Cutting the cord

Sam Houston State University students can now access the Internet with a wireless network system available in eight different campus buildings.

The SHSU wireless network allows a user to connect to university computing resources and the Internet without a physical connection to campus wiring.

In order to access the system, users need what is called a wireless network card. The wireless connection is only available if the access machine is equipped with a compatible network device.

Steven Piraino, SHSU programmer analyst, said this wireless networking version basically works over radio instead of cable.

“How your computer hooks up to the network with the blue cables, this is just a wireless version of that, but it does it over radio instead of cable,” Piraino said. “We deploy what is called wireless access points, which broadcast, and if you are in range of one then you can get onto the network.”

Piraino said the goal for computer services is to provide wireless access in larger areas of the university such as auditoriums and the Newton Gresham Library.

“I have to admit that wireless is not available in every part of every building so as of right now, we are trying to get the larger common areas,” he said. “It is fully available everywhere in the (Newton Gresham Library) and everywhere the (Lowman Student Center).”

Avaliability to this network is provided in the Newton Gresham Library, Academic Building One, Smith-Hudson Building, George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center, Lee Drain Building, Thomason Building, Evans Complex and the Academic Building IV.

“Basically you are dealing with radio so each building is a little different in terms of structure and you have to put yourself in place, and then basically walk around and see where you have coverage at,” Piraino said. “The LSC (access) is completely up and the library is completely up, so there should not be a spot in the LSC or the library where you can not get coverage.”

Since the wireless connection is targeted to auditoriums and large classrooms, mileage may vary when you try to connect in different parts of the buildings.

Students are able to bring their laptops to take notes in the large classrooms and auditoriums that have wireless access, but should first ask permission from their professor.

“(Wireless access in the classroom) is something you still need to check with your professor about, some of them get annoyed with the sound of the keyboard, but that is up to the professor,” he said.

After 18 months of work, Piraino said his goal is to eventually have the entire campus wired.

“Our goal is to get the entire campus wired up, but that is going to take about 100 access points,” he said. “It takes quite a bit of hardware.”

The requirements to use the SHSU wireless network are, properly configured laptops with wireless networking capabilities, 802.11b wireless capable device, recommended wireless cards, a valid SHSU account. Agree to SHSU computing policies and physically be in the area of campus where the network service is provided.

The 802.11b is a wireless Ethernet adapter designed from connecting any Ethernet capable device such as gaming consoles, set-top boxes, terminals and printers. The estimated price of this device ranges from $69 to $100.

“Right now we run what is called 802.11b (format), but there are three wireless standards 802.11 a, 802.11 b, and the new one coming out is 802.11 G,” Piraino said. “The 802.11b is pretty much the most common, and that is what we are going with because it gives you the greatest range for access points.”

Piraino said the 802.11a format is faster; however, it would take an access point per classroom because it will not penetrate sheetrock.

“You have to have the hardware, the 802.11b network cards, a valid SHSU account and you have to run what is called the VPN client software, which is built into almost every piece of Windows, but on the Mac’s, unfortunately it is only available on the (office support) 10.2 or higher,” he said.

Students will have to be in or around an access building for wireless compatibility.

The library has an access range stretching to the end of the LSC.

“We have an antenna on the library that points down that common area-from the library to the LSC- so even outside access is available there,” he said. “Since we have big glass windows around AB I, there is a lot of access because it goes through that glass really easy.”

Public wireless access points first gained popularity, as many technologies do, on college campuses. In recent months, wireless access points have become popular where people travel: in airports, hotels and even RV parks, deployed by companies like Wayport, MobileStar and All Tech Systems.

For more information on SHSU’s wireless network service, click on the computer services link from the drop down menu at http://www.shsu.edu. A wireless network summary is available on the computer service page under Sam Net wireless.

“One of the easiest things to do if you are having trouble is to bring your laptop to the helpdesk in AB1, and they can get someone who would be able to help,” Piraino said. “Once you can get connected anywhere on campus, you should be able to stay connected everywhere because it is the same system.”

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