Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Wireless networks and ibook compatability ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Wireless networks and ibook compatability
Category: Computers > Wireless and Mobile
Asked by: figuringitout-ga
List Price: $2.50
Posted: 16 Dec 2002 16:05 PST
Expires: 15 Jan 2003 16:05 PST
Question ID: 125658
We recently purchased a Microsoft Wireless Base Station.  We have it
hooked up to provide wireless access to a personal computer laptop. 
Now we want to be able to use our ibook (mac) laptop on the same
wireless network.

My question is this -- can an AirPort card in the ibook access the
Microsoft wireless network?

Some product specification pages indicate that the AirPort card needs
to interface with an AirPort Base station.  Others do not.

Before we spend a lot more money, we'd like to know.  HELP!?!  :-)

Subject: Re: Wireless networks and ibook compatability
Answered By: sparky4ca-ga on 17 Dec 2002 03:08 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
To put it simply: Yes, your Airport Card can access base stations
other then Airport base stations.

In a nutshell, I know this because in our store (I work for a large
computer reseller in Canada) we have an imac, a powermac, and from
time to time an ibook and/or powerbook, running wirelessly on an IEEE
802.11B (the standard that Airport uses) LAN. Our base station varies.
Usually it's a SOHOWare CableFREE 802.11b base, however we have used
base stations from 3com, Dlink, Belkin, and Apple.

You probably want something a little meatier for an answer, so I'm
going to try to provide some links for you:

As per
(the Wi-Fi standards group)

Apple has had these certified:
"Access Point 
• Apple AirPort Base Station 
• Apple AirPort Client Card 

Microsoft has had these certified:
"Access Point 
• Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless Base Station / MN-500 
• Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless USB Adapter / MN-510 
PC Card 
• Microsoft Broadband Networking Wireless Notebook Adapter / MN-520 

What does this mean?

To understand the value of Wi-Fi CERTIFICATION, you need to know that
Wi-Fi is short for "Wireless Fidelity," and it is the popular name for
802.11-based technologies that have passed Wi-FI CERTIFICATION
testing. This includes IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b or technologies that
contain both 802.11a and 802.11b technologies — commonly called "dual

Wi-Fi Certification assures tested and proven interoperability among
wireless computer equipment; this certification gives consumers and
business buyers confidence that wireless LAN products bearing the
Wi-Fi logo have passed rigorous interoperability certification
requirements. Such Wi-Fi products include PCMCIA Cards for notebooks,
PCI Cards for desktops, USB modules (which can be used with notebooks
or desktops), and wireless base stations like access points and
gateways. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED products support a maximum data rate of
either 11 Mbps (802.11b) or 54 MBPS (802.11a).

Knowing that any product with the Wi-Fi logo has undergone rigorous
testing makes your buying decision much easier."

In essence, any WiFi certified device should be able to communicate
with any other certified device.

More information from that page:
"Can I mix and match Wi-Fi components, or is it better to stay with a
single manufacturer?

Yes; if the component is Wi-Fi CERTIFIED for the same frequency band
(e.g. 2.4GHz), you can mix and match wireless LAN products produced by
different manufacturers. The Wi-Fi Alliance has all products
independently tested before they receive the Wi-Fi Certification to
make sure they are interoperable with all other Wi-Fi CERTIFIED
products in the same frequency band, regardless of manufacturer."

"Can I use Wi-Fi with my Apple Macintosh?

Yes. You have two options. Most newer Macintosh Power PCs, G3s and G4s
have a slot for an Apple AirPort Wi-Fi module. If you didn't order it
when you bought your Apple computer, you can still buy the module and
put it in yourself — installation is very simple. If you have an older
Mac laptop with a PC Card slot, you can choose from among several
different manufacturers who make Apple-compliant PC Card radios. USB
adapters for Apple are also available.

Once you have the correct PC Card radio or Apple AirPort installed,
you need a gateway or access point to talk to. You can use the
"official" Apple AirPort access point, or you can use any other Wi-Fi
access point on the market. As long as it is Wi-Fi CERTIFIED, it will
talk to your Apple Wi-Fi radios.

Many access points and gateways now use a web-based setup routine.
That means as long as you have an Internet browser on your computer,
you can set up the access point.

Once set up and configured, a network consisting of combined Apple and
Windows computers and access points will work together. Of course,
unless you are running an emulator program, you won't be able to run
Windows programs on your Apple computer and vice versa. However, your
Wi-Fi network devices will talk to each other and enable you to share
an Internet connection and transfer files among the various

Sharing the internet connection: Easy.
Sharing files between Windows and Mac computers: harder. You generally
need additional software like "Dave" to make it work.

Remember: When we talk about the Airport card and the base station
working together, it means that they can communicate. It doesn't
instantly make the computers talk to each other. Kinda like the phone
system. just because I can pick up my telephone, and use it to call
somebody on the other side of the world on their telephone, doesn't
mean we can actually talk to each other once we're connected. We both
have to speak the same language.

But I digress. I'll go on to other sites:

"AirPort Base Station supports up to 50 Mac and PC users
Each AirPort Base Station can support up to 50 users. AirPort complies
with the IEEE 802.11b industry standard to allow for interoperability
with other 802.11-compliant products.

Wi-Fi certified
 AirPort is based on the IEEE 802.11b wireless standard and is Wi-Fi
certified for interoperability with other 802.11-compliant products
(including PCs). That means you can use your AirPort card at thousands
of wirelessly-enabled locations — including airports, coffeeshops and
at least 90,000 hotel rooms in the U.S. alone."

