Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Wireless update

Just an update if you have been following our wireless rollout this year.

We have had over nine thousand authenticated clients using our wireless network simultaneously every day so far this week.


This is 80% up on the same time last year and 200 devices higher than our previous peak.

So far it seems to be going well, only seen one complaint recently. The main problem seems to be the time it takes to get even more of the campus and residences covered. We can survey a site and put in the cable routes and drawings, but it is getting held up with the buildings and estates departments while they allow the work to be done. I had a user, who is quite senior in one of the departments still waiting, offer to 'kick someone's ass' yesterday.

I will see if it makes any difference.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Best of PS3 Exclusives

I have had a bit of time to get back on my PS3 lately and with a big Sony announcement tomorrow (PS4?) I was thinking about the best Playstation-only titles I own.

3. Resistance 3



The first instalment was a cracking game, the second wasn't quite as fulfilling. So far, part 3 looks like it might be the best of the bunch.

2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves



Fantastic set-pieces and action, fun script and great gaming. Lara Croft, Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne rolled into one.

1. Heavy Rain



When I started the game I really wasn't sure it was going to work. However, this ended up being the most innovative, surprising and unique game I have played. Coupled with great story telling and many different ways the story can end depending on the choices you make and how well you do at the tasks in front of you makes this my number one.

Honourable mentions: Everybody's Golf World Tour (a fun game you can pick up and put down whenever you have a few minutes), Infamous (Big, open, interesting title where you obtain superpowers and can choose how good or bad you are going to be), Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Uncharted: Drake's Deception (wonderful games, although I haven't completed the third instalment yet)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Check with the network team

This is why the University should always check with the networking guys before doing any work.

We noticed on our monitoring equipment that we lost connection to a number of properties over the weekend and help desk started receiving a fair few calls. So, after going up and having a look, checking the fibre at both ends, power, the switch and router, as well as the cabling, it seemed the problem was in the middle somewhere...

... then we find a number of properties having asbestos works done between the router and our students/staff accommodation. We got into the basement safely, where our comms cabinet is, and pointed out which cable was the fibre. After a brief chat with each other they said "yeah...we cut all them".

Turns out they were told they could cut everything in that room. Not, their fault, they were just doing what they were told and needed to in order to get the area clean. Trouble is, now we need a new fibre and have some very angry residents.

We also had no idea it was happening, so no chance to get a plan in place to offer solutions or warning to the people involved.

Estates departments should really check before deciding what to tell people to cut and what not to.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Would you carry your PC around with you?


This is a picture of what Fox News calls a 'thumbtop' computer. It is rumoured to be a $50 computer that you can take anywhere with you and its power comes from the monitor. It will connect to a keyboard and mouse wirelessly and run Chrome OS.

You can read the full article here: Fox News

After the popularity of the Rasberry Pi it was probably inevitable that a big company would manufacture a small, cheap machine running a Linux-based OS.

So, would you use one?

Monday, 11 February 2013

The leaning cabinet of the CH

Isn't it always the case, when you take over from someone they leave everything in a right mess?

I have spent hours updating the documentation on the wireless network and trying to bring it all together. In doing so I found a cable plan of an access point we had put in for staff in the Children's Hospital, but there was no record of it on the cab layout, hardware database or wireless database. So I went to investigate.

I found the access point, sat there quite happily, for possibly over a year, with no lights on... no power.

It turns out no PoE switch was ever installed to power the AP and it wasn't patched or set up on the system. I guess it is lucky no one has complained, but if they had we would have found the problem. If I hadn't have been backing up and digitising our records then I don't know how long it would have been sat there.

However, I don't think that was the most shocking thing I found. When venturing into the area where the cabinet is I found the cabinet was being held up by a piece of wire.


There were no screws in the bottom holding it in place.



Basically you touched it and it would move. The piece of wire was stopping it falling down or falling on top of you.

Why, for years, people have thought this was acceptable I don't know.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Time saving on surveys

We have recently purchased a great little helper to speed up the time it takes to do wireless surveys.


Rather than going from room to room and taking the time to keep booting it up, we now have a portable power supply with an 8 hour battery life.

We had used extension leads too, but when the building is enormous you still have to keep plugging it back in. Now, as you can see from the size, we can turn it on at the start and stick it anywhere.

The supply is from Terrawave and provides 802.3af PoE to the access point via an RJ45 port. It was around £100. We have mounted the bracket on top and can swap the bracket for different models of AP.

This will also be good for buildings where they are still building sites and there is no power sockets live at the time of the survey.

3502 surveys

As the 1142 (in the picture above) is no longer available we have been recommended the 3502i as it works with our WiSM 1's. However, there doesn't seem to be an autonomous mode for this AP in order to do surveys. One thing we might try is putting it in H-REAP mode after it has been joined to a controller and setting a static address. We have got to get some in first to give it a try. I've got a conference call with the suppliers and network team next week.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Walter Cronkite in the Home Office of 2001 (1967)


A different screen for everything? Dude, you can fit it all on one screen and put it in your pocket.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Show me the [wireless] money

If you have been reading my blog posts this academic year you will find a lot more of the posts are about our wireless network. This is due to the fact my role has evolved into almost completely a wireless networks dominated one. Mainly only because I was the only one who knew a bit about the network and how it worked when the main wireless guy left, but also because in this term just gone wireless demand has exploded.

This isn't necessarily a bad place to be in. Yes, there is lots of work to do, but hopefully all this work and extra importance will lead to a better position and more training. Fingers crossed.


Whether it is the popularity of the iPad (or tablets in general?) or ultra-light, ultra-thin laptops and netbooks that have no ethernet port like the Macbook Air, we have seen student wireless traffic outweigh wired traffic by 2:1 (numbers here).

We also have over 8000 simultaneous wireless connections during a day (compared to 1000-2000 last year) and over this academic year we have had over 72000 unique mac addresses connect to the educational wireless service (called eduroam).

Still though it is not enough, we have a number of requests coming in saying:

"When are you going to get the whole campus covered?"

"When am I going to get wireless in my office? I need it, I've got an iPad"

Well, my boss has got a meeting with the new director next week so we have been putting some numbers together to see what it would take to roll out wireless everywhere on campus. It looks like we would need approximately 969 more access points. Then there is the fact we need at least 300 new switches as many don't have PoE ports, the cabling, sockets, asbestos abatement, upgrade of cabinets etc. This has led us to a figure of about £5,000,000.00, but...

Houston, we have a problem...

We can no longer purchase the model of access point we have deployed EVERYWHERE as it apparently interferes with the French weather survey equipment. We are told there are no more Cisco 1142s in the country, and the access points we have been recommended by our suppliers, the 1602 and the 2602, don't work with our WiSM 1's as they are EOL and we need to upgrade to the WiSM 2.


We haven't got a price yet, but we think these will be about £15,000 each. Not including all the new licences we need. Then there is the time it will take to upgrade the core and migrate all 1400 existing access points across.

There are a couple of alternatives we could have for our WiSM 1's (1262 and 3502), but these, as far as we can tell, won't have modules to support 802.11ac , which could be ratified by the end of November this year.

So either way we will be having to swap everything out sooner or later, or as soon as Apple starts using 802.11ac (rumoured to be a deal with Broadcom for their 2013 new line up).

Maybe we should ask for something more like £10,000,000 over the next few years?