Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fixing a broken WDS wired to wireless bridge on an Apple Airport Express

Subtitle: Who is Henry B, and why has he posted about 35,000 times to Apple's support site?

I recently bought an Apple Airport Express (discount) to stream AirTunes music to my compact AudioSource amplifier (inputs are Airport Express and iPod, output to local Mission and remote AudioSource speakers). I was unhappy with the usability of AirTunes (though TuneConnect is helping!), so I decided to investigate a SlimDevices Squeezebox. I figured I'd hook the Squeezebox up to the wired ethernet port on the Airport Express, and use the AExpBS simply as a WDS network extender and a wired to wireless bridge.

Problem was, when I tested with my iBook, the bridge didn't work. The iBook reported the ethernet cable was not connected. Research led nowhere (several sites mentioned that the AExpBS didn't support bridging using WPA encryption, but that's dated, it does now). In desperation, I tried Apple Discussions.

It worked. "Henry B." (level "four", @35K posts), who I hope is a pseudonym for many persons, came up with a response that worked:
Apple - Discussions - WDS bridge not working

...I should be able to use an AEX in WDS mode to connect an ethernet device to my WLAN, using the the AEX as a bridge.

It's not working here. All theWDS settings seem fine. I can stream to the AEX and use it extend my WLAN. If I plug an ethernet cable into it, however, no joy. My iBook says there's nothing plugged in.


1. Do a factory reset of your Airport Express to get it back into a known state per:

2. Make sure your Powerbook, Airport Extreme Base Station, and Airport Express are all - for now - in the same room.

3. With your Powerbook connected to the wireless network of the Airport Extreme Base Station (prove it by making sure you have internet access) run the Airport Admin Utility. We are going to have you clean up some settings on it first:
  • make sure the Base Station is running firmware version 5.5.1. If not ...
    install firmware 5.5.1 on the Base Station:
    and 6.1.1 on the Airport Express:
    WPA on a WDS network works perfectly with these firmware versions.
  • under the Airport tab, make sure you have NOT checked the box to "create a closed network"
  • under the Access Control tab, remove ALL table entries
  • under the WDS tab, remove all entries and uncheck all boxes
Then update settings to the Airport Base Station.

4. Make sure you have the Airport 4.1 update installed on your Mac:

5. Now run the Airport Setup Assistant. Use its guidance to configure the Airport Express as a new base station that "extends" the existing wireless network created by the Airport Extreme Base Station.
Incredibly, this worked. The bridge was restored. I noticed two things with this process:
  1. After I'd installed the firmware 'downgrades' on both base stations I couldn't connect wirelessly to the Airport Extreme, I had to reset it first.
  2. When I ran Airport Setup Assistant it complained that I didn't have IPv6 enabled (it's disabled on my older 10.3.9 machine). I skipped that step and it then hung after locating my base station. I went back and enabled IPv6 and it completed successfully.
Was it the firmware downgrade that did the trick, or was it enably IPV6 on the iBook?
I wonder if bridging from wired to WAN using a WPA encrypted WDS configured Airport Express Base station requires IPv6 ...

In any case, it's a relief not to have to call Apple tech support!

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