I picked up one of these little Airport Express cubes at the local Apple store last week. I set it up as a second wifi LAN in my home to give my second TiVo a stronger signal. (With two Series 2 TiVos I can now watch shows on one TiVo that are stored on the other.) It’s easy to setup an Airport Express to do something simple, but it can be maddening to set up something more complex. For some reason Apple supplies not one but two different applications to manage the device, and I can’t keep track of which app to use for which purpose. Plus you’ve got to run Internet Connect on your Mac to change your IP address during setup, so that make three apps required to do anything except the most basic configs. That having been said, it does work. The range is very short, however. Through wood-frame walls and sheetrock, the signal falls off after as little as 30 feet.
But this weekend I found out where the Airport Express really shines: as a wifi access point in a hotel room. I was at the Monterey Jazz Festival and stayed in a 2-room suite at the Embassy Suites. Normally I’d be tied to the 3-meter CAT5 cable they supply or at best a longer cable I’d have to bring myself. But this time I just plugged the little Airport Express cube into the wall outlet and attached the CAT5 cable from the hotel’s box. That was it. No installation, no nuthin’. I turned on the iBook and it just worked. The network in the hotel room had the same SSID as the network at home and the WEP and MAC Access List didn’t need to be changed either. I could take my iBook anywhere in the suite, totally wireless. Most cool.
I did discover something interesting. At one point I wanted to connect my iBook directly, without the Airport Express. I found I couldn’t because the $9.95 per day connection through the hotel was apparently dedicated to the MAC address of the Airport Express. Unless I wanted to pay another $9.95, I could only get out via the Airport Express. Not a problem, but something to be aware of.