Airport Extreme! Broadcom! Oh my!

So, if you don’t care about wireless data connections and or OS X & XP you should ignore this post. I recently did a little 802.11n upgrade to my aging Core Duo Macbook Pro and I bought an “official” Apple 802.11n Airport Card that has 2 antenna wire inputs. It’s chipset is the Broadcom BCM4328. My Apple System Profiler polls this as Broadcom BCM43xx 1.0 (5.10.38.9) and in Windows XP it clearly shows up as the BCM4328. Now, shouldn’t this be all good? Well sort of, there have been some problems.

Under OS X 802.11n (ie Airport Extreme) works like gang busters over the Time Capsule but it seems my 802.11g performance has taken a huge hit. And under XP SP3 both my g/n performance has degraded. So what’s the deal? Well it seems I should’ve gone with an older version of this chipset.

Apparently the BCM94321MC aka the Dell 1500 Part Number NJ449 was the original version, which worked well for people under Tiger. There obviously are other options, but the key here was the 4321 chipset as opposed to the newer 4328 chipset. So what’s the issue? I don’t know. I imagine the XP drivers aren’t fully up to date. And I also imagine 802.11n MIMO works better with 3 antennas which is why the newer Core 2 Duo machines come with the 3 antenna input Atheros wireless cards. Can I add a third antenna wire and put in the Atheros? I don’t know. Should I sell the one I installed and try the $30 Dell 1500 NJ449? I would say yes.

Another issue that has developed is that with around 15% battery the wireless card will go dormant and not startup again without a reboot. Nice. Whatever, I suppose I cannot complain too much. It mostly works.

Big drives & faster weefee

My first generation (Rev. A) MacBook Pro (Core Duo 2.0 GHz Intel 32 bit Yonah) has starting to slow a little.  The 100GB hard disk is full and I can’t add any more RAM (2GB’s maxed out) but swapping in a bigger faster 7200 RPM laptop HD drive (say like a Seagate Momentus 7200.3 320 GB) and upgrading the mini-PCI wireless LAN card to 802.11n will get me by.  As I recall, Apple took about a year and a half to upgrade to the Core 2 Duo chipset with 64 bit capabilities and even then Leopard didn’t come out until Fall 2007.  I was an early adopter and I’ve been pretty happy with this machine.  So now I’m looking to either stay with OS X 10.4.11 or possibly go the whole hog to 10.5.5, either way I’ll need XP Pro SP3 for CAD software using either BootCamp or rEFIt as a bootloader.

In Leopard with Time Machine data backups should be seamless, my only concern now is application compatibility and system stability.  Z’s white MacBook 2.2 Core 2 Duo came loaded with Leopard 10.5.1 and seems to have stabilized in 10.5.4 (though I think it does need more RAM).  From what I’ve read, somewhat like Vista, Leopard has a basic “footprint” of 512MB, so really 2GB is the minimum you need in practice with multiple applications running.  Tiger apparently has something like a 128MB starting point.

I took my first 3D rendering class in SolidWorks today at NYU.  It seems pretty cool.  NYU sells an educational copy that should work under XP and the MacBook Pro supposedly works alright with it.  We’re going back to Jimmy’s No. 43, I’m excited.