News Archive for: Tuesday February 13th, 2007 (light today)
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Upgrading Core Duo Macs with Dell notebook 802.11n adapter card
(UPDATE: William Rivas sent a writeup with photos of upgrading his Core Duo MacBook Pro with a ($49) Airport Extreme (802.11n compatible) card for the Mac Pro.)
From a reader mail Tuesday - I don't own an intel mac to confirm this personally.

(Updated for later comments, some confusing)
"So I was really pissed about only having G because of being an early adopter. So I started looking what could I do about it. Browsing the net, I found out that the new core2duo machines actually use a Broadcom chip (Actually as mentioned here previously, the Core2Duo MacBook/MacBook Pros use the Atheros AR5008 Chip, although the Mac Pro uses a Broadcom chip (not sure on chip version no.) - the Apple 802.11n enabler supports both. See notes on Mac 802.11n page here.-Mike) and this chip is the same one in Dell Wireless 1500 adapters. (Dell notebook mini PCI-e card)

I bought one of those Dell 1500 cards on ebay, (I searched google and found the Dell 1500 card for as low as $52.xx, although an ebay auction had over 100 of them at $90 "Buy it Now" price. Searching found other auctions also with Buy it now prices of $43.99 and $55.99. I'd prefer confirmation on this before buying though and I wonder if Dell is dumping these for some reason (do they have upgradeable firmware for future draft N changes?-Mike) and using the great guides on ifixit, change the card on my machine.
(He didn't mention which CoreDuo Mac he had (Macbook? Macbook Pro? iMac? Mini?) but I'm assuming a Macbook or Macbook Pro since iFixit's guides don't cover the intel-based Mini or iMac.-Mike)

On boot, the card is recognized (and even more stable than the older one). The enabler didn't want to work on my system though. The installer says my system is not supported, that is the exact same message I've got before installing the card. It must check dates and/or processor (probably system ID and/or network adapter ID), but I really don't know how to tell. So I opened it in pacifist, (available here-Mike) and moved the file to the System folder, and magic! (Pacifist shows me the file in System/Library/Extensions, so I placed it there.) I have draft-N in my macbook coreduo :)

(the next day I received a reply to mails asking for more specifics and if he'd verified using Network utility the card showed 802.11n support. (To verify - Open Network Utility (in the Applications > Utilities folder), Under the Info Tab, choose Network Interface (en1). In the section "Model: Wireless Network Adapter," if it says (802.11a/b/g/n), you already have the 802.11n enabler installed. If it says (802.11a/b/g), you do not have the 802.11n enabler installed.)-Mike)

I need to back up a little on this. I made the switch and then went out with a friend. When I came back, the machine didn't list any wireless interfaces. I guess this is because the minipci card is a little bit thicker, and it touches the mainboard. (the OEM apple module is sealed, but the dell card has components/board exposed - maybe it's making contact with some part of the macbook/chassis-Mike) It may be jumping some switches there. I'll try to tape it tonight and perform the install again, I am now back to my old 802.11g card (it is actually quite easy to open this machine, as opossed to the powerbook which was a pain) I have a Macbook standard (2ghz, black).
I will try after reinstalling it today.
I actually had it working, but couldn't confirm it saw it as an N card, sorry for that. It showed up, and it had link, it worked flawlessly and had great reception. My friend was waiting for me, so I couldn't boot into windows (I was actually going to try that to check if it saw it as N, as I didn't know the Network utility would show it to me). When I came back a few hours later, I booted into Windows, but the card didn't show up, so I went back to OSX, and it didn't show up there either. I also noticed that the standard G card on my macbook raises a little heat, and this one was a bit hotter (this, by touching the keyboard right above the card). I am hoping to have another try tonight and see how it goes. I don't know why it was recognized and working, and then it suddenly stopped while I was away. Maybe it is just the card, and the sleazy ebay salesman, but I couldn't find an Atheros model on sale, and dell won't sell it to end users directly.
I will take some pictures of the machine with the old card, the new one, and without it, but the dell card is exactly the same size and format as my old card. I guess I won't have MIMO though. There is a third cable connected to my old wireless card (? MBP core duo user noted 2 on his, 3 on the Core2 Duo adapter), but I guess that is just a routing connector used to route the cable to another place in the machine, I'll take some pictures of it also so you know what I am taking about.(I asked about the "third cable" he mentioned on the original Macbook card, as a macbook pro owner didn't mention this.-Mike)
Not 3 connections. It is actually screwed on to the card, but I don't think the cable is active. I will take a better picture tonight, but if you see ifixit's picture here, you can see a small black cable with some brown tape beside the card. This is actually screwed on the same screw as the card is. I don't know what it is used for, but it looks like those from the antennas.
Also, the antenna on the dell card has the exact same connector as my old card. The old card is shielded and the new one isn't though, and I don't know enough about RF emitions to know if this will be an issue. I would love to know how Jeremy got a core2duo card, as that would be the perfect solution, even without the 3rd antenna. (I already wrote him to ask where he bought it and how much - I agree I'd much rather use that card than the dell.-Mike)

Btw, (just a detail), I've downloaded the drivers for windows for the dell1500, and they are the exact same drivers that appear in bootcamp, in the macintosh drivers for windows xp folder, callen bcmwl5.

