Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time Capsule One-Point-Oh'd a Little Too Early?  

SO I'm running out of [backup] hard disk space at home now that both my wife and I are computing, and I splurged and got a Time Capsule, Apple's svelte new wireless hard drive, on the theory that I could attach it to my existing wireless network but keep the physical box in a different room so it would be less likely to be stolen if we had a break in. After all, "you can rest assured that it works with other certified 802.11n draft 2.0 products. And it’s compatible with Macs and PCs that use 802.11a, b, or g technologies."

So,what's the problem?   It doesn't work, that's the problem.  The wireless part, that is.  The Ethernet works fine, the hard drive works fine, the blinking light work fine ... except they picked amber and green as the working/not working colors! Gee, thanks, guys! I know those colors are supposed to be ok for most color blind people but really they look the same!  You obviously three bulbs behind the light (amber, green, blue) ... would it have killed you to give all three their own window?

Fume ... so ANYWAY, the Time Capsule gives you three options: take over your wireless network, join an existing wireless network, or go wired.  Well, I couldn't put it in a different room with option 1, and option 3 meant that I would physically have to be able to connect my laptop to the Time Capsule, so I went with option 2. 

And every time I set it up on the network, the Time Capsule disappears.

After repeated retries, hard resets, and careful readings-over of the manual, the PDFs (identical) and the Apple support site (containing the identical PDFs) I figured out that if I hooked the Time Capsule up via Ethernet, I could still access it and debug the problems.  And then I found that there were many problems, but that the software would not actually allow you to correct them - that is, you could change the settings of the Time Capsule in the Air Port Utility, but Air Port Utility would not actually communicate them to the Time Capsule when you tried to apply them; instead it would claim the problem was unresolved.  So there was no way to actually fix the problems ... you could only hit Ignore instead.

Upon some more digging, I found this tidbit on the Apple web site:

Time Capsule doesn't like being part of an existing network (despite what the manual and online material suggests). I've just spend ages, including 75 minutes on the phone with Apple Support to finally work out that Time Capsule simply won't join my existing Apple Extreme network.

I'm lifelong Mac user. This is the first time I've been really disappointed by a Mac product... the product ships with out of date software, does not set up easily, and simply won't do what it says it's supposed to.

If it's not too late for you... don't buy one!

Half a dozen other messages seem to confirm that this is a real problem.  Charming.  If only I had listened to Tim Bray:

I ran out and bought a 1TB Apple Time Capsule, breaking a self-imposed rule: Never buy release 1.0 of anything from Apple. Now I’m being punished.

Well ... at least it has 1 terabyte of storage, and Time Machine, the accompanying backup software, appears to run flawlessly (not that I've tried it yet, so how would I know?  But it looks pretty!) 

[fixed forced grin]

-the Centaur



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