Wireless Infrastructure

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Lee Badman
Lee Badman
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Apple Good, Apple Frustrating

With media buzz proclaiming that Apple has surpassed Microsoft in aggregate value, I find myself reflecting on my running frustrations with Apple products from the perspective of the enterprise wireless network administrator. Let's get it right out there: I think Apple devices are sexy, cool, hip and unique. Steve Jobs' story is the stuff of legend, and even if you dislike the product line, you have to admire the man behind them. I get all of that and throw no stones at the coolness factor Apple

With media buzz proclaiming that Apple has surpassed Microsoft in aggregate value, I find myself reflecting on my running frustrations with Apple products from the perspective of the enterprise wireless network administrator. Let's get it right out there: I think Apple devices are sexy, cool, hip and unique. Steve Jobs' story is the stuff of legend, and even if you dislike the product line, you have to admire the man behind them. I get all of that and throw no stones at the coolness factor Apple has honed or the technical milestones that they have achieved. But my personal, shall we say, befuddlement, comes from Apple's seemingly head-in-the-sand-like attitude regarding the fact that their products are actually used on wireless networks outside of the home.

Apple knows how to roll an OS, no one will disagree with that. At the same time, there have been running challenges with fickle wireless settings with pretty much all of the big-cat-named Mac operating system versions, and I have seen too many of the infamous iPad, iPhone and Touch wireless issues first hand. I've also marveled at the ease with which important passwords can be retrieved from unattended machines that were not secured correctly (default condition) and have had to explain to many bummed out iPod Touch owners that if they drop another ten bucks on a software update, then their connectivity would improve.

Though Apple devices shine in finding even the most secure WLAN and adapting to the required security settings, it's too easy to run right past the need to specify organizational certificates that defend against man-in-the-middle attacks. And perhaps most frustrating:  Apple's usual scant information in their support documents tend to provide an awful lot of guidance aimed at tweaking the settings in your AirPort base station, which is little more than a punchline to a not-so-funny joke traded among network admins far and wide when trying to support Apple wireless users in large standards-based WLANs that are most certainly not built on AirPorts.

All of these gripes aside, Apple has made the notion of "apps" mainstream. There is an app for anything and everything, and the power to interact with the entire world from the palm of your hand brings sci-fi to life, compliments of The House That Steve Built. My network certainly benefits from OS X's almost complete immunity to the endless list of goofy tricks that can drop Windows like a bag of dirt. Apple laptops are nothing short of performance art, and get better looking with each version. As a company, Apple obviously has a keen grasp on what consumers (and especially the die-hards of Apple Nation) want out of life.

Though Apple certainly doesn't need to change to suit me based on their new status at the top of the heap, I kind of wish they would- just a little- especially when it comes to the WLAN.

Lee is a Network Engineer and Wireless Technical Lead for a large private university. He also teaches classes on networking, wireless network administrtaion, and wireless security. Lee's technical background includes 10 years in the US Air Force as an Electronc Warfare ... View Full Bio
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