Death of an Airport Base Station

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James Duncan Davidson
Jun. 24, 2001 04:19 PM
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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 I'm left with a heap of parts to add to my dead and outdated hardware collection.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.

James Duncan Davidson is a freelance author, software developer, and consultant focusing on Mac OS X, Java, XML, and open source technologies. He currently resides in San Francisco, California.