We’ve got no strings … Almost

by Ben Frotscher

Information Services cut a few of Simpson’s strings this summer, making four locations on campus wireless for laptop computer users: Dunn Library, Carver Science Center atrium, Dirlam Lounge and its nearby outdoor patio.

The wireless network works for both PCs and Macintoshes, but according to Director of Information Services Allan Appenzeller, users may notice a difference in speed between the mobile Internet access and wired access.

“Wireless still is a little slower than what the wired network is,” Appenzeller said. “The only time that you would probably notice is if you were downloading files that had very good size to them, but typically, just browsing the Web, doing e-mail, you’re really not going to notice any difference.”

Appenzeller said Information Services needs to install a certificate, a small piece of software, on a laptop computer for it to access Simpson’s wireless Internet. With this software, IS can tell a lot about how popular the wireless access is.

“There is a server that communicates with all of our access points … so we know how many users are on at any given access point and at what times and for how long,” Appenzeller said.

While wireless is new to Simpson, Appenzeller said it has been looked at for quite some time. Simpson is now like most Iowa private colleges – the college has some wireless access, but it’s not completely without wires. Buena Vista University in Storm Lake is completely wireless.

“Two or three years ago we actually started looking at it,” Appenzeller said. “It just continues to evolve and the standards still are not totally concrete yet, but that’s why we continued to wait awhile to try to watch the technology mature, so that when we hopefully got in and made the investment, that it would be a sound investment.”

Librarian Cyd Dyer said that the library has 12 access points throughout the building and it has been working fine since it was installed.

“It’s just been within the past couple of weeks [that we’ve had wireless],” Dyer said. “We were closed down over one weekend. I kind of stayed out of the way.”

Freshman Josh Blackford is one student who is using wireless access. He said it’s working well

“It’s definitely very helpful,” Blackford said. “There’s no hassle of carrying the extra cables and wires to get on the Internet.”

While wireless is available in public areas of campus, going wireless in the residence halls would be difficult.

“The dorms are a hard place to provide coverage because the buildings are fairly long and spread out,” Appenzeller said. “It would be very difficult to make sure you had equivalent signals throughout a floor. Since all the dorms are completely wired, and there is a drop per student, I still think the wired situation is a pretty good one in there.”

Wireless access may expand in the future, but Appenzeller said IS is just playing it by ear.

“I think it will be a see-how-it-goes approach,” Appenzeller said. “I think there are areas that will make sense that we’ll expand it into.”