Apple AirPort firmware update fixes 'Back to my Mac' bug, but hardware's destiny still in doubt

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2016
Apple updated its AirPort router software with a patch to fix a "Back to my Mac" problem in conjunction with the AirPort Utility, but the update portends nothing for the future of the hardware.




On Tuesday, Apple released versions 7.6.8 for the 802.11n AirPort Extreme, and 7.7.8 for the 802.11ac AirPort Extreme. According to Apple's release notes, the update fixes an issue where the routers would not respond to the AirPort Utility when "Back to My Mac" is enabled. Other fixes noted are un-named security fixes.

AirPort software updates are installed through the AirPort Utility. If the routers are not visible as a result of "Back to my Mac" being enabled, disabling the feature and rebooting the routers rectifies the problem, allowing the software patch to be installed.




The update is being held up by some as an example of Apple not abandoning the AirPort hardware platform. However, that may not be the case. AppleInsider spoke with our contacts inside Apple regarding the matter shortly after the update went live.

"The hard drive iPod people were gone for a long time, when we issued the last update for the iPod classic firmware," we were told by our contacts within Apple. "Just because the hardware guys have moved on to other things, doesn't mean we won't support the software."

Near the end of November, reports started circulating -- backed by AppleInsider sources -- suggesting that Apple may be ending the AirPort family hardware. Former AirPort engineers are now reportedly working on other teams, including Apple TV development.

"The original AirPort wasn't really ours, we bought that," we were told. "[Apple] supported that for a very long time, even after we built our own, re-organized the division, and some of the guys we brought on to advance the platform were twice-removed."

The internal departmental changes suggest that Apple has no plans to update its existing lineup of routers, including the AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule, and AirPort Express, but do not discount the possibility of the functionality being added to a different product. Apple's AirPort Express network extender and AirPlay audio target has not even been updated to the 802.11ac Wi-Fi specification.

Without specifically confirming the dissolution of the AirPort hardware division, were were told by our contacts that the AirPort ecosystem back to the 802.11n version of the AirPort Extreme basestation would be made "as safe as possible for as long as possible."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    nomadmacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 35
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    It should be Apple. It's really bad form to keep loyal customers in the dark about the fate of something so fundamental to their connectivity. My brother has an older AirPort and asked me to help him upgrade. Want to stick with Apple that I know and understand, but don't want him to invest in orphaned technology with mesh coming to the fore. I think Tim could give us some direction without compromising future products. 
    zoetmbredgeminipawatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 35
    Also updated is vers 7.6.8 for the Airport Express.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    Let me say that I appreciate this article's somewhat different approach to reporting on this issue. 

    The visible facts are still that Airport devices continue to be widely available for sale (not just listed online or 'by request' from the back of Apple stores. I checked my local store this week, and the full line is on the shelf, several deep), and supported by Apple (I just performed this week's firmware updates on mine).

    According to this article, unnamed inside sources are still maintaining that engineering staff have been re-assigned, but the previously reported dissolution of the AirPort division is not 'specifically confirmed' by these sources. That leaves a lot of possibilities open that were previously asserted not to be. These sources have in fact indicated that the product line will continue to be supported.

    This paints a fundamentally different picture than the previous reports, which gave a strong impression that Apple was totally abandoning the product line, even stating that devices were no longer available for sale or were otherwise scarcely available, and also leaving a strong impression that the devices wouldn't be supported much longer or at all.

    Taking that information at face value, many readers were believing all this to mean that they should also quickly abandon the product line and quickly start finding other routers and networking gear.

    Instead, a reasonable reading of today's report suggests that a wait-and-see approach is just fine or even wise for consumers. An Airport device purchased today will remain usable and safe for the foreseeable future, and perhaps a smooth transition will be had into whatever Apple comes up with next, whether it's new versions of AirPort, networking integrated into other devices like AppleTV, or something entirely new.
    StrangeDaysnomadmaccanukstormration alredgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 35
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,269member
    It's not that I don't believe the rumors, after all - Apple hasn't updated the Express to ac, but I think we'll know for sure if we see Apple Retail and/or the website selling a third party router.

    Considering that Apple has been removing ports from machines because "everything is wireless anyway", it doesn't really make sense to me that they'd abandon this line.   On the other hand, while the supposed team was still working on this product line, what the hell were they doing day-to-day?  Airport Extreme 802.11ac and Airport Time Capsule 802.11ac were released in June of 2013, 3 1/2 years ago!   Airport Express 802.11n was released in June of 2012.  

