AirTunes and WDS

Earlier this year I decided that my home did not have enough Apple products, that my network and home data center design was not stable, and that my cable bill was too high.

I decided that I wanted better range on my wireless home network, backup solution that worked without much work from me, and a home entertainment system that allowed me to enjoy music and movies from anywhere in the home on any device.

Some of the pieces are starting to fall into place. In April, I purchase Time Capsule (TC), Apple's simple but effective combination of a Wireless Access Point (WAP) and a Network Attached Storage ( NAS ). I already had a NAS that I setup by installing BSD based FreeNAS on an old Dell Dimension. That setup works ( it works so well that I sometimes forget it's there ) but I wanted something that offered automatic backup. So for about $300, I bought a Time Capsule from Apple that provides me with both. With Time Machine running on both my Macs things just work.

One of the problems I have in my house is that the cable company installed the cable router/VOIP gateway in my basement. This was the easiest place to put the device since it provided a juncture to attach the cable telephone service to the phone wiring in my home. Unfortunately it is also where I have to place the Time Capsule to easily plug it into the cable router. The Time Capsule is off to the far end of the basement so the far end of the second floor of the house gets a very weak signal. My wife kept complaining that she could not get a signal from her laptop and the kids could not get onto Webkinz.

This problem existed before I bought Time Capsule. Earlier this year I tried solving the problem with power-line networking but that solution did not work at all for me. Once I had Time Capsule I learned about Wireless Distribution System (WDS).

A Wireless Distribution System is a system that enables the wireless interconnection of access points in an IEEE 802.11 network. -- via

I was hoping to use my old Linksys WRT54G WAP to go this but then I remembered Apple's AirPort Express (AX). AirPort Express is a WAP that is perfect for frequent travelers or someone with a very simple home network with just a few computers. It is designed like a MacBook power-brick and includes two very interesting features. One of these allows the AirPort Express to extend the range of an existing wireless network using WDS. The other enables the streaming of music from any computer (Mac or PC) running iTunes to the AirPort Express. The Express has an audio jack into which one can plug in any stereo or powered speakers in your home.

I found and 802.11g AirPort Express on eBay that was gently used ( the previous owner had just bought it before Apple debuted the newer 802.11n model ). Within an hour I had extended the range of my network with the AX and the TC in a WDS configuration. Yesterday while eating dinner the family listened to our favorite music send over the network from my Mac mini. Now how cool is that!!

Author: Khürt Williams

A human who works in information security and enjoys photography, Formula 1 and craft ale.