Apple AirPort Express – a simple answer to wireless printing

It’s not often that I’m surprised by how simple a new piece of hardware is to set up. Usually I’m left thinking that for the average user it will be a source of angst! Judging by the requests for help I receive from friends and family, PC related ‘stuff’ is not as simple as it should be.

A while back I bought a Linksys wireless print server to allow all our laptops to wirelessly print to a single HP OfficeJet. The setup was a nightmare and even with the help of Linksys technical support I never got a wireless connection between the router and print server and had to settle for USB. The wireless connectivity between laptops and printer proved very unreliable and in the end I ditched it. The replacement setup was a direct USB connection between an ancient desktop PC and the printer, with the laptops connecting wirelessly to the printer via the desktop. Not a satisfactory solution as it meant leaving the desktop running the whole time. Whilst I was using the desktop PC regularly it wasn’t a huge issue but when I switched to my MacBook Pro it became a waste of power and source of unnecessary noise to leave a redundant PC running.

Having heard good things about the AirPort Express, I eventually got round to ordering one last week. I took it out of the box, connected it via USB to the OfficeJet, plugged it into the wall and fired up AirPort Utility on my MacBook. I ran a simple configuration utility and my MacBook was connected to the printer. On each Windows laptop I downloaded Apple’s Bonjour Print Services and ran the program which instantly found the printer. Within a matter of minutes I had wireless connectivity for all our laptops and could power off the old desktop. Yet again an Apple device had delivered a great user experience.

Yes Apple devices are often expensive and of course I wish they were cheaper. However they deliver a top user experience and that certainly justifies some sort of price premium!

Moving to the Mac

It’s now been two months since my MacBook Pro arrived. I’ve always been sceptical about the benefits of moving to Apple. Windows covered both my business and personal computing and I felt that Apple products carried an excessive price premium. However I started to see the attraction of Apple technology when my business BlackBerry was swapped for an iPhone – as a business handset the iPhone is brilliant, especially for syncing with the Exchange server. When I canvassed views from friends with an interest in technology I got a very strong steer towards the MacBook Pro.

I decided to take the plunge and ordered a 15″ MacBook Pro and I haven’t been disappointed. The MacBook Pro offers a superb combination of hardware and software. The benefits of Apple controlling both the operating system and the hardware are apparent. Before I bought my MacBook someone said that the trackpad was worth the money alone! They weren’t far wrong! The MacBook Pro trackpad is brilliant and has completely changed the way I interact with my laptop. I always used to use a mouse but that’s redundant now. The trackpad makes the MacBook much more intuitive and enjoyable to use compared to my old laptop. The only problem I have is when I have to use the touchpad on my business HP laptop and realise how rubbish it is!

Hard to say if Mac OSX is more intuitive than Windows 7. I much prefer using it but that is probably down to personal taste. Most of the apps I used with Windows are available for the Mac or there’s something as good or better. iWork has replaced Office, Chrome is still there, Evernote has a great Mac app – to name a few. I’ve installed top ‘getting things done’ app, Things, which is probably my favourite productivity app of all time because it’s so useful and has made me much better organised. I’ll return to Things in a future post. Any disappointments on the software side? Skype for Mac lags the Windows client and eWallet for Mac isn’t great compared to the Windows version but moving all my data to an alternative secure wallet app looks like a nightmare!

The build quality of the MacBook Pro is fantastic. It’s impossible to compare the aluminium construction to any laptop I’ve used in the past because it’s so superior. The MacBook Pro is a bit light on USB ports, having only two, but in reality that hasn’t been a problem. I love the MagSafe power adaptor connector – different and nicer to use! The display is also excellent, as you’d expect.

Of course, all this comes with a price premium but if you view Apple products as premium products then somehow that premium doesn’t seem so unreasonable. Macs are not for everyone but if you’re looking for a new PC I would definitely recommend you consider them.