need an opinion: airport base station or iMac as software base station?


First time poster, long time listener here. :D

I currently use an iBook 500. It is my main (and only) computer. The dorms I recently moved from were on a big Airport network, so I had a card in my book and was always connected.

Now i've got my own place and I'm missing the mobility. Here's my dilemma:

Should I get an Airport basestation for like $300, or should I get a used iMac and turn it into a software basestation? I can get a decent iMac at about 333mhz for like $400. Then I'd obviously need another Airport card .. but with this I would also be gaining more harddrive space through the network.

The other part of this equation is, would I be able to access my USB (Lexmark) printer through my iBook, if it's connect to the iMac/basestation?

I don't know if software would be a problem, my iBook only has OSX on it. I've heard that iMacs of lesser speeds can run OSX but not well. Which wouldn't really matter because it would be basically acting as a basestation, printing station and extra hardrive.

Sorry that was kinda long, does this seem pheasable? Thanks for any thoughts, fellas!

One last thing I forgot to add:
Would a basestation give a better signal range than an iMac/software basestation?
Simple answer is: base station.

Oh, so you want to know WHY? :D

Well, for one, the 333 MHz iMac that you are looking at does not support Airport. You have to get, at minimum, one of the slot-loading iMacs. Also, software base station is not nearly as versatile as a normal base station is.

So if you think about it, you'll probably end up spending $500 at least for the iMac, $100 for the built-in aiport card, and then you would just have a limited base station. For $600, you could get a $300 REAL base station, and then sink the other $300 into an external FireWire hard drive... that would probably be a better solution.

As for the printer question, there is something called USB Printer Sharing that comes with the Classic Mac OS. However it is not available in OS X yet, and it probably won't be until the next major update of OS X (and that will probably be in January). USB Printer Sharing works perfectly well, as long as the computer that is directly connected to the printer is on.. otherwise you can't access it.

If you want the printer to be stationary and be able to print from wherever in your house, I kind of think you're out of luck if you have a USB printer (if it has an ethernet port on it, then you ARE in luck... reply if this is the case). I don't believe there is anything that can put a USB printer on a network besides USB printer sharing, so it would require another computer, as you had suggested, so it would be another $600.

I would suggest going for the base station, and then just having to deal with manually hooking up your printer whenever you want to print (I know it's a hassle). You might want to look around on the net for something that puts a USB printer on the network though, or wait for someone else on this forum to alert you (us) of such a product.
Hi, I'm currently using my old iBook 300 as a software base station (OS 9). This works quite well for surfing with my TiBook. But: I'd buy an AirPort Base Station if I'd sell the iBook. The hardware base station uses less power and it's also cheaper.

Buy a hardware base station and an external firewire harddrive (a bigger one than your internal, so you can backup everything to it!).
Maybe if OSX allowed USB printer sharing .. that'd be a kinda cool way to go. But if you don't really need the extra HD space or the extra computer for that matter, save your cash and just get the base station.
Don't have a wireless network myself, but I've been reading a lot about them and fueling iBook dreams :)

It's my understanding that the base station unit has a significantly greater range than a software base station, so if you're interested in roaming outside of your apt or allowing others to use your network, the base station is probably better.
You might want to check this out. I think that the actual base station is the best solution. I have it running at home using PPOE for my DSL and at work connecting me to my lan.


AirPort Software Base Station is not a feature of Airport in 10.1. You may use Computer-to-Computer network or an AirPort Base Station.