Mac Users Join the "A" List — When Apple’s AirPort Extreme (IEEE 802.11g) wireless networking system was announced in January 2003, Steve Jobs declared an older, equally fast system dead. He said 802.11a, which uses a different range of frequency from the AirPort (802.11b) and AirPort Extreme standards, would join the dustbin of history, as the lack of backwards compatibility doomed it. A year later, 802.11a has more legs because of additional frequencies allotted to its band, and the large number of wireless cards from non-Apple sources that can handle 802.11a, b, and g. 802.11a doesn’t suffer from as much junk radio interference as b and g. But Mac users have been excluded from this revolution so far.
OrangeWare is now offering software drivers that they developed for 3Com to support a set of chips from Atheros, a competitor to Apple’s wireless source Broadcom. Although the OrangeWare driver lets Mac OS X use Atheros-based wireless cards, Mac users have been able to use 802.11g cards made by Linksys, Buffalo, Belkin, and others that share the Broadcom chips used in the AirPort Extreme line-up ever since the AirPort 3.1 software update was released. With the $15 trialware OrangeWare driver, you can use 802.11a or a/g PC or PCI cards from NetGear, Fujitsu, D-Link and others. OrangeWare has a short list of cards they’ve tested. [GF]