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Apple Airport firmware updates.

If you’ve owned and operated an Apple Airport device for any length of time you’ll probably be aware that you can downgrade to older, previously-installed versions of firmware if you should ever need or want to. It’s a fairly trivial thing to do with Mac OS X’s Airport Utility – finding the feature is the hardest part!1

But what about if you want to try an older firmware on an Airport that has only ever run the current version? Well, that’s a little bit less straight-forward… but not terribly difficult to do.

Firstly, take a peek at I can’t say for certain, but since it’s sitting there on an Apple webserver I guess this is how your Airport checks to see if there are any updates available. Regardless, this XML file provides links to a number of firmware files (“.basebinary”) for each Airport model.

Unfortunately, version.xml doesn’t use the Airport model names you’re familiar with. Instead it uses Product IDs that appear to have no relation to a device’s model or order numbers. However, a mix of persistence and good fortune led me to discover that /Contents/Resources/en.lproj/AirPortSettings.strings inside the Airport Utility app deciphers these IDs. Here they are:

0 = AirPort Base Station

1 = AirPort Base Station

102 = AirPort Express 802.11g

104 = AirPort Extreme 802.11n (1st Generation)

105 = AirPort Extreme 802.11n (2nd Generation)

106 = AirPort Time Capsule 802.11n (1st Generation)

107 = AirPort Express 802.11n (1st Generation)

108 = AirPort Extreme 802.11n (3rd Generation)

109 = AirPort Time Capsule 802.11n (2nd Generation)

113 = AirPort Time Capsule 802.11n (3rd Generation)

114 = AirPort Extreme 802.11n (4th Generation)

115 = AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation)

116 = AirPort Time Capsule 802.11n (4th Generation)

117 = AirPort Extreme 802.11n (5th Generation)

119 = AirPort Time Capsule 802.11ac

120 = AirPort Extreme 802.11ac

3 = AirPort Extreme 802.11g

So now you know the ProductID for your Airport, you can go back to version.xml and copy the correct URL of the firmware version you’re interested in. Paste it into a web browser and you’ll download the file. Then simply go back to Airport Utility, choose “other…” in that version drop-down menu and point Finder at your freshly downloaded .basebinary file.

Now cross your fingers that A) the downgrade works ok, and B) achieves what you were hoping for.

Oh, and remember, if having followed these instructions anything does go wrong with your base station, it is absolutely, categorically not my fault.

PS. Huge thanks to Laszlo Pusztai whose 2013 blog post on downgrading an Airport Extreme actually got us most of the way there.

  1. Marco Arment has covered it before – see for details. 

The camera that follows you.

Have you heard about Lily? I don’t know much about drones1 but this looks like some mightily impressive stuff…

Great, isn’t it? Pure magic. I love the “no setup required” angle. In fact, it kind of reminds me of Apple a little. Taking an existing product and just making it simple enough for ANYONE to use and enjoy, while enthusiasts and experts miss the point entirely and moan about how it could be done cheaper, or be made more advanced, or allow for user modifications.

All that said, the above video is marketing material. Intrigued to note that Lily won’t ship until February 2016 I went looking for more information about its development. This Guardian Tech video is one of the first things I found…

I think it’s fair to say that the reality doesn’t quite live up to the marketing right now. Which probably comes as somewhat of a relief to GoPro. Anyway, I’ll definitely keep an eye on Lily – I like the idea a lot. I also look forward to the first video of someone throwing one off a cliff, having forgotten to check the battery is charged.

  1. Drones? When I was a lad we called these things remote-controlled helicopters. 

Plugs, plugs, plugs.

Regularly viewers will know that I have a bit of a thing for the British electric plug. Today a friend asked me to dig out the URL of a CNET article I once linked-to and it reminded me that i’ve been meaning to post this video for ages. It’s excellent. And was the piece of evidence I used to finally persuade my wife to stop using those stupid plastic “safety” socket covers. Enjoy, domestic electrical system fans!

Makes you proud, doesn’t it Britain? God bless the Queen, and all who sail in her.

Now, while I’m here writing about plugs I can’t go without mentioning the recent excitement about Apple’s new USB charger for the UK. What’s the excitement? Well, it has folding pins. Yes, FOLDING PINS! A few years ago I wondered if Apple might licence the design of the excellent Mu folding plug but it turns out they’d rather just make their own. What a beautiful, beautiful thing. Thank you Sir Jony.

Fixed embedded videos.

It seems a load of the videos i’d embedded here over the years were broken and/or reliant on Flash Player (same thing?), so i’ve just been through the site and updated the embed code used. We’re now using WordPress’ very simple embed tag and hopefully you’ll now be able to watch these clips on any device (thanks to YouTube defaulting to HTML5 video). Let me know if you happen across any videos that are still broken.

I think my favourite re-discovery in carrying out this little bit of admin is Microsoft’s vision of technology of 2019. This video is now 6 years old and so we’re just 4 years away from this tech. Awesome.