AirPort menu extra and base stations with built-in modems: No ‘Connect’/’Disconnect’ option for some

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
January 16th, 2006 • 3:04 pm

The other day, I had to set up a new iMac G5 with an AirPort Extreme base station for a friend. The friend is still on dial-up and I therefore had to use the built-in modem in the AirPort Extreme base station for his Internet connection.

In other words, this friend has the exact same set-up as mine, except that he has an AirPort Extreme base station, whereas I only have one of the old “Graphite” base stations.

I expected to find that, just like on my computer, the AirPort menu extra on his computer did not have a menu command to connect or disconnect the built-in modem, and that the only option, just like it is on my computer, would be to open the Internet Connect application and use the “Connect”/“Disconnect” button in that application instead.

Much to my surprise, however, after I had set things up, I saw that the AirPort menu extra on his machine did have a menu command to connect/disconnect the built-in modem in the AirPort Extreme base station. It was in a sub-menu accessible from the main AirPort menu, but it was definitely there.

Yet it is definitely not there in my AirPort menu. Why the difference?

The only explanation that I can see is that he has an AirPort Extreme base station, whereas I only have an old regular AirPort base station. Yet why should there be any difference? Both our base stations have a built-in modem, and in both cases Mac OS X is able to communicate with the base station to connect/disconnect the modem.

Why does my friend have the option to connect/disconnect the modem from the AirPort menu, when I don’t have it and have to open the Internet Connect application instead in order to do the same thing?

I guess it’s just one of those things that Apple never bothered to do properly for everyone. I seem to remember that, once upon a time, there was indeed a “Connect”/“Disconnect” command in my AirPort menu too. Then at some stage it disappeared, and never returned. All that time I thought that it had disappeared for everyone.

Now that I have had the opportunity to set up an AirPort Extreme base station with a built-in modem for someone else, I know that this is not the case, and that the option is there for some users and not for others, depending on what hardware they are using.

The thing is, the hardware I am using is still Apple hardware. It’s just an older flavour. Is it too much to expect Apple to continue to support its own old hardware? I have absolutely no incentive to replace my trusty old Graphite base station with a new Apple Extreme model as long as I am stuck with a dial-up connection.

But this is not the first time that Apple has been guilty of prematurely dropping support for older hardware, even when that hardware is still perfectly good and compatible with today’s technology.

For example, some time ago Apple also eliminated the ability to create roaming networks with a pair of old Graphite base stations connected to each other with an Ethernet cable when the Internet connection is a dial-up connection. (It presumably still works with other types of Internet connections, but I can no longer get it to work with dial-up, because the AirPort software requires a static IP address, and of course I can’t get one with dial-up.)

I submitted this as a bug report to Apple a long time ago, and they did indeed get back to me, asking for more information. I even sent them a diagram of my network setup. They never fixed this problem. And it used to work just fine with older versions of Mac OS X and the AirPort software!

So here again we have a situation where Apple, through software updates, eliminated features that used to work just fine with older hardware, without explanation or justification. It’s the same situation as with the AirPort menu extra—although, admittedly, the AirPort menu extra thing is a much smaller inconvenience.

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