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Early Intel Mac wireless question

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
I decided recently to dust off the old Mac Pro for the kids to play with. (The primary motivating factor was someone giving me a matching 30" Cinema display they didn't want anymore because it didn't play nicely with their new MacBook.) In the process I decided to cram some cheap upgrades into it: took it from 8GB to 32GB using RAM from pulled servers and after deciding that the Snow Leopard drivers for the cheap USB 802.11g dongle sucked I spent $7 on a pulled AirPort Extreme card. (Which, ho boy, was not fun to install. Unless fidgeting with nearly microscopic connectors in a cramped space with almost zero slack in the cables is your idea of a good time.) Said Airport card is the topic of this post.

The card I ended up with identifies itself in System Profiler as being "a/b/g" capable, and when it joins to the home network (which for the time being is still running on a first-generation "square" AirPort Extreme base station) it does so as if it were an 802.11g network. The card was advertised as being for an "iMac" (but also claimed to be compatible with the Mac Pro), but I'm not sure what vintage machine it was actually pulled from. I know there was this period where Apple was selling a $1.99 "802.11n Enabler" for certain early Core Duo 2 machines to make them work on 802.11n, but supposedly that didn't work with some yet earlier cards sold with Core Duo models(?) So my dumb multi-part question is:

A: Did that "enabler" flash the card somehow or did it just unlock something in the OS to tell it to let the 802.11n mode work on your machine after you ran it? (IE, would the effect of the "enabler" follow the card if you pulled it and stuck it in another machine, or not?)

B: Is there an easy way to tell the 802.11n capable cards from the ones that are permanently a/b/g? (IE, a model identifier or other hardware signature? Maybe my Google Fu is a problem today but I've been having some trouble finding an answer that doesn't depend on knowing what machine the card came in was.) And:

C: If I am stuck with a/b/g (not a huge deal), is there a secret box you can click on the network setup that would tell the Mac to use "a" instead of "g"? (The local airwaves are far more congested at 2.4ghz than they are at 5ghz.) I would *swear* that I've successfully used an x86 with an 802.11a-only card on my home WiFi so I'm pretty sure the Airport base station already supports it.

The machine will probably continue to run Linux most of the time anyway so maybe ultimately it doesn't matter but I am just vaguely curious. (For all practical purposes being stuck at Snow Leopard is probably going to be a problem soon. It seems like *way* too much hassle to try to track down Lion just to be two versions behind instead of three, which will be the case soon. Until recently the OS X partition on the machine had *Tiger* on it, which says how much use that got.)

I guess on that last subject... does anyone have a Mac Pro 1.1 or 2.1 that they've "Hackintoshed" to get Mountain Lion on? I don't think I really care to do that, given it seems to call for a (stupidly expensive) video card upgrade, but I'm sort of wondering how hard/annoying it really is. (IE, how difficult Software Updates are, what's broken, etc.)

Thanks.

 

Anonymous Freak

Well-known member
The enabler was purely OS. Installing 10.5 or 10.6 also enabled it. I got a used white iMac Core 2 Duo with its original 10.4 that had *NOT* had it installed when I got it (only connected at 802.11g speed,) and when I installed 10.6, I got 802.11n speed. (I bought it used from a small office that had been using it as their front desk computer - I doubt ANY software update had ever been run.)

 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
Okay. That's what I was afraid of. (When I bought the wireless card its description was somewhat vague other than it came from an Intel iMac.) Eh. It's at least cleaner having it internally rather than having to use the USB dongle.

BTW, on the remote chance that anyone finds themselves in a similar situation, I found screws suitable for holding the card in place (the posts were empty in my Mac Pro) inside an old laptop CD-ROM drive, around the eject solenoid. Scavenger hunt!

 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
I have a spare 802.11n Airport card, Gorgonops. Just like this.
I can drop it into an envelope for you if you'd like.
Oooh. Looking it up the 5418 does indeed appear to support "n", and it's Atheros instead of Broadcom. (I have some bad history with Broadcom wireless chipsets and Linux, so regardless of how it works in OS X it might still be better.) I'll send you a PM.

 
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