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Wireless FAQs

What is wireless networking?

Wireless networking allows users of mobile devices such as laptop computers and personal digital assistants (PDA's) to access a computer network (such as the UL Lafayette campus network or the Internet) without the need for a physical (that is, a hardwired) connection.

What about technical support?

If your computer does not function with campus wireless network, please be aware that IT Service Desk staff cannot "work on" your computer, but are available to lead you through a few troubleshooting options. We are located in Stephens Hall Room 201 and our telephone number is 337-482-HELP (4357) or 2-HELP (4357) from a campus phone.
Operation and maintenance of GeauxWiFi is handled by Network Operations. To report outages contact the IT Service Desk at 337-482-HELP (4357) or 2-HELP (4357) from a campus phone.  Departments who would like information on deploying the campus wireless network in their area should contact Network Services at 2-6418.

How does wireless networking work?

Wireless networking works very similar to a cordless telephone, where the phone base broadcasts a signal to the handset and then sends the handset's responses through the telephone cord plugged into a wall jack. In wireless networking, a device called an Access Point (AP), which is directly hardwired to a computer network itself, broadcasts a signal to the surrounding area. Any device that is equipped with a wireless networking card can receive that signal and communicate with the AP, and through the AP's wired connection, with the rest of the network.

How fast is a wireless connection?

The campus wireless network provides a network connection comparable in speed to an older wired Ethernet network. UL Lafayette's wireless network provides a shared 11 Mbps connection (802.11b, with the area served called a hotspot) or 54 Mbps connection (802.11g). Because the connection is shared, the speed of your connection will drop as more users in your area connect. It can be as low as your connection speed divided by the current number of users.

Are there drawbacks to wireless communications?

Yes, unfortunately! Although this technology offers a great deal of convenience and flexibility, there are tradeoffs. Less bandwidth is available in a wireless network, which is shared by all wireless network users in a given area. This is most often felt where large file transfers or high-bandwidth multimedia applications are used. Also, security of wireless networks is more difficult to achieve, and installing network wiring to access points sometimes requires long lead times and coordination.

What do I need to do to establish a wireless connection?

You may need to purchase a wireless Ethernet card. Most new laptops have wireless already installed and need no additional cards. There is no charge to establish a connection, but you must have the proper Ethernet card for your machine.
What kind/brand of wireless card should I purchase?
We have used the Orinoco (Lucent), NetGear and 3COM PCMCIA 802.11 b/g cards. Most laptops will accept a PCMCIA card. The companies listed above make 802.11 b and g PCMCIA cards. Many of the new Windows-based laptops have wireless capabilities already installed and need no additional cards.

Will other types of wireless cards work? Is there support for them?

Yes, as long as the cards are IEEE 802.11b "Wi-Fi" Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) compliant. In theory, all cards that support these standards should work.

Can I do everything with a wireless connection that I could do with a wired connection?

You will be able to do just about everything from your portable machine that you would normally do from your wired desktop computer. However, you may not run a server using the wireless network and you should not routinely share a disk drive between Windows systems. This network is not intended to replace the wired network.

Can I walk around while accessing the network?

Yes, this is called 'mobility' and 'roaming'. However, there are limitations. The system has to know when a user has left the area and no longer requires a connection. An idle timer is used for this function. When you have been idle for the time limit you are disconnected (logged out) from the network. Your next attempt to connect will require that you login again. The time limit will be set long enough that you can walk from one side of the campus to the other side of the campus (or longer). So you can close your laptop (put it to sleep) and walk to another spot on campus and open your laptop and you will still be connected to the campus wireless network.

Does it matter how many people use the wireless network at one time?

The network can handle hundreds of users logged in at one time, but the more active the users connected to any one hotspot (access point), the slower the network gets at that spot. One access point can handle approximately 30 computers with users doing typical things without any noticeable degradation in network performance. You will notice performance changes more easily on a wireless shared network as compared to a wired network connection.

I'm not even getting 11 Mbps. Is my card defective?

