AirPort signal dropouts in Panther: Interesting report at

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 31st, 2004 • 5:05 am

Yesterday’s batch of reports at 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 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.

5 Responses to “AirPort signal dropouts in Panther: Interesting report at”

  1. Matt says:

    AirPort Update 3.4.2 released yesterday, it’s firmware for the card so let’s hope it tackles this. I’ve started experiencing drop-outs too. It’s really frustrating.

    Love the blog, can’t believe how many bugs you find in Office!


  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Thanks for the tip, an update called “AirPort Card Update 2004-08-31” does indeed show up in my Software Update (it’s actually numbered 3.4.3), and I am downloading it as we speak. Only mentions improved performance in mixed environments, but who knows…

  3. Radardan says:

    I’ve experienced these drop outs on Jaguar and Panther on various machines and NOTHING comparable on any other Windoze machine (altho XP is a pain in the a** for wireless connectivity). I tried replacing Airport cards on some machines to no avail. Since the problem was intermittent and variable, I tried heat mitigation to no avail. One computer would work ok but one sitting right next to it wouldn’t showing that it wasn’t the access point.

    And, in troubleshooting, I’ve noticed that some sort of Ethernet hijinks is often involved since sometimes the Mac seem to connect wirelessly using its wired MAC and then do some sort of shuffle to connect via the wireless MAC.

    But definately in “mixed” environements there are often problems, especially if the access point uses one of those propreitary speed boost schemes to connect to the same vendors cards. This must be shut off in the access point.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Radardan: Try the latest AirPort Card Firmware update. It appears to have fixed things for some people at least.

  5. Matt says:

    “Thanks for the tip, an update called ?AirPort Card Update 2004-08-31? does indeed show up in my Software Update (it?s actually numbered 3.4.3)”

    Yeah sorry about that, I realised just as I posted. Previously, MSN would keep telling me my connection to the internet had been lost when AirPort dropped out. This hasn’t happened so far since the update, touch wood. It still sometimes falls completely dead however. Baby steps.


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