apple airport wireless question

I am a fairly proficient casual wireless user but most certainly not an expert and could really use anyones help.

My daughter is in college this fall and living in a cooperative house. It is three stories tall, brick and mortar construction.

They have cable internet access and a network was set up a couple of years ago by some well meaning amateurs (ie. college students). They did a good job, looks professional, but now it is acting up. And they are long gone.

The cable modem is connected to a Lindsys wireless router. One of the wired internet ports on the Linksys is connected to a professional hub which then distributes the signal via ethernet cables to many of the rooms. This wired portion of the network seems to work fine all the time.

They used Apple's Airport wireless system to broadcast the internet across the entire house and it used to work well. This is where I need help as I have never worked with the Apple system.

On the first floor, where the cable modem and router are located, one of the Airport base stations is connected to electrical power and via an ethernet cable to the Linksys router. There are three green lights on the Apple: the left one blinks, the center is on, and the right one blinks. Everyone seems to be able to connect to this unit. I have a dell wireless PDA and I can walk around the house and get a GOOD signal on the first two floors from this unit, and a GOOD signal over a lot of the third floor. There are some dead spots (to be expected) on the third floor.

On both the second and third floors, there are additional Apple Airport units. They are plugged into electrical power, but do not have an ethernet connection. I assume they are acting as repeaters? The left green light blinks on both units, and the center light is on, but the right light is off.

When I get near them with my wireless PDA monitor, it correctly identifies the unit, but always says the signal is poor...even if I am

2 foot away from them. Is this normal? It seems like no one is connecting to the 2nd and 3rd floor units. If I depower them, everyone still has internet access (from the first floor unit, my PDA monitor shows the 2nd and 3rd floor units going offline). But if I power them up again, no one seems to connect to them....the signal is always poor. As I walk towards the 3rd floor Airport unit, I finally lose the 1st floors signal, but I never get a good enough signal from the 3rd floor unit (located 10 feet away in clear sight) to make an internet connection.

Every once in a while the 1st floor unit malfunctions, and we have to depower it, and repower it to make it work. This happens about twice per week. When that happens, everyone loses wireless access, although the wired ports still function.

To make a long story short, here are my questions...

  1. Is the first floor unit failing? And is there any way to test it, or should I install a new one.
  2. Are the 2nd and 3rd floor units actually doing anythng? Is there any way to check? Should I replace the 1st floor unit with one of the others?

Any suggestions you can provide will be appreciated by both myself, and

40 college students connected to the internet.

Thanks in advance


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To check the configuration of the Apple units, you'll need Apple's AirPort Admin Utility, available through Apple's AirPort support page . I suggest you also download the latest Designing AirPort Networks manual and Setup Guide.

If the lights are green, these are old (not 802.11g, or "Extreme") base stations and really ought to be replaced with something newer. The status lights on Extreme base stations are white. The left one indicates wireless and the right one wired LAN activity.

Base stations older than the Extreme are not capable of functioning as WDS repeaters. So if those lights are green, they aren't providing any Internet connectivity without an Ethernet connection to the router. If that's the case, I suspect that they were originally part of a roaming setup and that somebody later "borrowed" their Ethernet cables, effectively turning them into electronic lava lamps. In that case, you might as well unplug them: in their current state, they're just putting out RF pollution.

If they are Extreme (white light) base stations, they might have been part of a WDS setup, with the second floor unit relaying to and from the third floor unit. This would allow all three units to provide Internet connectivity to wireless clients on their respective floors, but it would have been horribly slow, especially with 40 clients.

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Neill Massello


As I go back and look at the units, the lights are white-ish blue, and they ARE Extreme units. Do you have any idea why the two on the upper floors don't seem to function well (even though the lights work). Like I said, if I depower either or both of the upstairs units, it doesn't effect the system performance. Everyones wireless still works, the dead spots stay dead, and no new dead spots appear. And if they are powered, I never get a signal from either better than POOR.

I have no idea why the 1st floor unit is freezing up either. I assume these units are interchangable? I might try swapping floor #1 and #3 and see if that affects performance.

The 2nd and 3rd floor units are right next to a live, wired ethernet jack. Should I try hard wiring these units to the router? It would be real easy to do that.

Thanks for you help and/or any other suggestions you might have.


Neill Massello wrote:

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Swapping units without knowing how each is configured may cause trouble for current users. That's why you need to download Apple's AirPort Admin Utility and use it to check their configurations.

Once you've configured the base stations for roaming, as described in Chapter 4 of Apple's "Designing AirPort Networks" handbook , you'll want to connect them to the router via each one's LAN Ethernet port.

Reply to
Neill Massello

I will give it a shot.....thanks for the help and advice.


Neill Massello wrote:

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