11 Mbps is a theoretical maximum speed. With a 11 Mbps card, you will probably see a maximum speed of approximately 5Mbps. With a 54 Mbps card, you will probably see a maximum of 27 Mbps.

Why is my wireless connection disrupted more often than my wired network connection?

There can be many factors that would cause disruption including large metal objects, trees, cordless phones, or microwave ovens that are operating in the same 2.4 or 5 GHz frequency range, plus multiple users connected to the same access point and sharing of the wireless bandwidth--all these factors can disrupt wireless connections. Remember, the wireless network is designed for your mobility and is not a replacement for the wired network. If you are running a machine from a fixed location, it is required that you use a traditional Ethernet connection.

What about my wireless PDA?

Many small devices cannot run a web browser to make a connection. There is a procedure in place to allow these devices on the network, but the owner will have to accept the risks associated with the communication to and from the device being visible to anyone who wants to look. Contact the IT Help Desk 337-482-HELP (4357) for additional information.

What about making printers, plotters and scanners wireless?

Unless you need a printer in the middle of the swamp or the quadrangle, these types of devices do much better on the wired network.
The GeauxWifi and GeauxGuest wireless networks are unable to support the use of wireless printers.

Is wireless networking secure?

Because wireless network signals travel through the air just like signals used by cordless phones, radios, and other wireless devices, anybody within range can intercept that signal--and potentially view the data being sent back and forth by your computer. Just like law enforcement agencies can wiretap your phone, people on a wireless network can "tap" into your network connection. This means that a malicious user could read your e-mail, steal your passwords or credit card numbers, or intercept any other sensitive data that may be traveling over the network. In an attempt to protect wireless users from these types of attacks, the wireless technology's designers created an encryption process for it called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). When WEP is activated, data sent over the network is encrypted and other users are unable to see in plain text what you are doing. However, due to a design flaw, WEP is easily compromised. An attacker can break the WEP encryption and still view your data by using some readily available programs.
Another problem inherent in wireless networking is that any person with a laptop and wireless network card can connect to the network without undergoing an authentication process to verify his or her identity. The issue here is with accountability; it would be difficult to track down malicious users who could gain access to university resources without ever actually logging in to a university computer. Clearly this presents a major potential problem--not just for the university, but also for corporations, government agencies, organizations, and any other environment where wireless networks are deployed.

How is UL Lafayette addressing security issues with the campus wireless network?

Information Technology (the parent division of Information Networks) is committed to providing our users with a wireless computing environment. We have implemented an environment that requires users to authenticate themselves before using the wireless service. The user must select applications which provide data security when necessary. Anytime names and passwords must be typed, or sensitive information entered or reviewed you should use an application that protects the data by encryption.
For example, use SFTP instead of FTP, SSH or PUTTY or HUMMINGBIRD instead of RLOGIN, TELNET or TN3270, etc. When using a web browser make sure the page is in secure mode before entering any sensitive information like your CLID and password.

Where is the campus wireless network available?

The list of locations is always growing. You can see more information here about UWIN availability.

Can I use 'HomeRF' standard cards?

No. The HomeRF cards use a different type of radio technology and it is not compatible with the 'WiFi' family of products.

What should I not use the wireless network for?

Applications that require a lot of data transfer should not be expected to run reliably over the wireless network. This would apply to things like streaming audio/video, running server based applications, extremely large file transfers, sharing disks between computers, and interactive graphic environments (games).

I don't even see a campus wireless network signal. Is there a problem?

You have to be in a coverage area. First, please check here to see if you are in a covered area. If you are in covered area there are two easy ways to check the signal. First, if you have a friend with a wireless laptop just ask them to move their laptop and see if they see a signal where you are having a problem. If they see a signal there is something mis-configured or a hardware problem with your computer. Second, if a laptop sees a campus wireless network signal somewhere else but where you are trying to use it, this could be a campus wireless network problem. Call 337-482-HELP (4357) or 2-HELP (4357) from a campus phone and report the outage. Make sure to include a way that we can call you back!