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Apple polishes wireless networking

A new version of the company's AirPort technology offers better security and the ability for Macs to wirelessly connect to the Web using AOL.

Apple Computer on Tuesday announced a new version of its AirPort wireless networking technology, with software that offers better security and the ability for Macs to wirelessly connect to the Internet using America Online.

AirPort 2.0 base stations, which use the 802.11b networking standard, now include a built-in firewall, along with stronger 128-bit encryption for added security, and the ability for up to 50 computers to share a single base station.

"Apple has consistently led the industry in 802.11 wireless networking," Philip Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement.

The AirPort 2.0 software is available for download from Apple's Web site in versions for the Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X operating systems and can add AOL support to existing AirPort base stations and 128-bit encryption to AirPort cards.

The technology is also built into new base stations and cards. Apple's new base station adds a second Ethernet port to allow a wired connection to other computers. AirPort cards are priced at $99, while the base station sells for $299.

Apple has been a leading advocate of the wireless technology since CEO Steve Jobs first showed an iBook running wirelessly in July 1999. Apple now includes an AirPort antenna in all new Macs.