Rez wireless network buggy

Students living in Residence may have to put up with bugs in Reznet, the wireless computer network, for another week as technicians work to resolve problems.


"We had and still have a few issues on the network," said Telecommunications Manager Wolfgang Neumann. "We decided to put the network up for last Monday [Sept. 1], but equipment came on the Friday [Aug. 29] before so we had no time to debug it."


Though he has not surveyed students, Residence Students’ Association Vice-President Apart- ments Bryan West said he and several student representatives and community assistants have each received several complaints per day about wireless access.


"We received a lot of complaints about it–slow speeds, dead areas, especially in people’s rooms, the waiting periods for virus scans," said West. "Students were told [IT] will install software on Sept. 13 when they moved in on the Sept. 1."


According to Neumann, coverage in some areas is weak due to the composition of the buildings which affects the permeability of wireless radio signals. Neumann said technicians will test each suite for signal strength in the upcoming week, and wireless access points will be added or adjusted according to student feedback.


"RSA understands that IT is doing their best," said West. "They were just not equipped to deal with the number of students. The process of processing students and their customer service was weak."


West said some students who use desktop computers, such as himself, are having difficulty getting strong signals as they are unable to orient relative to the wireless access points. In addition, the recent virus activity on all U of C networks has slowed the wireless network. U of C technicians tried to avert the problem by cleaning and updating virus-laden student computers in the first week of September.


"There were some surprises when you get students to sign in," said Neumann. "We had some machines with around 900 viruses on them."


Because technicians did not anticipate the diversity of students’ computers, adding each computer to the wireless network took more than an hour, instead of the anticipated 30 minutes.


Obtaining and installing wireless network cards was also a time-consuming process for students. According to West, students were not notified they would need to purchase their own wireless network cards at a cost of $58-$84 from the Microstore, or $40 elsewhere in Calgary.


The move to a wireless network came in response to concerns in recent years about the speed and price of Internet access in Residence. Currently, students pay $24 a month for wireless access with speeds comparable to adsl, about half of the previous price for similar speed wired access.


“We actually increased bandwidth five Megabits per second to 10 Megabits per second,” said Neumann. “Looking at actual output, usage has not hit 100 per cent.”


West said his Internet access speed has not decreased due to the switch from a wired to a wireless network this year, though he is personally frustrated with being disconnected every 10 to 15 minutes. He and rsa hope the situation will improve.


“rsa does support this project,” said West. “We think Reznet was put in with the best of intentions and hope it will be good for students in the long run. I hope they learn from this for next year.”


In light of student concerns about the security of the wireless link, Neumann reassures users the wireless connections in the residences are as secure as a regular broadband connection, unlike the less secure wireless Airuc network that serves the rest of campus. Neumann adds that despite being able to see other computers on the wireless network, files on users’ computers are safe from uninvited guests unless users deliberately choose to share them.


For more information on the forthcoming General Purpose Virtual Private Network service, visit www.ucalgary.ca/it/netserv/wireless/vpn.