    Maybe they got rid of the team (or moved them on to something else) because they were unproductive.  Maybe a new team is coming in.   Although Apple doesn't make printers, scanners, computer speakers, monitors and many other desktop devices, I consider their router to be part of the ecosystem.  I'm surprised Ive would want a third-party's router sitting on a desk, although if he doesn't care about a monitor, then he wouldn't care about the router (which in the case of third party routers don't necessarily sit on a desk anyway). 
    redgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 35
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    It should be Apple. It's really bad form to keep loyal customers in the dark about the fate of something so fundamental to their connectivity. My brother has an older AirPort and asked me to help him upgrade. Want to stick with Apple that I know and understand, but don't want him to invest in orphaned technology with mesh coming to the fore. I think Tim could give us some direction without compromising future products. 
    Why would they comment on rumors? They sell the AirPort, they support the AirPort. That's all that matters until the day they either 1) stop selling it. 2) start selling something else. Until then there is absolutely no reason for Apple to comment. 
    macxpressai46redgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 35
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,258member
    zoetmb said:
    It's not that I don't believe the rumors, after all - Apple hasn't updated the Express to ac, but I think we'll know for sure if we see Apple Retail and/or the website selling a third party router.

    Considering that Apple has been removing ports from machines because "everything is wireless anyway", it doesn't really make sense to me that they'd abandon this line.   On the other hand, while the supposed team was still working on this product line, what the hell were they doing day-to-day?  Airport Extreme 802.11ac and Airport Time Capsule 802.11ac were released in June of 2013, 3 1/2 years ago!   Airport Express 802.11n was released in June of 2012.  

    Maybe they got rid of the team (or moved them on to something else) because they were unproductive.  Maybe a new team is coming in.   Although Apple doesn't make printers, scanners, computer speakers, monitors and many other desktop devices, I consider their router to be part of the ecosystem.  I'm surprised Ive would want a third-party's router sitting on a desk, although if he doesn't care about a monitor, then he wouldn't care about the router (which in the case of third party routers don't necessarily sit on a desk anyway). 
    My suspicion is that the Airport and Apple TV teams will be merged into a single line of mesh and smart home products. Not necessarily a complete line of smart products like light switches and garage door openers, but things that complement Apple's other technologies like Airplay, network connections, etc. One device acts as the hub (this could be a router or Apple TV or some new device), and other devices can be added to the mesh network as needed. Either to extend the wifi network or add capabilities like Airplay, a remote Ethernet connection, network storage, etc.
    canukstormwelshdogwatto_cobraairmanchairman
  • Reply 8 of 35
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,234member
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    It should be Apple. It's really bad form to keep loyal customers in the dark about the fate of something so fundamental to their connectivity. My brother has an older AirPort and asked me to help him upgrade. Want to stick with Apple that I know and understand, but don't want him to invest in orphaned technology with mesh coming to the fore. I think Tim could give us some direction without compromising future products. 
    Why would they comment on rumors? They sell the AirPort, they support the AirPort. That's all that matters until the day they either 1) stop selling it. 2) start selling something else. Until then there is absolutely no reason for Apple to comment. 
    Exactly! When there's something to announce then they'll announce it. Apple doesn't need to respond to every single rumor on every site. It responds when it needs to and right now they don't need to. 

    wiggin said:
    zoetmb said:
    It's not that I don't believe the rumors, after all - Apple hasn't updated the Express to ac, but I think we'll know for sure if we see Apple Retail and/or the website selling a third party router.

    Considering that Apple has been removing ports from machines because "everything is wireless anyway", it doesn't really make sense to me that they'd abandon this line.   On the other hand, while the supposed team was still working on this product line, what the hell were they doing day-to-day?  Airport Extreme 802.11ac and Airport Time Capsule 802.11ac were released in June of 2013, 3 1/2 years ago!   Airport Express 802.11n was released in June of 2012.  

    Maybe they got rid of the team (or moved them on to something else) because they were unproductive.  Maybe a new team is coming in.   Although Apple doesn't make printers, scanners, computer speakers, monitors and many other desktop devices, I consider their router to be part of the ecosystem.  I'm surprised Ive would want a third-party's router sitting on a desk, although if he doesn't care about a monitor, then he wouldn't care about the router (which in the case of third party routers don't necessarily sit on a desk anyway). 
    My suspicion is that the Airport and Apple TV teams will be merged into a single line of mesh and smart home products. Not necessarily a complete line of smart products like light switches and garage door openers, but things that complement Apple's other technologies like Airplay, network connections, etc. One device acts as the hub (this could be a router or Apple TV or some new device), and other devices can be added to the mesh network as needed. Either to extend the wifi network or add capabilities like Airplay, a remote Ethernet connection, network storage, etc.
    I'm thinking this as well...
    StrangeDayswatto_cobraairmanchairman
  • Reply 9 of 35
    AppleZulu said:
    Let me say that I appreciate this article's somewhat different approach to reporting on this issue. 

