Monthly Archives: February 2012

Failing at Networking: Configuring an Apple AirPort Express

I travel somewhat frequently and often encounter hotels that provide a cable and no wireless connection. This was a bit of a nuisance when sharing rooms with people, or if I’m interested in trying to check something on my iPad. Internet sharing on the Mac has never seemed to work quite the way I wanted it to. Lately, this problem has been compounded because I have a Macbook Air, but no Ethernet adapter.

Because I’m traveling again this weekend, I decided that I would purchase an Apple AirPort Express. This would be a great way to solve my above problems. First, it’s small enough to carry around with me on a trip. Second, it allows you to share an Internet connection over wireless, which effectively means that I can connect the Ethernet to it and then share the connection to my MacBook Air. An added bonus is that it also had a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack/mini-TOSLink jack that would enable me to plug a set of powered speakers into. Since I just moved, my computer is no longer able to connect to the speakers in the living room since it’s too far away. So really, it seemed like a win all around.

Yet, for some reason, networking equipment and I simply do NOT get along. Back in Waterloo, I was rumoured to have inherited a “curse” about hardware from a fellow graduate student (hello, Ben!) – the curse was that hardware would randomly fail inexplicably in your hands and that you’d spend many hours trying all kinds of configurations to no avail. Thus far, I’ve had a lot of random failures, like my 4-year old PowerMac G5 that one day suddenly failed to power on, a brand new external hard drive, bad RAM in an old computer, mice (lots of mice) and assorted networking equipment. Lots of networking stuff, from cards to wireless routers and stuff. Even now, my 802.11n wireless network seems to not really work well – it has a weak signal and any device seems to have a random chance of not connecting to it.

I’ve wasted a bunch of time today trying to configure the Airport Express. Let me write a post explaining how to not waste time configuring an AirPort Express.

Installing the Correct AirPort Utility

The first kicker is that the most recent version of the AirPort Utility does not have the same functionality as a former version, so if you know a little bit about networking, installing the new version is a bit of a waste – you can’t do things like manage different profiles, which are useful if you want to have a profile for “Playing Music At Home” and “Internet Sharing On The Road”.

However, you still have to install the latest version (6.0 at the time of writing) to get the proper firmware, THEN install the old version (5.6) to get access to the advanced features. Yes, it’s dumb. Apple unfortunately stripped out a lot of features, like profile management, from 6.0.

AirPort Utility 6.0 (for Lion)
AirPort Utility 5.6 (for Lion)

Thus, be sure to install 6.0, update the firmware, then install 5.6.

On Mac OS X, Ethernet takes Priority For Internet Operations

This one’s entirely my fault. When I was testing the AirPort Express by plugging the Ethernet from my cable modem into it, then connecting wirelessly from my desktop, I wasn’t able to get Internet. The problem is that I didn’t ever disconnect the Ethernet cable from my computer. By default, Mac OS X and Firefox tries to get Internet from the Ethernet port and if it can’t get it from there it fails, instead of trying on the wireless network. So if you’re testing this kind of thing, unplug the Ethernet cable from the computer.

Press the Button With a Paperclip to Reset the AirPort Express

Much too often, I got an error when “reading configuration from AirPort Express”. It’s also easy to set it up such that you can’t configure it (like if you try to make it join a wireless network but don’t properly get a DHCP from the Ethernet plug). If you get into a problem like that, stick a paperclip into the bottom of the device and hold it there for about 10 seconds. Unplug it, wait a moment, plug it back in and it should be back to factory defaults.

Once you do that, keep in mind that you need to either be able to plug it into a wired network and get it an IP address, or that you need to remember what wireless network it creates in order to configure it.

AirPlay from iTunes Needs IPV6 Host Mode On

Once I managed to set up a a profile for Internet Sharing that worked fine (using the AirPort Utility 5.6), I wanted to try out AirPlay. I tried using iTunes on my laptop and my desktop, but both gave me an “unknown error (-15006)”. For a company that prides itself on the user experience, it’s a shame that these errors are not actually written in a way such that the user can easily troubleshoot them.

Under the advanced tab -> IPv6, IPv6 Mode should be set to Host.

AirPort Utility IPv6 Setting

It turns out that iTunes on Mac OS X now finds its AirPlay clients through IPv6, but that the AirPort Express doesn’t use IPv6 by default. The solution is to go to the AirPort Utility, go to Advanced, IPv6 and set IPv6 Mode to “Host”. Do this, restart iTunes, and it should work just fine from all of your Apple devices.

