Monday, 14 September 2015

Cisco AP skins

As part of our roll out of wireless everywhere we have had to try to deal with a few listed buildings and spaces where installations don't want to be seen. Also we have had a request from our theater to paint the wireless access points so that they are dark and cannot be seen when the lights are down during a performance.

It is easy enough to turn the LED off on the access point. This might make it a little more difficult on occasion to troubleshoot the AP, but we have monitoring kit and the ability to log in so we should be fine.

To do so, logging in through Cisco Prime it is the bottom tick box option on the configuration page:

Rather than painting the access points we found that we can get AP skins that are designed to allow the wireless signal through and fit our internal antenna AP's (1142, 3502, 3702).

They are on Cisco's marketplace here. We also found international shipping from the US here and here.

They have a clip and included is some velcro stickies to make sure the cover doesn't come off if it is ceiling mounted (but easy enough to get off should you need to).

Note: Skins are paintable using an enamel spray paint such as Krylon (do not use oil based paint or metallic
paint). Surface does not need to be treated. 

Temporary Wireless Link

That's right, the University has bought another building. They also, in their wisdom, decided to start moving staff in before getting services to the premises, and it turns out the road where we would need to dig to access the ducts has a Section 58 notice, meaning it cannot be dug up in a 3 year period.

As a result we have installed a wireless point-to-point link on our nearest visible and accessible roof top.

New Wireless Link

We have a couple of point-to-point wireless devices we keep for emergencies and temporary bodges that we have set up before (pictures of these below), but as we have a large building to feed with a number of staff and students as well as PC's to image we were looking for something that could provide closer to a gigabit connection. From throughput tests it seems to work well and a fibre can go in the road at a later date.

Existing point-to-point wireless kit on 5.4GHz frequency and 20/40MHz wide channel tests

Thursday, 10 September 2015

More Wireless Bugs (1)

We have found another bug on our wireless network, with thanks to a helpful person who we spoke to during an install of an access point in their room.

For some reason we were discussing the AP and the boot up sequence, we told him that the LED would go green when it was online and blue when someone was connected. The AP booted up and worked and all seemed well for a few days.

Then we got a call from the guy who wanted to tell us the LED no longer goes blue. Well our monitoring kit, that is supposed to alert us to problems (by probing the device) thought all was good. The controller and Prime thought all was good, no alarms and a connected, active AP. So off I pop to site and I find I cannot connect, I can't see the AP on the Aircheck. Logging into the AP I find the administration status of the radios disabled. I look through the logs and see it appears to have done it by itself a few days before we got the call. My second thought, after how the hell has that happened, was 'has this happened anywhere else' because it is extremely rare for someone to know and to tell us what the LED status lights on the AP are doing or not doing.

So after a long and laborious trawl through the radios on Prime I did find another hand full of APs that had turned their radio off. So now we need to find a quicker way of spotting these, or wait for people to report faults. We passed this on to our suppliers who said it sounds like a bug which should be fixed in the next controller version....whenever that is released.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Wireless Project Update

I have written before about our project to get the whole campus wireless coverage by September 2015. After many [many] months waiting for our Estates department to start moving, things are coming [too] thick and fast.

As well as another 36 buildings to survey and 47 currently being installed as part of the wireless project we have a small matter of three new buildings to kit out and bring on line for the start of term. This is in addition to all the fun the start of term usually brings, last minute department moves included.

Matters were not helped recently when Cisco shipped us a few hundred access points with a different LWAPP image version to the other 600 or so among the order. The configuration on these access points was different and it appears was missing the crucial "bridge-group 1 spanning-disabled" command. This caused our switch's BPDU guard to err-disable and shut down the port within around 30-60 seconds of boot up. What's worse is Cisco had no way of telling which image was on which access point. They were all mixed up among the order.

As a result we have had contractors fitting access points around campus and not knowing whether they are going to come up or not. If not, is it down to this LWAPP version or a VLAN, cabling, switching issue? Or just the contractors plugging the the ethernet cables into the console ports, or not al all?

This is just one of the many problems we have had in the last few weeks and months of the project. I'll try to update with a few more details, but on the bright side I finally managed to get a Surface Pro for wireless surveys and so far this has been excellent.

More about this and the project progression to follow.