I have found the first product I’ll buy from Apple after this week’s keynote—and it wasn’t even mentioned in the keynote. At MacWorld, Apple quietly announced a next-generation AirPort Extreme base station that supports a draft of the 802.11n protocol, meaning that it’s up to five times as fast and up to twice the range of the existing 802.11g base station from Apple. This is frankly a secondary feature for me, though, compared to the news that it supports sharing a USB2 hard drive over the network.
This is a Big Deal. The original plan for The Project, the big effort to move my over 1,000 CDs to a hard drive, called for placing that drive on the network as network attached storage. I didn’t want the drive to be permanently anchored to my MacBook Pro—which would kind of defeat the purpose of having a laptop. But the only solutions I could find for sharing a network USB drive didn’t support Mac disk drive formats. That’s way the capability of the new AirPort Extreme to share a USB hard drive out of the box is so cool.
In fact, the only fly in the ointment is that the AirPort Extreme’s included 802.11n Enabler, which upgrades the AirPort cards of currently shipping Macs to 802.11n, does not extend to my first-generation MacBook Pro, since that model doesn’t include what Engadget called the “secret draft-N cards.” But I think it will still be worth it. I can 86 the old PowerBook that currently powers my music, move the RAID array into the stereo cabinet along with the base station, and free up a lot of space in our guest bedroom.
And…and this is the ironic part…I won’t have to buy a Mac mini to do it, which was my original plan.