Wireless Freedom

Wireless Freedom

Last Christmas, Santa Claus came down our “chimney” with two iBook G4s for our 6-year-old twins and one PowerBook G4 for my wife and I (a nice upgrade from an obsolete Mac we had purchased in 1996). We connected our new G4 to the Internet, but decided we wouldn’t connect our children’s because they were too young to have unfettered access to the Web. Ironically, over the course of the next three months, our kids connected to the Web more frequently than we did. Between the two, my wife and I barely got a chance to check e-mail.

“You know they need their own access to the Internet,” my wife said one night as we pondered our frustration. Suddenly, one of our kids banged too hard on the keyboard; it was one time too many. “See? They’re going to break our computer.”

“Just what we need,” I sighed, looking around at our apartment. “More stuff.”

We live in a tiny apartment. In order to maximize every square foot to accommodate our family of four, we have had to think outside the box. This has meant turning our coat closet into a nook for the refrigerator, and turning half of our living room into a bedroom, using a mobile closet to double as a wall.

But connecting our children meant more cables, wires, two bulky modems, and everything else we didn’t want to add to our apartment.

So one cold winter weekend, we gathered our computers and headed to the nearest Apple store to purchase everything we needed to go wireless: Three AirPort cards and an AirPort Base Station. Total purchase price: $593.09.

That night, with the first iBook, I took out the battery and unlocked the keyboard, simply pulling down a small square lock found between the Esc and F1 keys on the left side of the keyboard and the F11 and F12 keys on the right side. Then, carefully, I flipped over the keyboard. Inside there was a thin set of wires connected to it and the computer. The instructions come with a clear warning: If I damage anything trying to install a computer card on my own, Apple Corp. would not be liable for fixing it.

Once I flipped over the keyboard, the instructions suggested I touch a metal part on the inside of the computer to discharge any static. Next, I carefully connected the antenna that comes with the computer, waiting dormant behind the keyboard for an AirPort card. The antenna softly snaps into a small opening on the AirPort card. The next step is to gently stick the card into the slot with the Apple logo facing up and secure the brackets to keep the card from sliding out of place. Once the procedure was done, I replaced the keyboard, put the battery back in, and turned on the computer. It took less than five minutes.

My children watched as I repeated the process with the second iBook; but I lost them when I turned my attention to the PowerBook G4. That required