August 31st, 2004 • 5:05 am
Yesterday’s batch of reports at MacFixIt.com contains an interesting one about apparent AirPort signal dropouts in Panther.
Regular Betalogue readers know that I have been experiencing such dropouts on both my machines (a desktop G4 and a PowerBook G4) and that this has led me to switch to a wired Ethernet connection for my desktop G4.
I have long suspected that these signal dropouts were misleading and that there was actually nothing wrong with the AirPort signal itself. The report at MacFixIt.com seems to confirm this. a reader says that he’s been monitoring AirPort signal strength with a third-party utility and that, even when the signal disappears completely in Apple’s own AirPort status displays (the Internet Connect application and the AirPort menu extra), signal strength remains high according to the third-party utility.
This would confirm that the problem is not a hardware problem, but purely a software problem with Panther itself. I never had any such problems with AirPort under Jaguar. The problems only started after I upgraded my machines to Panther. I am deeply convinced that the AirPort flakiness in Panther is a software bug, and not a signal strength problem.
Of course, there might not be such a clear distinction between hardware and software internally in Mac OS X. Maybe the third-party utility doesn’t see a problem with the signal that Apple’s own software can see. Who knows?
Still, regardless of what the actual cause is, it’s quite discouraging to see that these AirPort problems have remained unsolved for so long. The situation is so traumatic that it has made me permanently suspicious of wireless technology. (Things were not helped by the fact that I was one of the early adopters of the original PowerBook G4 who had — and still has — to endure the machine’s abysmal AirPort performance.) I am certainly not about to spend any more money on wireless technology for my Mac.