint network grows.

And that’s generally not a bad thing.

Per iMore, wireless carrier Sprint has announced a major expansion of its LTE rollout, adding coverage to 22 more cities today, bringing the number of markets with access to Sprint’s high-speed network up to 110. The new cities are as follows according to the company’s press release:
– Baton Rouge, La.

– Centralia, Wash.

– Clarksville, Tenn.

– Corsicana, Texas

– Dalton, Ga.

– Dunn, N.C.

– Fond du Lac, Wis.

– Gainesville, Fla.

– Henderson, N.C.

– Kingsport, Tenn.

– Lansing/East Lansing, Mich.

– Longview, Wash.

– Miami, Fl.

– Napa, Calif.

– New Orleans, La.

– Palatka, Fla.

– Raleigh, N.C.

– Sebring, Fla.

– St. Cloud, Minn.

– St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, Mich.

– Tampa, Fla.

– Warsaw, Ind.

An additional 13 cities, including Ann Arbor, Laredo, and Corpus Christi, are scheduled to receive coverage “in the coming months”. Sprint stated that their LTE network would be available to 200 million people by the end of 2013, a number mostly theoretical, as many of them would undoubtedly be customers of Sprints competition. The expansion shows that Sprint is serious about their LTE rollout, no matter who may buy the company.

If you’re in these new expansion areas and have Sprint as your wireless carrier, please let us know about the performance in the comments.

European Union to remove roaming fees starting July 2014

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 14th, 2013, 06:32
Category: News, wireless


Next summer will be a good time to wander through Europe.

Per The Telegraph, for anyone traveling to Europe next year, as of next July 2014, you’ll pay the same rate for calls and data when travelling within Europe as you do at home.

Consumers will next year be able to use their mobile phones across the European Union for the same price as at home, it is planned, after officials voted to fast-track major reforms of telecoms regulation.

Roaming fees for voice calls, texts and internet access will effectively be completely scrapped under the proposals, which are part of a broader effort to create a single European telecoms market.

Roaming fees can often be extortionate, with call fees of over £1 (US$1.56) per minute, and data charges which can easily rack up hundreds of pounds for quite ordinary usage. The banning of roaming fees applies only for European customers: customers from the USA and other countries will still pay roaming charges when visiting Europe.

The EU estimates that carriers will initially see a 2 percent drop in revenue, but expect it to benefit them in the longer term by encouraging greater use of mobiles while traveling and by making it possible for networks to attract customers across borders.

iFixit completes teardown of 802.11ac AirPort Extreme, finds space for drive bracket among changes

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Date: Thursday, June 13th, 2013, 06:32
Category: Hardware, News, wireless

The new 802.11ac AirPort Extreme is out and, continuing a long and fine tradition, iFixit tore the sucker apart without a moment’s hesitation.

Per CNET and the official iFixit teardown page, the new tower-like router arrives with a bracket that can easily house a hard drive, but appears to be just large enough to perfectly accept a 3.5-inch hard drive and hold it at a diagonal.


Unfortunately there are no connections (or space for them) in the system, so while there may be similar Time Capsule devices based on this design, iFixIt claims it will likely be very difficult (if not impossible) to modify an AirPort Extreme to be a Time Capsule.

On the sides of the drive bracket are two circuit boards that hold the power supply and logic board, containing 4GB of synchronous DRAM, 32MB of serial flash memory, and a Broadcom router controller. These components are encased in heat sinks and thermal venting, with a small fan to provide active cooling.


The innards are connected by six contacts to a flat, square antenna that is perched at the top of the tower and is the size of the end of the unit. Oddly, this deviates from Apple’s explanation at the WWDC keynote that the elongated design was to house the antennas and beam data from the sides. Instead, it’s evident that the beaming happens from the top of the unit.

Regarding repairability, iFixIt rates the new AirPort Extreme fairly well with a score of 8 out of 10. The reasoning for this is its modular design, lack of proprietary fasteners, and lack of glued components, making it easy to disassemble. Of course getting to the innards required a bit of prying, and some fasteners are small and delicate, so iFixIt settled on an overall rating of 8.

If you’ve picked up the newest AirPort Extreme router and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases AirPort Utility 6.3, AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.7.1, adds support for 802.11ac AirPort Extreme units, bug fixes

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Date: Tuesday, June 11th, 2013, 06:56
Category: News, Software, wireless


OS X’s Software Update feature is your friend.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple released updates for the Mac, iPhone and iPad versions of AirPort Utility late on Monday following the release of the redesigned 802.11ac-compatible AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule Basestations. The update added support for the new wireless network routers.

