So when I say AirPort, you think AirPlane. Maybe with better spelling.
Actually, when I say AirPort I’m referring to wireless networking from Apple. These devices make it very easy to add wireless connectivity (along with media sharing and network printing) to your existing home network. Having a home network today almost demands wireless access, because so many devices rely on wireless networking to function – laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and even iPods.
- AirPort Extreme ($179) – This is the full-blown wireless base station, complete with all of the bells and whistles you’d see when buying a new Wireless Access Point+Router. If you don’t have a home network yet, this is a great choice because it will provide everything you’ll need to get going (firewall, guest networking, wireless printing and a few other things).
- AirPort Express ($99) – The AirPort Express is a much smaller device, and provides a number of the same features as the Extreme – with a few more interesting (and to me, more useful) tricks. It doesn’t provide firewall or other security services, so if you’ve already got a network in place, this is a great solution. But the real reason I like the AirPort Express is that it offers the ability to leverage your existing wireless network in a very “entertaining” way – as in being able to use your home entertainment system to play your music.
You configure them both from a computer on your network, using the AirPort utility software from a computer. There’s software for both Mac and Windows, so you don’t need a Mac to configure it (although the utility is built into the Mac OS). As is generally the case with Apple, the software is very intuitive and easy to follow – even for the novice. There are a multitude of resources available for setting up wireless networking (if you’ve not done it before), so I won’t go into great depth here. I’ll do a post soon on wireless network security tips and planning, because there are three or four things (all of them pretty simple) that you can and should do to keep your stuff safe.
Now – on to the ”entertainment” portion of the show, or the real reason I’m even writing about this: music.
I have a significant digital music collection – at current count, over 8,000 music entries in iTunes. One of the greatest things about digital music is that you can enjoy it anywhere (thank you, iPod). With an AirPort Express, that “anywhere” includes your home audio system. My AirPort Express is plugged into an outlet right next to a component amplifier/tuner; using an additional cable kit, I can plug the AirPort Express into one of the RCA-plug inputs on the amplifier and treat it as a connected component – in my case, it’s the “CD Player”.
The music is still on your iPod/iPad/iPhone or even on your computer (via iTunes), but through the wonders of something called AirPlay, that music can be output/directed to the AirPort Express device. Here’s the best part – if you’ve set up the AirPort Express correctly (and it’s not hard), all of the “i-things” will just find it as an available AirPlay device and make it available as an output either on the device or in the iTunes software.
Here’s where you find it:
AirPlay is is an option in the Music player app on the device.
Find the AirPlay icon (on the right side of the music player controls); tap on the icon, and the available AirPlay destinations on your network will be displayed. Select a destination, and the music being played on the device will be re-directed to the AirPlay destination.
On an iPad:
The AirPlay icon on the iPad music player is at the top of the screen, the rightmost control in the music controls. Just like the iPhone/iPod, select a destination for the music, and off you go.
If you’re rather just use the library on your computer (because it’s probably bigger and has more stuff), not a problem. The AirPlay option in iTunes is available in the right side of the status bar (the bottom bar of the iTunes software).
Now, as you might have noticed in each of these screens, there’s an Apple TV in the mix as well. Just like the AirPort Express, Apple TV can be an AirPlay receiver.
Here’s the extra-special bonus: if you’ve got both (like I do), or maybe multiple AirPort Express devices installed, and you’re delivering your music from your computer via iTunes, you can simultaneously send the output to multiple locations by selecting “Multiple Speakers…” from the AirPlay icon and then choosing your endpoints.
Whole house music, all delivered wirelessly and controlled from one location. Ok, I’ll say it: that’s just cool.
In the next installment of “Fruitification”, I’ll talk a little more about Apple TV and AirPlay – because with the latest iPad, the latest Apple TV and the upcoming Mountain Lion updates for the Mac, Apple TV and AirPlay have some great things to offer.
Much more to come. Stay tuned.