    The visible facts are still that Airport devices continue to be widely available for sale (not just listed online or 'by request' from the back of Apple stores. I checked my local store this week, and the full line is on the shelf, several deep), and supported by Apple (I just performed this week's firmware updates on mine).

    Last week the Brea Mall store (one of the newly redesigned ones) had none on display. I asked and was told they had them in the back. I asked if they were being discontinued and was told, yes that they thought they were. Clearly, there is a lot of inconsistencies, confusion, and misinformation out there when even store staff are saying such things. It is incumbent on Apple to get this cleared up. 
    edited December 2016 ai46Rayz2016
  • Reply 10 of 35
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    It should be Apple. It's really bad form to keep loyal customers in the dark about the fate of something so fundamental to their connectivity. My brother has an older AirPort and asked me to help him upgrade. Want to stick with Apple that I know and understand, but don't want him to invest in orphaned technology with mesh coming to the fore. I think Tim could give us some direction without compromising future products. 
    Why would they comment on rumors? They sell the AirPort, they support the AirPort. That's all that matters until the day they either 1) stop selling it. 2) start selling something else. Until then there is absolutely no reason for Apple to comment. 
    I know there are a lot of people who say "They can't respond to every rumour"  but when that rumour can affect sales of your product or the reputation of your brand, then I believe a simple statement is necessary (that is unless the rumours are true).   I have many company locations that I have installed Airport Extremes in, I love them, and highly recommend them for easy, trouble free operation.  The problem with the rumours as it stands today is that if I need to replace or recommend a router, it won't be an Apple.   I'm not going to take a chance not knowing if there is a team working on security for this device.

    If you feel the need to call me dumb to base my purchasing decisions on rumours, that's fine, I'm dumb (got it thanks).   The bottom line to Apple is that there are a lot of "dumb" people like me and letting rumours like this go unchecked cost sales and credibility.
    blastdoorrobin huberwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 35
    abiz said:
    How do I disable Back to my Mac if I can't even see my Airport Extreme in the Utility because of said bug that this firmware addresses? Help!
    I'm not in front of my computer right now to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure you'll find that in the iCloud section of System Preferences.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 35
    NemWanNemWan Posts: 102member
    Given the universality, importance and challenges with routers in personal privacy and security, and the advantages of making it easy to solve those needs, why doesn't Apple see itself as a player here? Why does Apple think someone other than Apple should be doing this? Doesn't Apple realize that an inferior router — or a router they don't control the security specifications of — threatens the user experience with Apple products?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 35
    NemWan said:
    Given the universality, importance and challenges with routers in personal privacy and security, and the advantages of making it easy to solve those needs, why doesn't Apple see itself as a player here? Why does Apple think someone other than Apple should be doing this? Doesn't Apple realize that an inferior router — or a router they don't control the security specifications of — threatens the user experience with Apple products?
    Given the fact that in this report, AI's sources would not confirm the dissolution of the Airport division, but would confirm that the existing products will continue to be supported, why do you conclude that Apple doesn't see itself as a "player" in networking devices? I wouldn't conclude that. All I would conclude is that we don't know the specific direction Apple is planning to take with regard to networking. They could wait a year and update AirPort. They could be integrating the tech into other devices. They could have a whole new approach under development. Or they could be getting out of it. The last option seems the least likely to me. Based on the rest of what you wrote, it seems to be the least likely to you, too, doesn't it? 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 35
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    It should be Apple. It's really bad form to keep loyal customers in the dark about the fate of something so fundamental to their connectivity. My brother has an older AirPort and asked me to help him upgrade. Want to stick with Apple that I know and understand, but don't want him to invest in orphaned technology with mesh coming to the fore. I think Tim could give us some direction without compromising future products. 
    Why does Apple has to answer unadulterated rumors?

    The simple answer: Stop taking rumors as gospel. Apple does not have to tell people about the state of AirPort, because they weren't the ones casting the doubt to begin with.
    AppleZuluStrangeDaysRayz2016
  • Reply 15 of 35
    abiz said:
    How do I disable Back to my Mac if I can't even see my Airport Extreme in the Utility because of said bug that this firmware addresses? Help!
    What broke the was the Bonjour service, the router was still functioning. Just select File > Config other... and type in the IP address manually (ie: 10.0.1.1)
  • Reply 16 of 35
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,953member

    The internal departmental changes suggest that Apple has no plans to update its existing lineup of routers, including the AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule, and AirPort Express, but do not discount the possibility of the functionality being added to a different product. 

    Oohhh. Intriguing. 