AirPort Utility 6.3, a 20.64 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:
– The ability to extend the Guest Wi-Fi network on a network that is configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

– The ability to add a WPS-capable Wi-Fi printer.

– Improved international support.

AirPort Utility 6.3 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.5 or later to install and run.

AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.7.1, a 4.6 megabyte download via Software Update, adds the following fixes and changes:
– Update for AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule base stations with 802.11ac.

– Resolves a rare issue that may cause the hard drive in AirPort Time Capsule or a hard drive connected via USB to become unresponsive.

AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.7.1 requires and Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new versions and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple receives patent for “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless


Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ‘601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule Firmware Update 7.6.3

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 08:42
Category: News, Software, wireless


You can’t knock a decent networking update.

On Friday, Apple released its AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.6.3 firmware updates. The updates, which are available for all 802.11n AirPort Express, 802.11n AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models, include the following fixes and changes:

– Extend the Guest Wi-Fi network for a network configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

– Ability to add a WPS capable Wi-Fi printer.

– Support for additional countries.

It is recommended that AirPort Utility 5.6 or later be installed before updating to Firmware version 7.6.3.

The updates can be located and installed via AirPort Utility’s update feature and require an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new firmware and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Wireless handset unlocking becomes illegal in U.S. without carrier permission

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Date: Monday, January 28th, 2013, 08:45
Category: iPhone, Legal, wireless

Well, here’s the thing that’ll drive you nuts today.

Per Electronista and TechCrunch, phone unlocking without carrier permission is now illegal in the United States. A 90-day transition period, permitting the practice after an exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was reversed in October, has now run out. The expiration of the exemption now forces customers to either ask and potentially pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand.

The exemption was put in place after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2010. Three exemptions were applied for, including making jailbreaking legal and the renewal of an existing exemption that permitted phone unlocking. In October, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress reviewed and then overturned the unlocking exemption, citing the relative ease for consumers to either get an unlocked handset or to unlock a phone through a carrier. A 90-day transition period was then put in place, which has since ran out.

Penalties for unlocking, as outlined by CTIA, range from the carrier’s “actual damages and any additional profits of the violator”, to a court-awarded statutory damages of between US$200 and US$2500 per individual unlock, on the Civil Penalties side. Criminal penalties would see violators fined at most US$500,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both, for a first offense, with the values doubled for subsequent offenses.

In light of the unlocking exemption’s closure, a “We The People” petition asking for the Librarian of Congress to rescind the decision or to make unlocking permanently legal, has gathered over 25,000 signatures.

Jailbreaking and rooting of smartphones continues to be legal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts job openings for 802.11ac engineers

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Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 08:37
Category: Hardware, News, wireless


Apple’s looking to bring the 802.11ac protocol to the Mac this year.

Now it just needs the people to do it.

Per AppleBitch, a new job listing by the company advertises a position for engineers experienced with Gigabit Wi-Fi.

The mention of 802.11ac comes from a new job posting listed by the company on Sunday, first highlighted by AppleBitch. The role of “System Test Engineer” will be based at Apple’s corporate Campus in Cupertino, Calif., and focuses on Wi-Fi connectivity.

In the job listing, Apple notes that the position requires “technical knowledge” of the Wi-Fi standard in all forms, including the next-generation 802.11ac. The ideal candidate will include “experience on consumer-facing hardware/software products.”

The new job posting comes only days after a rumor surfaced claiming that Apple plans to add Gigabit Wi-Fi to its 2013 Mac lineup. The so-called “5G Wi-Fi” standard offers up to 1.3Gbps data transfers with a three-antenna design.

Current Macs and other Apple devices feature 802.11n networking, the current industry standard for Wi-Fi. That allows transfers of up to 450Mbps with three antennas — a feat that 802.11ac can accomplish with just one antenna.

Apple is rumored to have struck a deal with Broadcom to potentially debut 802.11ac in this year’s Macs. The Broadcom chips reportedly remain in development and are not yet available to use.

Apple has a history of being on the cutting edge with Wi-Fi — it was among the first to bring Wi-Fi to the masses in 1999, while Apple secretly included support for the “Draft-N” specification in some of its devices in 2006 before the 802.11n standard was officially ratified.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.