What This Book Covers

This book explains the following wireless technologies and how to use them with a Macintosh computer running Mac OS X, Version 10.2 or later:

Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi)

Wi-Fi is the generic term for technologies that Apple brands as AirPort or AirPort Extreme. You can use Wi-Fi to connect with the Internet wirelessly at high speeds, and to replace Ethernet wires and hubs in a Local Area Network (LAN). Wi-Fi uses radio waves to transmit information. Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5 discuss Wi-Fi.


Bluetooth is often touted as a "cable-replacement" technology. Like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth also uses radio waves, but operates within a shorter range. It is useful for replacing cables that connect two devices. For example, your keyboard and mouse can use Bluetooth technology to transmit signals to your computer, eliminating the need for USB cables. You can also synchronize your cellular telephone or PDA with your computer wirelessly via Bluetooth. Chapter 6 discusses Bluetooth.


Infrared technology has been around for a number of years, but its cachet on the Mac is fading fast. Infrared requires "line-of-sight" (LOS) to transmit data. It shares the short-range capabilities of Bluetooth, but is hampered by its dependence on LOS. Infrared uses light waves that are just outside the spectrum of visible light. You'll find a discussion of Infrared in Appendix A.

Radio Frequency (RF)

RF devices are short-range units primarily used to control peripherals, such as wireless mice and remote controls. Appendix A covers RF, too.

Cellular Telephone Connections

While Wi-Fi allows you to connect to the network wirelessly, it has limited coverage. Physically moving out of range of a wireless network breaks the connection. For situations when you're really on the go, cellular telephone technologies such as General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) may be the ideal solution (or a complement to Wi-Fi for network connectivity when you're away from a hotspot). CDMA and GPRS are two leading networking technologies used by high-speed (30 to 70 kbps, and sometimes higher) cellular networking called 3G (third-generation, but usually called 2.5G because the current technology didn't quite live up to the high speeds originally promised). As long as you are within reach of a compatible cell tower, either protocol will keep you connected to the network (and Internet).

The choice of CDMA or GPRS is generally dictated by your choice of wireless provider. For example, AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile use GPRS for their 2.5G cellular networking, while Sprint and Verizon Wireless use CDMA. At the time of this writing, unlimited data plans that support tethering a laptop to your phone were available for around $80 a month in the United States, with the notable exception of T-Mobile, which offers unlimited data for $30 a month ($20 if added to most of their voice plans) at slightly slower than typical (56k) dialup speeds. Chapter 7 discusses cellular networking.