OCCWireless: Frequently Asked Questions
What is wireless network access?
Simply put, wireless network access is a connection to the campus network without the use of wires or cables.
How does wireless work?
Much like the way cellular telephone network, wireless networking works by sending data over radio waves. In the cell phone world, the cell phone communicates via radio waves to a tower. The tower relays the messages to the wired, world-wide telephone network. The telephone network sends a signal back to the tower which transmits it via radio waves to the cell phone. Wireless computer access is very similar. Your laptop sends information via radio waves to an access point located inside buildings. The access point is connected to the campus network. Anything coming back to your laptop first goes to the access point and from there is broadcast to your laptop.
As with cell phones, any wireless-equipped laptop within range of a given access point can communicate with the network. Indeed, some systems, eventually including our campus system, permit roaming between access points. If you move out of range, you lose the connection. Further, a single access point can communicate with multiple wireless-equipped laptops. That means that frequently you’ll be sharing the available bandwidth with other users. If there are lots of users communicating with a single access point, you may notice that your network connection slows down.
Where is wireless access available on campus?
Wireless access is available in all buildings on the main campus. It is not available outside of the buildings.
How do I know if I have wireless already?
If your Wi-Fi adapter is installed correctly, you may have a small icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen, which means that you are currently connected to a wireless network. Double click on the icon to view the available networks.
If you have an icon with a red “X”, it means that you are not connected to any wireless networks. You may double click on the icon to view the available networks.
If you have either one of these icons in the lower right hand corner of your screen, then you do have a wireless adapter.
Alternatively, you can go into Device Manager and check if a wireless card is listed under Network Adapters. For example;
What hardware do I need for wireless?
A wireless equipped laptop running the 802.11g wireless protocol.
How do I determine if my laptop supports wireless?
If you are running Windows XP with SP2 then your laptop should support wireless.
Which version of wireless are we using on campus?
802.11g, which is the most common standard at present.
What wireless card should I buy, and how much should it cost?
Check the list of some wireless cards that support WPA AES wireless encryption. Make sure your laptop meets the minimum hardware and software requirements for whichever card you buy. The average cost of a wireless card is $50. Of course, you can get something cheaper or more expensive depending on your budget. If you’re purchasing a new laptop, you’ll want to make sure that it includes wireless support. Laptops such as this don’t require you to purchase a separate wireless card.
Macintosh users will need to have the Airport card installed in their Mac. Both the older Airport and the newer Airport II cards will work with the campus system as well as with most systems in the wider world.
Why do I lose my wireless signal and connection as I move around in a wireless area?
Wireless works via radio waves. Just as your FM reception in your car can get spotty if there are too many tall buildings around or if you’re too far from the broadcasting antenna, wireless suffers from situations where the radio waves are not strong enough to get through.
This is affected by things in the environment (concrete and steel in the walls), and by antenna location (your wireless antenna in your laptop is either built into the card [the bump that sticks out when the card is inserted] or it’s built into the case of the laptop). As you move around, your signal strength may change and that will affect your connection.