Apple’s new firmware enables remote disk sharing on wireless base stations

Chicago (IL) – With all the Mac desktop hardware refresh news, the significance of Apple’s Time Capsule and AirPort
Extreme wireless base station hardware refresh slipped under the radar amid Mac desktop
refreshes which made the headlines. While updated base stations look
identical to previous generation, they sport a new circuitry
under-the-hood that enables new guest networking and dual-band
features. In addition, both new and previous base station got a new
softwarefeature that lets you access files stored on a hard drive
attached to your base station from anywhere in the world. In order to
take advantage of it, you first need to apply the latest 7.4.1 firmware
update that adds new MobileMe button to the base station configuration

As we previously reported,
Apple quietly revised the hardware of its Time Capsule wireless
appliance and AirPort Extreme base station this past Tuesday. New
models sport updated hardware that enables dual-band support which
utilizes both 2.4GHz and 5Ghz bands simultaneously to maximize wireless
network performance, even with slower 802.11b/g clients on a network,
like the iPhone, that would have otherwise degraded overall performance
of a whole network. Guest networking is another new feature enabled in
hardware that lets you create a separate guest network,
password-protected or not, which is isolated from the rest of your
network – great when a friend stops by and wants to check his email but
you don’t like the idea of handing him your network credentials.

Remote drive sharing is the third new feature and the only one which
works on both new and previous-generation base station models because
it is enabled via software. Remote drive sharing allows users to
remotely access files stored on an internal or external hard drive
attached to a base station utilizing paid $99 a year MobileMe
subscription. On Tuesday and Thursday evening, Apple posted 7.4.1
firmware updates for both new and previous base station models and
AirPort Utility 5.4.1 that are essential if you want to take advantage
of new features.

Firmware for old and new models

new base station firmware comes in two flavors, and is version 7.4.1. The first flavor applies to the new Time Capsule and
AirPort Extreme models released this past Tuesday. Titled the AirPort Client Update 2009-01 update,
the firmware fixes issues with
roaming and network selection in dual-band environments. It is currently available only for Intel-based Macs running
Mac OS X 10.5.6. The second version applies to
older 802.11n-versions of Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme and it
enables the new remote disk sharing via MobileMe feature. Apple’s support article lists all security updates and minor tweaks the 7.4.1 firmware also brings.

of both the new and previous-generation base station models can also apply
their respective 7.4.1 firmware updates by installing and running the
AirPort Utility 5.4.1 (for OS X or Windows).
This new version, found in OS X’s
Applications/Utilities folder, and the new firmware, work in tandem to
add a new MobileMe button to the Advanced tab of the base
station’s configuration panel. The new button lets you authorize your
base station with your paid MobileMe account to enable remote
drive sharing features.

You should note that your base
station will need to restart once you enter MobileMe credentials.
Once again, the new software does not enable guest networking or dual-band features on the previous models as these features are
hardware-based — hence, they are only possible on the newest AirPort
Extreme and Time Capsule.

AirPort Utility 5.4.1 is needed to enable the new remote drive sharing feature on both the new and previous AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models. A new tab in the base station configuration panel lets you supply MobileMe credentials, which then enables remote drive sharing via OS X Leopard’s Back to My Mac feature.