Death of an Airport Base Station

by James Duncan Davidson

I'm suspicious of my recent affiliation with the O'Reilly Network. First I read about Chris Halsall's "Death of a Palm" Then I come home and what do I find? My trusty Aiport Base Station is dead. Suddenly it seems like an episode of the Sopranos around here.

To be honest, it took me a few minutes after arriving home to notice that something was amiss. After all, the base station doesn't move much. It usually stays put in one spot on the wall. But when I opened my laptop to download mail and there was no airport connection, I knew something was up. A quick look up at the base station filled me with dread. Instead of greeting me with a single green light (as it has every day for the past year) it was calling out to me with a red light alternating with 3 amber lights. Uh-oh.

I tried powering it down, then back up again to no avail. Then I heard a slight hissing sound emanating from the case. The hissing sound alternated with the pattern of the lights. This was a bad sign. It has been something like 15 years since I dabbled with my old breadboard set, but it sounded like a dead capacitor to me.

Sure enough when I opened up the base station, I found a couple of capacitors with their tops all discolored and bulged out. And when I powered up the unit without the cover on, I verified the hissing sound indeed came from the broken parts.

It didn't take much digging around on the net before I found evidence that this is not a solitary death, but a pattern of mass suicide. Since I had built several nifty electronics projects as a child, I ran out to Radio Shack and picked up the parts needed to make the repairs that were necessary.

The operation seemed to be a success and all voltmeter tests passed, but the patient had already suffered brain death. When powered up a single amber light tried to shine, but then faded away permanently. I still don't know if the system had fried itself into a grave, or if I had burned out some circuit with my rusty soldering skills. But I wasn't able to get to a point where I could get a sign of life from it again. I'm left with a heap of parts to add to my dead and outdated hardware collection.

Maybe it was its time to go. I checked my records and it was exactly thirteen months ago to the day that I bought and first used the base station. Normally I'm not superstitious, but with other recent events around the O'Reilly Network, you can understand if I have my doubts now. In any case, I'm off to research what my next base station should be. And, against my better judgement, I'm starting off at the Wireless DevCenter.

How is your Airport Base Station holding up?


2001-06-26 11:09:00
Software BaseStation at Home
I never got around to getting a "real" BaseStation for my home network. My iMac DV SE is "command central" connected to a DSL line. I just turn on the Software BaseStation, and I can roam about the compound with the PowerBook, even when the iMac's monitor dims down to save energy.

The coolest part is ... I can use the iMac and the PowerBook online at the same time. The bad news is, if this BaseStation goes toes up, it will take more than a weblog to relieve my pain ...

2001-07-01 09:10:17
I just ordered an SMC Wireless Barricade to go with the airport card I just installed in my TiBook. I went over to a friend's yesterday to confirm that it'll work with no problem- just remember to add prefix your key with a $ if you turn on WEP when you type it into the network password box. It'll save you $100 over the Airport BS. (er, that's Base Station) It's got a 3port switch build-in, NAT, and all those goodies.
2001-08-29 04:00:08
I have EXACTLY the same problem
but my BaseStation ist #PW0120XXXX and out of warranty.
2001-11-02 09:56:32
reclaim 100 bucks
My airport did the same thing. I got back from a hospital stay to find my watch battery dead, my Visor battery dead and worst of all, my Airport basestation dead! It had the same hissing sound. The big trick is that if you have a powerbook or a pc in need of an 802.11b fix, you can save $100. Open up the dead basestaion and pop out the Lucent WaveLAN card. I did that and then turned my iBook into a software basestation until I found a regular basestation on ebay. Better to lose $200 than $300.