Conclusion

I don’t usually fiddle around with products and computer devices anymore, though I used to do this a lot about seven to ten years ago. So it’s fun, yet frustrating, to get a new hardware device to play with. Unfortunately, I have to be kind of in the mood to play around to enjoy it, and usually I don’t like playing with Apple devices, which are supposed to “just work”. Or, maybe I’m just terrible with networking.

Where’d that go? Losing Items on Amtrak Cascades Trains

I’ve had terrible luck lately and have managed to lose items both coming to and going from Bellevue for CSCW (ACM Conference on Computer supported cooperative work). On the way there, I lost the poster tube with the poster that I was presenting. On the way back, I lost a book. Fortunately I managed to find the poster in time but thus far I haven’t been able to locate the book.

One thing that Amtrak does not do is post the phone numbers for its stations on the web. Normally, I don’t tend to do personal posts like this one but I figured that Amtrak Station information for the Pacific Northwest might come in useful to someone some day and therefore have compiled a partial list of phone numbers for the major stations below.

Amtrak Cascades Train Stations in the Pacific NorthWest

Seattle King Street Station Baggage Claim: 206-382-4128
Seattle King Street Station Lost and Found (M-F only): 206-382-4713
Portland Union Station: 503-273-4871
Eugene-Springfield Station: 541-687-0972

Though the Lost-and-Found in Seattle was closed, I did reach the baggage claim about an hour and a half after I disembarked, gave them the train number and time, car number, and seat number, and they were able to retrieve the poster and hold it in the back for me to get it later that evening.

Also, the trains do tend to turn over quickly, and the route numbers change a lot, so try to call soon. In my experience calling though, they’ve been really nice in trying to actually locate your items – while writing this post I even got a call back from the Seattle station asking for details.

Now that said, since these numbers have been posted, you probably shouldn’t try to book tickets or ask general questions of the station. That’s best handled online or through their ticket agent anyway, which is reachable at Amtrak’s web site or through 1-800-872-7245.

To Talk or Not to Talk: Factors that Influence Communication around Changesets

Adrian at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Work is presenting “To Talk or Not to Talk: Factors that Influence Communication around Changesets”. He went to Zurich to work with the IBM Rational Team Concert team located there, and interviewed them, applied surveys, and did personal observations. He found out that:

  1. Release: Their discussions often were affected by their time within the release cycle. Early on in the cycle, developers were concerned about features, but as time went on, they were more concerned about the software being released, and were much more cautious about the change sets that were being applied.
  2. Perception: The perception around the change set was also important. If the developer was giving off a good impression, then colleagues would monitor them less. Alternatively, if a developer is giving off a poor impression, then their changes may be more heavily scrutinized.
  3. Risk Assessment: The developers were concerned about risk. High-risk change sets heavily encouraged developers to speak with each other. For example, if the change set was large, it was considered higher risk.
  4. Business Goals: The developers were often conscientious about code quality, but were always under pressure to release features and fix bugs. This leads to the phenomenon known as technical debt, where the developers know that the fix is inelegant and ugly, but are often unable to fix it next cycle because management pressure continues to push the developers to release more features.

These considerations may have implications on collaborative recommender tools because they suggest the contexts under which the recommender system may have to adapt itself toward.

Adrian’s posted his slides here so you can take a look!

ACM DL Author-ize serviceTo talk or not to talk: factors that influence communication around changesets

Adrian Schröter, Jorge Aranda, Daniela Damian, Irwin Kwan
CSCW ’12 Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 2012

Information Foraging Theory for Collaborative Software Development at FutureCSD

IFT Poster for Future of Collaborative Software Engineering

A poster describing the potential application of Information Foraging Theory to the way people seek information in social collaborative software development settings.

This is a preview of my poster that will be presented at the Future of Collaborative Software Engineering workshop held in conjunction with the Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Work 2012 in Seattle (Feb. 11-15).

The poster explores how a theory of how people forage for information in their environments might be applied to a social setting where information may be in people’s heads as well as in the artifacts that they work on.

Information foraging theory in general is a theory that postulates that people search for information in a way similar to how foragers in the wild search for food. In an environment, the forager wants to maximize the amount of high-value food for as low a cost as possible. In addition, indicators in the environment, like cues, suggest to the forager where high-yield places may be.