Dane. Designer.

Old Blog

A Joyous Microcosm

Or how I learned to stop worrying, and love Apple’s Time Capsule. Which, with the purpose of having you empathize with the effort it took to finally find a solution to my Time Capsule woes—a device I bought to rid us of previous problems, not to cause us new ones—requires a break down of our rather intricate home network setup.

A Time Capsule

Coming into the house we have a 20mbit tube, the router of which acts as a DHCP server and then goes directly into the 500GB Time Capsule under the TV, which is the backbone for the tethered part of the network as well as network entry-point for a 250GB HDD where I mainly store my music, its internal switch hooks up to the 1TB NAS, the media center Mac Mini (Godiva) running Plex and a wire running into our bedroom—to my workstation setup—where it connects to a 1Gbit switch, which goes into an old 802.11g Airport Extreme—which is also the print-point—and my MacBook Pro (Valkyrie), when I need the speed o’ teh wire. Right next to the Time Capsule, there’s an Airport Express, tethered to the Xbox 360Which is fucked for two reasons. One, the Xbox doesn’t have bult-in wifi, and I’m not paying the price MS wants for their wifi module, so it has to be tethered. And two, the Airport Express is only there because the Time Capsule does everything except Airtunes. Gee, thanks Apple. (Xuul) and a PS3 (Glortho) on wifi. And finally there’s a second Airport Express in the kitchen, again, simply for streaming music to the speaker there. Finally, aside from the consoles and the Mac Mini, there’s a MacBook Pro, an old Powerbook (Freya) and an iPhone (Monolith), plus various other devices from time to time.

Now, here comes the interesting part. I had been having some serious problems getting my money’s worth out of the Time Capsule up until this week. Not only did it suffer bandwidth degradation over time, but Time Machine would often have problems mounting the backup sparse-image on the Time Capsule (even if it was already mounted!)Check out the support forums; they’re flooded with people suffering Time Capsule woes. And not a word from Apple. I’ve had quite a few friends ask me about it as a solution to their problems, and I haven’t been able to recommend it to them, not least because of Apple’s lack of support for this unit. Not at least I can tell them what worked for me, but that’s hardly good enough., which was concerning, as I’ve come to rely quite heavily on Time Machine keeping my stuff safe. Needless to say, I was mildly annoyed that the two things I bought the thing for, speed and backup, weren’t working as advertised.

And I had tried literally everything I could think of. At the end of the day, I had the Time Capsule set up as a WDS main unit, with the other three 802.11g airports running WDS remote. WDS being necessary for bridging the ethernet ports of the airport expresses, and it wasn’t working as intended.

I had a sneaking suspicion that the g-units were what was bringing the network down in speed, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that since I really needed the g-segment. So it took me a little while, not being a networks expert, to figure out how to go about it, but what finally saved me was this:

I dropped support for 802.11g on the Time Capsule and instead tethered the Airport Extreme to the ‘backbone’ and set it up as a WDS main on its own 802.11g wifi network, with the Express’s hooking into it as remotes. Then I ditched support for g on the Time Capsule, and created an 802.11n wireless network, and set it up as 5Ghz (wide channels), and not 2.4Ghz, which is not only where our own g network is, but also a rather crowded frequency in our neighborhood.

Both wifi networks are on the same backbone, meaning I can easily stream music from my MacBook Pro to the Airtunes ports, control the MBP from my iPhone and otherwise go back and forth exactly as I please. And it’s fast enough for me to backup, serve music and even, for hobbiest levels, manage photos wirelessly.

Awesome.