I was given a couple of broken Graphite Airport Base Stations from a friend that I wasn't too sure what to do with. Whilst trying to find out what was wrong with them, I noticed that the inside of them was actually very easy to get into and the ports were actually really easy to modify. I had a Fonera sharing wifi anyway but always loved the look of the Airport base stations so decided to see if I could transplant a Fonera inside the casing of an Airport Base Station.
Not only does it work well, but even the lights work correctly!
Step 1: Take Off the Base Plate
1. Apple Graphite Airport Base Station
2. La Fonera
3. RP-SMA antenna or lead. The original Fonera antenna won't work so you'll either need a new antenna that has a bit of a lead to it, or an RP-SMA extension lead.
3. Philips screwdriver
4. Xacto or Stanley blade
5 Cable ties
Once you've gathered your tools, turn the base station upside down and remove the 3 philips screws.
Step 2: Remove Inner Housing
Once you've done that, unscrew the 3 brass coloured screws.
Step 3: Disconnect Inner Housing
The actual ports on the back of the base station are basically small extensions. If you look at the inner housing, you'll see there's an ethernet and power cable that connect into it as well. This basically rules out any soldering that may have been needed as we can just use these cables later.
Disconnect the 2 cables so you have completely freed the inner housing.
If you're interested, the inner housing contains a PCMCIA wireless card. The original base station was basically just that and some circuitry to make it into a router.
Remove the PCMCIA card as we won't need that but the casing will be needed a few steps later.
Step 4: Removing the Modem Port
1. We don't need the modem port
2. We need the area to feed the antenna cable through
I've included a few pictures for this step. There are 2 screws just behind the board. Remove them, and the board will come out. Once done, look at the modem port and you'll see another 2 screws. Remove them and the modem port can be taken off and discarded.
Once you've removed the modem port, fed through your antenna cable and re-screw the board back in place.
Step 5: Opening the Inner Housing
Remove the circuitry shown below.
Step 6: Disemboweling the La Fonera
Turn Fonera upside down and remove the 2 screws located at the front of the base. You will need to remove the 2 rubber standoffs first. You don't need to remove the rear 2 as there aren't any screws underneath.
Once you've done this, there is a small nut that holds the antenna connector on the rear of the housing. Unscrew this and remove it as well as the small washer.
Step 7: Fitting the Fonera Into the Inner Housing
I decided to keep the inner housing because I didn't want there to be any possibility of shorting out as I didn't want 2 bare circuit boards (rear board and Fonera) touching. Plus the inner housing screws back in place so it would fit nicely. I didn't use the other half of the housing because it wasn't needed.
If you compare the picture in this step to the original inner housing, you'll see where I made the cuts.
I removed the plastic cover inside the housing which allows the PCMCIA wireless card to fit and it left some adhesive which was helpful when keeping the Fonera in place.
I then used some cable ties just to keep the Fonera in place and stop it moving about. The result is pretty secure and it's not going anywhere.
Once you've done that, connect the antenna, ethernet and power cable and screws the inner housing into place.
Before screwing the base plate back on - test the Fonera first! If not to make sure anything was broken, but to make sure the lights are working correctly.
Step 8: All Done!
Here's the before and after pics. Before, the base station had red lights. Now it has green lights with the Fonera inside.