The AirPort Express has worked as advertised — when it works. Trouble with our house is that the layout forces WiFi signal to pass through the fridge/stove and through a dense wall. The reception light on the AX has always blinked, indicating that it’s out of range even though it’s less than 50′ from my Mac. It worked, but picking up the cordless phone or using the microwave would cut the tunes. With a tot in the house, we use the microwave a lot. Finally decided to run ethernet cable under the house and hardwire the damn thing.
Drilled a hole between the baseboard and the wall similar to how the phone cord is wired, but hit a joist and didn’t have a long enough bit to go all the way down (hole’s okay, barely noticeable). Plan B: Remove cover plate from the adjacent wall socket, drill just next to the box, and put a hole in the cover plate to match. Pushed 50′ of CAT-5 into the hole, put on old clothes and knee pads, and ventured into the crawlspace. Here’s where it gets fun.
Our office was built after the rest of the house, and has its own foundation. Turns out the main crawlspace doesn’t offer access to the space under the office (hereafter referred to as “the crypt of shacker”). The only access is from a tiny opening under the deck. Shimmying Navy Seal-style on mildewy ground, rocks under belly, dark. A hole in the main foundation opened up to the crypt. Trouble is, we had central heat installed when we moved in, and the opening was mostly filled by a 12″ conduit, leaving a space just about large enough for a cat. I’m somewhat larger than a cat. Exhaled all my air, arms forward, and pushed forward with my toes, praying I wouldn’t get stuck. Came close to backing out, lungs squished, elbows munged, but got through, shimmied forward up to the wall… only to find that the cable wasn’t there waiting for me. Apparently bunched up against the same joist I had hit with the drill. Backed out to startling daylight.
Back in the office, went to pull the cable back out… and it was caught, apparently tangled inside. Tug, cajole, sweet-talk, nothing worked. Finally had to cut it off. Now there’s 50′ of CAT-5 permanently entombed in our office wall. It was then I came up with Plan C: use the heating duct itself! Pushed aside some flashing with a screwdriver, and bingo — I could see dirt. Spooled in more cable, then back into the crypt of shacker. Upside down, threading a tangle of wire wherever I could, no reasonable way to hold or position the flashlight, hair full of damp dust, sweating like a boar, finally through to the main crawlspace and finally up through a pre-existing hole in the floor behind the stereo.
Terminator crimping time — I never get it right the first time. Finally the router registered that it saw something on the other end. Went to reconfigure the AX… only to find that the Setup Assistant wouldn’t run without the now-removed Aiport card installed. The documentation only covers working with wireless networks. Later found the answer to using AX over Ethernet: Use the Aiport Admin utility, not the Express Setup. Go to the Airport tab, click Base Station Options, and check “Airport over Ethernet.” Joy to the world.
Another 30-minute project turned into half a day. All good projects are that way. Gorgeous day, too. Except for the view from the crypt.