Monday, February 23, 2009

"Yes, I love technology, but noooot as much as you you see"

The title of this post harkens back to a cult classic film icon of late; Napolean Dynamite, specifically his qwerky brother Kip's hilarious musical stylings. It resonates with me right now because I've just bough a new tech-toy that's captivating my attention, but I'll still drop everything to be with the Girlfriend and buddies. After all, there's no substitute for human interaction (you hear that Second Life nut bars?! NO substitute)

Over the weekend I finally purchased a nifty little gadget that I've been eyeing and deliberating about for some time now. For anyone who's up to date on their Mac gear, you'll no doubt know what I'm talking about, but for anyone who isn't so Apple-savvy, here's a little break down of my new toy; The Apple Airport Express.

This baby is a palm-sized router that's all about simplified networking with a couple amazing bells and whistles that conventional routers don't offer. As with most all other Apple products, the Airport Express accomplishes its goal in sexy, polished-white fashion, and integrates its self into your Mac OS environment seamlessly. (At least in OS X Leopard... that's what I'm running)

My goal was two-fold for the AP Express. One was to connect it to my current wireless network by using a technology called WDS (wireless distribution system) which allows other routers to not only join, but extend the range of your existing router's network. I was currently using a Linksys WRT54G (v3) router and to my unhappy surprise, this router which had outdated firmware installed, didn't yet support WDS. I opted to flash upgrade the firmware to some custom stuff that would unlock these capabilities currently lying dormant in most Linksys routers. Unfortunately, I bricked the bastard. I was hasty, I'll admit it. I didn't hardwire for the upgrade, I didn't restore factory settings before I tried it, and all in all, I just didn't do enough research before I jumped in. Well... maybe I'll be able to salvage it with a firmware restore, but that'll happen later (maybe never).

Luckily I had another WRT54G (v6) router tucked away from when I went to University, so the next day I brought that one back to life and had my network up and running again no problem.

The second goal for my AP Express was to utilize AirTunes. I absolutely LOVE music, and I'm all about saving time and running as few wires as I can through the house, so this feature is awesome. Basically, by plugging the AP Express into the wall socket near my stereo, running a component audio cable (the red and white ended one) from the mini-quarter inch (headphone) jack on the Express to the stereo, I can now stream music from my computer or any other computer on the network running iTunes, to the stereo right through the air.
Ballin'.... I know.

I also bought this little app off the net called "Airfoil" by Rogue Amoeba (free version exists but it's a temporary trial that only lasts 10 minutes) that lets me pipe the audio from ANY app on my machine to the AP Express, not just from iTunes. So on Sunday I watched The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on my laptop in the living room with the sound pumping out of the surround sound without any wires! The app also adjusts the delay on the sound feed so that it's in perfect sync with the video. Yes, I love technology.

So in the end I was able to accomplish one of my two goals for the AP Express, and that's pretty damn good for now. My house isn't big enough to require more than one router anyway, so really there's no issue with range extension.

One last sexy feature is that with Apple's iPhone application "Remote", I can leave my computer in my room plugged into the speakers there, and as I walk downstairs to the main floor, hop on my iPhone, go to remote, switch the audio output tot he speakers downstairs, and my tunes follow me as I move throughout my house. I mean... come on. s a lazy music lover, you really can't beat that kind of a set up. For $100, the Airport Express is great value. Think about it, if you had 4 rooms with separate speaker systems, and the wires and labour to bring sound to all of them is going to cost you over $400, then just buy 4 AP Expresses and connect all of them to your network (takes 5 minutes) and bingo!

The sound quality is damn good too.

So what do you think? Was it worth it? Are you considering the same thing now that you've read this? Do you have a techy solution that you're proud of and can't wait to share? I'd love to hear about it.
The best thing about this whole set-up is pulling out your phone (or going up to your brother's computer), saying, "check this out" pushing play, and having their tunes pump out of the big speakers downstairs when they've been using the tinny, internal speakers on their MacBook for so long.

So good.