If anyone else confirms this card works (or any other one), let me know. Thanks.
BTW: Assuming this card has upgradeable firmware (or is dell dumping them because they don't?) - If there's ever a firmware update (instead of just driver updates) for the finalized 802.11n spec (there's already a 2nd draft), it may not be possible to update a card like this in a Mac. (The MacBook/Pro adapter cards are Atheros based, unless a Mac Pro updater could be used for it - but even assuming the broadcom chip is the same as the Mac Pro's, any apple updater may not apply without some tweaking.) But maybe those running XP under Bootcamp could apply a firmware update for the card in Windows.
Update: Some readers had questions (as did I) about this card swap:

" Mike, Looking at the pictures on iFixit's website it looks like the Core Duo Macbooks are using a sealed Airport card with a female connector. The new Core 2 Duo appear to have a male connector on a open board similar to the Dell 1500 cards. I'm curious how Julian made the connection and if the original Apple Airport antennas simply plugged into the Dell Card. We need pictures...
-Dan "

See his later comments above. I'm looking for other confirmation on this also. But Wednesday's news has comments from a core duo MacBook Pro owner on swapping in the wireless card from a Core2 Duo MacBook Pro with notes on Antenna connections. I'd much rather have the OEM Apple module than the dell personally. (He's got it working but has questions on a 3rd antenna connection that isn't present in the Core Duo model.)

"Hi Mike, I read with interest Julian's account of upgrading his core duo MacBook Pro (he didn't mention the exact model, but assumed to be a MBP/MB) to 802.11n using a Dell card. A couple of days ago I installed an Apple Airport Extreme card from a Core2Duo MacBook Pro into my CoreDuo 2.16GHz MacBook Pro. (I asked him were he bought it and how much-Mike) The card itself physically fits perfectly but on the 802.11n card there are 3 antenna connections.
(the Mac Pro tower module has only two antenna connections I think, although isn't there an unused wire in the Mac Pro? (The dell 1500 uses broadcom chip as does Mac Pro - OEM Macbook/Macbook Pro core2 wireless card is Atheros based). A photo of the dell 1500 card at an ebay auction showed only 2 antenna connections, unless there was another that isn't seen in the photo.-Mike)

In my MacBook Pro I have only 2 antennas. The card was recognised and using Pacifist I installed the enabler and re-booted. Network utility now shows the card as a/b/g/n supported. I noticed straight away that I had better range with the 802.11g networks I have access to as well as finding far more networks than the standard card. I have not yet been able to test with an 802.11n router (no new Airport Extremes yet where I work in Australia) and I feel that because of the lack of the third antenna the important MIMO part of 802.11n is missing and will effect my ability to get full 802.11n speeds.
(MIMO is Multiple Input Multiple Output, a smart antenna technique to increase speed, range, reliability and spectral efficiency.-Mike)
I will let you know when I have tested with an Airport Extreme when they arrive and also if I find a suitable antenna I can add and fit inside the already cramped MacBook Pro. If any of your readers can suggest a suitable antenna, that would be fantastic.

If anyone has any comments, let me know. I don't have a macbook/pro but asked Jeremy how is the antenna attached? (I.E. Is it possible/practical to replace the antenna (w/wires) from a core2 duo model?)
BTW - William R. sent a note about Belkin's Draft-N ExpressCard (readers said they were showing their N line at MWSF last month), but the page had a note about no guarantees their 802.11n draft products could be updated to the final 802.11n spec. (But this may just be a cautious disclaimer about forward compatibility.)

" *Belkin N1 Products: N1 Wireless Router (F5D8231-4), N1 Wireless Notebook Card (F5D8011), N1 Wireless Desktop Card (F5D8001), and the N1 Wireless ExpressCard (F5D8071) are compliant to the IEEE 802.11n draft specification.
Although Belkin incorporates all mandatory elements of the IEEE 802.11n draft specification and designs the software to be upgradeable once the standard is finalized, Belkin cannot guarantee upgradeability. "

There's also the question of OS X drivers for it. (I wasn't at MWSF to know if they demo'd it installed in a Macbook Pro.) The Feb 1st news page had a note that there may be Mac Drivers for Ralink 802.11n adapters by end of February, but that remains to be seen.

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Apple Fibre Channel Utility 2.1.4 for OS X 10.4.8
Apple today released Fibre Channel Utility 2.1.4 (for OS X 10.4.8)

"Provides the ability to configure the Apple Fibre Channel PCI Cards including the Apple Dual- and Quad-Channel 4Gb Fibre Channel Card.
System Requirements
  • Mac OS X 10.4.8
  • Apple Fibre Channel PCI Card

    For Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.4.7, you will need Fibre Channel Utility 2.0
    *note - this will not configure the Apple Dual- and Quad-Channel 4Gb Fibre Channel Card.

    For Mac OS X 10.3 users you will need Fibre Channel Utility 1.0.3
    *note - this will not configure the Apple Dual- and Quad-Channel 4Gb Fibre Channel Card."

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    Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac 11.3.4 Update
    Today Microsoft released Office 2004 for Mac 11.3.4 Update which has literally the same wording on changes as previous updates:

    "This update contains several improvements to enhance security and stability, including fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer's memory with malicious code.
    Applies to: Office 2004 Standard Edition, Office 2004 Student and Teacher Edition, Office 2004 Professional Edition, Word 2004, Excel 2004, PowerPoint 2004, Entourage 2004.
    Released: February 13, 2007"
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