Friday, June 26, 2009

time capsule ordeal or apple: it [doesn't] just works

I am not thrilled with the Time Capsule.

I thought I would share some of my frustrations with you in this forum.

Phase 1 – Easy as Apple Pie

I wanted to configure it from my office first. I plugged it in to my existing router, and it flashed amber. The setup guide directed me to the AirPort Utility, which gave me more information about the issues on a buried menu option.

The complaint of the time capsule was that it was plugged in to a device that did NAT (Network Address Translation) instead of DHCP, and advised me to change the Time Capsule to Bridge Mode if I wanted to continue this configuration.
  1. That’s bullshit.
  2. That’s bullshit.
The Linksys wireless router I plugged in to uses DHCP. It’s been doling out DHCP addresses for about 6 years. And I’ve hooked other routers into it as well, who in turn doled out DHCP addresses to their clients. So I’m not buying it.

Phase 2 – Problems, Problems, and more Problems

I decided to let Apple be my commander in chief, so I did EXACTLY what the instructions told me to do. I powered down my old reliable primary wireless router and replaced it with the Time Capsule. It flashed amber again. Now what?

I went into the AirPort Utility again for more info. It has a new problem this time. It says, “Your Apple wireless device does not have a valid IP address. Make sure your Apple wireless device is connected to your broadband modem or local network, verify your settings, and try again.” And then they actually said the words that make my BLOOD BOIL, “If you still can’t connect, contact your Internet service provider.”

Yeah. Contact my internet service provider about why their network, that has given me uninterrupted service for two years without so much as a hiccup, and ask them what’s wrong—ask them why my new Apple Time Capsule is flashing amber.

After a little more investigation, I found that the router had the dreaded address. I know from previous experience with my MacBook Pro that this can be resolved by setting the IP address manually, then switching back to DHCP. What a joke that “Renew DHCP Lease” button is.

So I set the IP address to and for the subnet mask. At this point it told me there were 6 new problems found:

  1. Base Station Password: The Apple wireless device is protected by the default password.
  2. DNS Server(s): The Apple wireless device doesn’t have any DNS server addresses and might have trouble connecting to the Internet.
  3. Router Address: The router address you have entered is not compatible with your WAN IP address. [I didn’t enter one: it’s blank]
  4. Wireless Security: The Apple wireless device doesn’t have any security on the wireless network. It is recommended that you use WPA2 Personal to secure your wireless network.
  5. Allow SNMP over WAN: The Apple wireless device is set up to allow SNMP on the Ethernet WAN port which decreases network security.
  6. Allow setup over WAN: The Apple wireless device is set up to allow configuration over the Ethernet WAN port, which decreases network security.
Now, none of these problems scare me, and they all look quite reasonable. The issue here is one of confidence.

What happened to “it just works”?

I was supposed to plug in the Ethernet cable, plug in the power cable, wait 60 seconds, and “after your Time Capsule has started up completely, the status light flashes amber until your Time Capsule has been updated with the correct settings. The status light glows solid green after your Time Capsule is properly set up and connected to the Internet or a network.”

Apple. It doesn’t just work.

I have to baby this thing. I will say this about Linksys. When I got my first Linksys so many years ago, I knew next to nothing about routing. I know a little bit more today (not much compared to network IT pros). But when I got the first Linksys, I plugged it in and it just worked. I was thrilled.

I’m not thrilled with the Time Capsule.

To be fair, over the years I've had issues with my Linksys routers and with my ISP (Time Warner Cable formerly Comcast formerly AT&T Broadband formerly TCI). And I've had to baby them, too. Which is how I know where this whole ordeal is headed.

I just expected more from apple. I guess I've been drinking the koolaid.

Phase 3 – Do it Yourself

So now I’m restarted, having set all the options like I want them, resolving all the “problems” with the blank or default settings, except that it’s got an IP address of It restarted to boot with the correct settings. I intended to let it reboot, change it to DHCP, and let it reboot again for success!


Now it tells me that there is Problem 1 of 1: Double NAT and gives me two choices.
And here’s the real bitch of it all—if I choose the option I want, which is to share a single IP address using DHCP and NAT, it asks me if I’m sure I want to continue without resolving the problem.

Anyway, I play the game and choose Bridge, then Continue, then Go back, then choose DHCP, then Continue, and this time it doesn’t act like I’m ignoring the problem.

I continue through, set the manual IP address back to DHCP, and continue on to reboot. It does. And now I’ve got the dreaded address again.

Apple. It doesn’t just work.

Phase 4 – Blame the Other Guy

So now I know what to do. I have to reboot the cable modem. The cable modem that has been up and running for YEARS now with no problem, and hope that it doesn’t fail to come back up properly, which will mean spending AN ENTIRE DAY on the phone with Time Warner Cable Support.

Bottoms up.

And now the light is green. The Time Capsule reports no problems.

I ran through the configuration wizard and setup a secured Guest Wireless network, too. And I got this message:
Yaay beer.

Phase 5 – We Get Signal - Not

And now it’s time to connect to the thing over WiFi and surf the world wide web!


The AirPort utility must have decided that I should connect to the new wireless network and automatically configured it for me. I say this because when I click on my wireless menu the new network “Stone Wire” is there and connected, which means that it had to select it, and set the security options.
So I turn my Airport off on my Mac, give it a few seconds, and then turn it back on.


Maybe the problem is with the wireless network? I try connecting to the Guest Network instead.


This has turned into a full blown pain in the ass at this point.

Phase 6 – No Net is not Good Net

So now I’m back in the Airport Utility. It’s connected to the Internet. Its IP address and settings are correct. Oh. There it is. The DNS servers are still the meaningless manual ones I typed in before. One more time…

Phase 7 – Finally

And we’re up! I just heard the Tweetdeck tweet. Let’s go and see what my friends are up to.

All in, under 2 hours to get this thing configured (just WiFi, not Time Machine and USB disk, and the other stuff). That’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things, I guess. But I expected it to take about 10 minutes.

I always wonder when I do this stuff what a typical consumer goes through. For me at least the terms are familiar and I know exactly how I want to set it up (that is I know what I want the final product to look like). But what about people who don’t have this?

I don’t know why I carry this burden. It’s their problem. Why does their plight bother me so much? And why do I write on this blog anyway?


  1. I am that typical consumer. I am suffering.

  2. The typical consumer gets really frustrated, because they (I) don't even know where to begin. The lingo is completely foreign, and I know that getting this straightened out is going to eat up the rest of my day. Ugh ugh ugh. I buy apple because i want it to "just work". As I type this from my iPhone since my MacBook no longer gets Internet.

  3. I just googled the problem of comcast and TC. I have now created a dummy network that doesn't get internet, and I have done powering cycles, but I don't really know what I am doing. I has a sys admin friend come over and help me and she couldn't figure it out. So do I call Comcast or Apple (i have apple care). The weird thing is that I can't plug my computer to the modem and get internet either, only my boyfriend's computer (desktop) will go online.

  4. This scares me. I am considering switching to a Mac for many, many reasons but I am completely illiterate when it comes to routers, networks and computers in general. And I don't have any computer genius friends either....

  5. Hey Steve,
    thanks for documenting your troubles...I had the exact same problem and your blog helped....helped where the mac store didn't.

    Very much appreciated.