    I don't see Apple getting into making cable modems, but the obvious choice is AppleTV. 

    wiggin said:
    My suspicion is that the Airport and Apple TV teams will be merged into a single line of mesh and smart home products. Not necessarily a complete line of smart products like light switches and garage door openers, but things that complement Apple's other technologies like Airplay, network connections, etc. One device acts as the hub (this could be a router or Apple TV or some new device), and other devices can be added to the mesh network as needed. Either to extend the wifi network or add capabilities like Airplay, a remote Ethernet connection, network storage, etc.
    Maybe the new product is "Apple Home." It neatly could solve some of the security issues with the @internetofshit ;

  • Reply 17 of 35
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,504member
    abiz said:
    How do I disable Back to my Mac if I can't even see my Airport Extreme in the Utility because of said bug that this firmware addresses? Help!
    dchao99 said:
    abiz said:
    How do I disable Back to my Mac if I can't even see my Airport Extreme in the Utility because of said bug that this firmware addresses? Help!
    What broke the was the Bonjour service, the router was still functioning. Just select File > Config other... and type in the IP address manually (ie: 10.0.1.1)
    That didn't work for me (my Time Capsule is in bridge mode, hooked up to the DSL router). 

    What worked was to unplug the Time Capsule (both power and WAN Ethernet), and then plug in only power at first. Second time I tried this, it showed up in Airport Utility. 

    When I tried to update the firmware, it of course said that it had no internet connection. Plugged in the WAN cable to the DSL router, tried to update again — it worked. 

    It now shows up in Airport Utility, in the Finder, and Time Machine backups are working again.
    abiz
  • Reply 18 of 35
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,953member
    spheric said:
    abiz said:
    How do I disable Back to my Mac if I can't even see my Airport Extreme in the Utility because of said bug that this firmware addresses? Help!
    dchao99 said:
    abiz said:
    How do I disable Back to my Mac if I can't even see my Airport Extreme in the Utility because of said bug that this firmware addresses? Help!
    What broke the was the Bonjour service, the router was still functioning. Just select File > Config other... and type in the IP address manually (ie: 10.0.1.1)
    That didn't work for me (my Time Capsule is in bridge mode, hooked up to the DSL router). 

    What worked was to unplug the Time Capsule (both power and WAN Ethernet), and then plug in only power at first. Second time I tried this, it showed up in Airport Utility. 

    When I tried to update the firmware, it of course said that it had no internet connection. Plugged in the WAN cable to the DSL router, tried to update again — it worked. 

    It now shows up in Airport Utility, in the Finder, and Time Machine backups are working again.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/windowsphone/comments/5jdplf/a_classic_day_in_the_life_with_my_lumia_950/

  • Reply 19 of 35
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    It should be Apple. It's really bad form to keep loyal customers in the dark about the fate of something so fundamental to their connectivity. My brother has an older AirPort and asked me to help him upgrade. Want to stick with Apple that I know and understand, but don't want him to invest in orphaned technology with mesh coming to the fore. I think Tim could give us some direction without compromising future products. 
    Why would they comment on rumors? They sell the AirPort, they support the AirPort. That's all that matters until the day they either 1) stop selling it. 2) start selling something else. Until then there is absolutely no reason for Apple to comment. 
    How about because they've commented on rumors before when those rumors weren't true and needed to be debunked? For example, this past week Cook commented on negative rumors about Mac desktops. It was a very low-information comment, but it at least showed that Apple will continue to make some desktop Macs. 

    The Bloomberg story out this week about the sad state of the Mac makes me think that the rumors about Airport must be true. If Apple is unable to get its act together to keep the Mac moving forward, Airport doesn't have a chance. 
  • Reply 20 of 35
    blastdoor said:
    Can someone give any facts about the fate of this stuff versus rumors?
    It should be Apple. It's really bad form to keep loyal customers in the dark about the fate of something so fundamental to their connectivity. My brother has an older AirPort and asked me to help him upgrade. Want to stick with Apple that I know and understand, but don't want him to invest in orphaned technology with mesh coming to the fore. I think Tim could give us some direction without compromising future products. 
    Why would they comment on rumors? They sell the AirPort, they support the AirPort. That's all that matters until the day they either 1) stop selling it. 2) start selling something else. Until then there is absolutely no reason for Apple to comment. 
    How about because they've commented on rumors before when those rumors weren't true and needed to be debunked? For example, this past week Cook commented on negative rumors about Mac desktops. It was a very low-information comment, but it at least showed that Apple will continue to make some desktop Macs. 

    The Bloomberg story out this week about the sad state of the Mac makes me think that the rumors about Airport must be true. If Apple is unable to get its act together to keep the Mac moving forward, Airport doesn't have a chance. 
    The negative rumors about desktop macs have been out there for a very long time, and Cook just now made a vague comment. The rumors about AirPort are fairly recent. Making conclusions based on whether or not Apple has commented on a rumor or not is about like a teenage boy trying to determine if a girl he's never talked to likes him or not based on that one time she briefly made eye contact with him in math class.
    StrangeDays
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