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Posted on August 2, 2006 at 4:50 pm

Switch to Airport Express: make it clear it’s not for Mac users alone! It’s obvious.

A short (and obvious, I admit it) personal story (much like a hands-on case-study) about really working Mac-switching and Windows interoperability.

I attended a (quite) long business meeting last week in a wonderful hotel.

The meeting room was not so wonderful: no Internet connection and few AC outlets… nice furniture but not so biz-oriented.
I was the only one with a Mac (Powerbook G4 1.67 GHz), all other guys were carrying Win-portables (I still do have an XP box, I confess); the scenario: 10 notebooks, plenty of paper and a Coffee pipeline.

What happened at 10.30 AM was ridicolous: the Excel spreadsheet we were working on has so changed so much from the original (9.30 AM) printed version that we decided to share the (only one) digital version across all participants.
I’ve been told to participate just as a ‘technical viewer’, I had no opportunity to prepare, setup and think a smart solution… before the meeting.

The first solution was to pass it over all other 9 notebooks with USB pendrives.
Thank God, we almost immediately realized it was going to happen several times throughout the day.
Thank Apple (and me) I suggested sharing the Excel file through the obvious: a wireless LAN.
All notebooks had Wi-Fi (mostly were Centrino-equipped) but quite a few guys never used it.

What I did:
– plugged my Airport Express in, just the power plug [no Ethernet/WAN needed 😉 ]
– used Airport Admin to remove (my) usual MAC address filtering and security features so that the AE was completely open and available,
– set up my Powerbook as a FTP server, copying the Excel file in the default FTP directory from the dreaded USB pendrive.

Then, I wrote on a Post-It the FTP address and asked all people to switch their Wi-Fi device on, check that my AE was in the available wireless LANs, log in that address with Internet Explorer (no one using Firefox, sigh).

Just typing

did the magic for all people.

My Powerbook eventually became the pseudo-server of the meeting: the money-and-figures guy moved on it and worked on it (telling me “Wow, it’s a lot like Excel on Windows!”…) the whole day.

Biz-meeting mission accomplished: apart from biz-related results, it was clear to most people that a little white box with an apple on it IS DEFINITELY NOT JUST FOR Mac (OR iPod) users.

Lesson learned:
– biz guys are really accidental notebook users: some never noticed F2 is the ‘edit-key’ in Excel,
– wireless LANs are easy to setup, provided you don’t worry that much about security…
– unlike free meals, Mac-Win interoperability exists,
– always check for Windows and Norton Firewall and, just for the working session, disable it,
– with a USB printer shared through Airport Express, success would be complete!
– Airport Express hasn’t reached a lot of potential users (AKA buyers), most people think a hotspot is a heavy device and cannot come from Apple…
– most people looked at the AE thinking it was an iPod power supply…
– there has to be a better way for biz meetings than sharing paper-digital-paper Excel files,
– I know that collaborative tools for cooperative spreadsheet working are available, but this was a quick-and-not-so-dirty solution!

Remember, just like your parents, you can’t choose biz-meeting people!


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