Airport Extreme is a big disappointment. Or, (10?) Things I Hate About Apple

Posted by max on October 05, 2007

I bought the elegant little Apple Airport Extreme back in the summer. Network disk (pseudo-NAS) support! Printer sharing! Fantastic! Besides the fact that our last wireless router was puking to death again (why does that always happen to us after <2 years? Do I emit gamma rays from my head?), I was excited to enable USB printer networking and shared network drives.

Only in both cases, they don't work. At least not in a way that is useful to me.

1) Printer sharing

There are two defects here: one design, one implementation. After trying to figure out why I couldn't do anything that my fancy-ass new multifunction printer that Canon sells as a loss leader for its pricey ink cartridges, I discovered that it it normal that non-printing functions don’t work unless the unit is directly connected to the computer. Networks are for printing only. No scanning, no ink maintenance fancy stuff, just printing. That’s the design problem, and it’s a major bummer, but it wasn’t a deal killer. (OK, well, nothing was a deal killer; I bought the damn thing.)

Nope, what ended network printer sharing for me was that the shared network printer would periodically disappear or otherwise become unavailable for users on the network. Had to delete the printer and re-add it, or at the very least power down the router and printer and power up again. That’s crap. So now the way I provide reliable-ish network sharing is to connect it directly to my computer and share it as a network printer.

That’s crap.

Grade: F. I would blame Canon, because they make great hardware and execrable software, but I had a similar problem with my old HP Laserjet 6MP printer.

2) Drive sharing

I finally got my ass in gear and moved my old 250GB USB drive from my slowly-decommissioning Windows machine onto the Airport Extreme. After many slow reboots of the router (yeah, any change requires a reboot; couldn’t it at least boot faster, damnit?! I’m not even getting a DHCP lease from my ISP — it’s static.), I discover that the Airport Extreme is unable to share NTFS volumes. Well, that’s not so multi-platform, now, is it? FAT32 is insecure and doesn’t work for big volumes, say, any hard drive created after about 1998. HFS+ would have been an option if this drive were originally on a Mac, but it wasn’t. So my best options are:

  • Copy all of the data off the drive and reformat to HFS+; remount on the Airport Extreme after getting their wonky SMB networking
  • Abandon the project, as the USB drive is already 5 years old and isn’t worth spending a lot of time monkeying with

Guess which one I picked?

Grade: D+. You’ll note that the spec sheet mentions nothing about not supporting NTFS. I’d like to blame M$ for that one, but there are plenty of NAS vendors that offer NTFS support.

While I’m at it, let me complain about Apple file sharing. You seem to be able to choose between a yucky slow SMB implementation and AFP (which does appear to be much faster, at least for authenticating). I have grown frustrated with both and am now very, very happily using instead sshfs, which is great both on the LAN and across the Internet. Too bad ‘Doze doesn’t support user-space filesystems; so no sshfs for Windows.

(To run SSHFS, I use Google’s MacFUSE project and their SSHFS executable. I don’t remember exactly why, but the MacFusion GUI doesn’t work on my machine.)

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    1. hgs Fri, 05 Oct 2007 12:30:41 UTC

      From a position of “mostly ignorance”, I see that HFS+ is supported by parted, with which Knoppix comes. Given the common usage of Knoppix is handling damaged systems when
      they can only boot from the CD, I wonder if Knoppix on some arbitrary PC can read the old disk, format the new one to HFS+,
      and get the data across for you. Have I ever done this? No. But all the stuff I see on Knoppix is about this sort of thing, so hopefully you won’t need to read a shelf of manuals to do it.

    2. max Fri, 05 Oct 2007 13:12:28 UTC

      Well, since I also have an OS X machine, that wouldn’t be necessary — but I would need to find a place to dump 200GB of data onto first, which I don’t have. I’ll live with what I’ve got for now, and some day I’ll add a new drive to the AirPort, probably.

      Thanks for the ideas, though.

    3. Ray Tibbitts Fri, 07 Dec 2007 15:03:06 UTC

      tell me about it!

    4. ntfs airport - Eniro Sun, 04 May 2008 08:30:28 UTC

      Kramer auto Pingback[...] Airport Extreme is a big disappointment. Or, (10?) Things I Hate … [...]

    5. playfans Fri, 07 May 2010 15:31:57 UTC

      Hey. I dunno if you are still reading the answers for this article. But, HFS+ partition are recognized by windows when they are connected to the AEBS (you may have to install Airport software on your pc first). The software tricks your pc into thinking it is a FAT32 drive, but without the 4GB file limitation (which is kinda cool). Also, FAT32 is not limited to 30GB. On certain systems (MACOSX if I remember well, and maybe recent distros of linux), they support much more (maybe unlimited, my 1TB drive is in FAT32). Windows is still using the old method which only allows you to format in NTFS..

      I really enjoy my AEBS. For your printing problems, you should’ve bought a printer with Wifi built in. If not (to me), the only thing you’ll be able to do is printing, with every router.