Something to keep in mind: Sometimes you need to have at least one
computer using a wireless card from the same manufacturer as your base
station, in order to configure it.
Example: Our CableFREE access point in the store can only be
configured from a PC running the CableFREE utility, which will only
runn on a PC with a CableFREE card installed.
Apple Airport base stations are similar. I cannot buy 2 wireless PCs
and an Airport base station and expect them to work, since the Airport
setup utility will only run on Macs. I would need someone with a Mac
with Airport to bring their computer over and configure the base
station. So let's see if Microsoft has that requirement.

I was about to list a bunch of information about how the MS base
station needs a PC to configure it, and how you might not want to buy
it. Then I reread your question. You have a PC notebook using the base
station. So there is NO problem having an Airport-enabled iBook
communicate with the base station for wireless internet access.

There is a process to configure the Airport on the iBook. It is a
fairly straightforward procedure, however documenting it in full is
beyond the scope of my answer to your original quesiton. In short,
once the airport card is installed, you open your network control
panel (how will differ depending on your operating system version.) In
there you change to the view for Airport instead of Ethernet. You
enter all of the settings that your wireless network uses (SSID,
security keys, encyption levels, etc.) and enable Airport. Voila!

Thank you for your question. I'm hope my answer has laid your concerns
to rest regarding the use of Airport cards with non-Airport base


Request for Answer Clarification by figuringitout-ga on 18 Dec 2002 17:21 PST
Hi!  I've read your answer in more detail and talked to some more of
my peers and re-read your answer.  Now, I have another question.  If
apple is misleading us as to the need to use the Airport base station,
could they not be misleading us on the card?  A woman here at work has
an applie titanium notebook and a cisco card.  Could I not conceivably
use a IEEE 802.11a or 802.11b card generally intended for a pc?  They
seem much cheaper...  ???  Now, I'm being cheap (about the card, not
the question -- I"m happy to give you more $$$ for all your fantastic
help!)  :-)


Clarification of Answer by sparky4ca-ga on 18 Dec 2002 18:35 PST
Well, the person with the Ti-book and the Cisco card is able to do
that because the Powerbook has a PC-Card or PCMCIA slot on the side of
the laptop. This allows any standard PCMCIA card to be inserted and
used. (Provided there are drivers for MacOS, or UNIX drivers in OSX.)

Unfortunately, the iBook does not feature such a slot currently, nor
does any previous model that I can recall seeing. The iBook is
"AirPort Ready" which means there is a slot inside the notebook, under
the keyboard for the Airport. It's very similar to a PCCard slot, and
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was actually a PC-Card slot.
However, there isn't room for a full PCCard (especially with it's
antenna sticking out.) The AirPort card itself doesn't have an
antenna. The iBook (and other Apple products) has an antenna built
into the display, beside the screen. When you install the Airport
card, there is a little cable that conencts to one end of it for the

I also found this little nugget of information:

"The iBook Airport card looks like a PCMCIA card, has the same form
factor and connector, etc. However, one of the pins was adapted for
non standard usage and, therefore, the iBook airport cards will not
function in normal PCMCIA slots and vice versa."

It looks like basically, Apple wants you to use an AirPort card in the
iBook. They'd even prefer it in the PowerBook, but since a high-end
laptop like it needs to have every bell and whistle, it's got a PCCard

It might be feasible to use a USB wireless adapter for your iBook, if
there was drivers available. For the convenience, I'd put the internal
AirPort card in. You can actually take your iBook anywhere that there
is a wireless network, and make use of it. Libraries, Airports,
universities, coffee shope, schools, and many workplaces are
installing wireless LANs.


Request for Answer Clarification by figuringitout-ga on 27 Dec 2002 22:13 PST

I'm so sorry that I forgot to thank you for this clarification.  I got
caught up in the xmas hullaballoo!  Thank you again for all your help.
 I really really appreciate it.  You were terribly informative with
lots of good links and information.  Now I feel like I can discuss
this issue with authority.  :-)

Do you know of any way I can add to your tip for your extra help?  :-)

Clarification of Answer by sparky4ca-ga on 27 Dec 2002 23:28 PST
Actually, I've never asked a question. I don't know if there is any
way to modify ratings/tips/etc. It's not necessary however, the 5-star
rating you gave me is more then enough thanks.

Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

figuringitout-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $1.00
You are wonderful!  Thank you!  Makes xmas shopping soooo much easier.
 The Apple website does a great job of trying to convince you that you
have no choice but to buy an AirPort for the base station.  Thanks

Subject: Re: Wireless networks and ibook compatability
From: lot-ga on 17 Dec 2002 08:26 PST
Hello figuringitout-ga
There is one practical problem when trying to access a PC access point
(well at least a Netgear one) -  in that the 'plain text' password for
the access point e.g. 'thenameofmykids' (which works for any other PC
accessing it) does not work with the ibook. The easy way around this
is to use the 'hashed' or encrypted password which looks something
like 'uy678hTGe676GjGhskhh6ww45'
Subject: Re: Wireless networks and ibook compatability
From: figuringitout-ga on 17 Dec 2002 09:18 PST
good to know!  thank you!
Subject: Re: Wireless networks and ibook compatability
From: sparky4ca-ga on 17 Dec 2002 15:02 PST
"The Apple website does a great job of trying to convince you that you
have no choice but to buy an AirPort for the base station."

That's for sure. THere's plenty of information about the Airport Base
supporting PCs, but they hardly mention Airport cards at all, even in
the tech specs.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy