Wireless Services -FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some questions frequently asked regarding OWL/Eduraom.

  1. I'm a visitor and I'm trying to use OWL-VPN. Why can I not do this?
  2. I'm trying to connect to OWL-VISITOR, but it asks me for a username and password. How do I get one?
  3. I can't see any Wireless networks. Why?
  4. I get an IP address on OLD-VPN, but the STATS VPN refuses my login. Why?
  5. My college/other Department also has a VPN, but I cannot connect to it from OWL. Why?
  6. My VPN connection sometimes terminates unexpectedly. Why?
  7. I want a WAP near where I work. Can I have one?

I'm a visitor and I'm trying to use OWL-VPN. Why can I not do this?
Because
you are a visitor! OWL-VPN is for people who have a University computer account on a network with a VPN service. If you don't have a University computer account and access to a valid VPN service then please use the OWL-VISITOR wireless network.

I'm trying to connect to OWL-VISITOR, but it asks me for a username and password. How do I get one?
Have you asked the Computing Team for an account on OWL-VISITOR? Your sponsor within the Department should have requested this prior to your arrival (if they knew of the requirement). Please ask your sponsor to email ithelp@stats.ox.ac.uk on your behalf. We can set one up reasonably quickly

I can't see any Wireless networks. Why?
Do you have a wireless card in your computer? If not, then that would be why. Go buy one.
Are your wireless drivers and software configured properly? Read the manual. There are so many variants on wireless software that there is little we can advise here except, "read the manual". If we are available to help, we may do so, but Departmental business comes first and we reserve the right to say no, I'm afraid.
Are you near a WAP? If not, then you probably have no signal. Take a look at the section entitled "Availability of OWL within Department of Statistics buildings" for details on wireless coverage. Remember that coverage will vary depending on how much material exists between you and the WAP, and that includes human bodies! We readily absorb microwaves!

I get an IP address on OWL-VPN, but the STATS VPN refuses my login. Why?
Have you registered with us for VPN access? If not, then you need to email ithelp@stats.ox.ac.uk and request access to the Departmental VPN service. If you still can't log in, look further down this list.

My college/other Department also has a VPN, but I cannot connect to it from OWL. Why?
If the VPN service you require is not registered with OUCS, then the OUCS NAT will not permit access. You need to contact your Departmental IT Officers and request they request OUCS add their VPN service to the "permitted VPNs" list. Our own Departmental service is on this list.

My VPN connection sometimes terminates unexpectedly. Why?
We know about this one and it's a right pest. I've discussed this with Oliver Gorwits, the project manager for OWL and he agrees that this is a "feature" of wireless. Consider:
Your wireless card, in trying to be helpful is continually scouting round for a better signal. If you are within reach of more than one WAP, then the card will opt for the "best" signal. If this situation changes, then the card will reconnect to the new "best" signal (I've deliberately not defined "best" because it is not entirely clear what it means. Some cards assume "best"="strongest", others assume "best"="less congested", depends on the make of card and the software, we assume).
In disconnecting from one WAP and reconnecting to the other, the VPN tunnel is also dropped. VPN is a very sensitive protocol (not surprising given it's a highly secured encryption tunnel).

One thing to consider is that Intel PRO wireless chipsets include a power saving option on the wireless card. This option, called Power Save Polling (PSP), helps to extend the battery life of the laptop. For this feature to work, the wireless access point must support PSP.
To ensure a wireless connection remains intact, you can set the laptop wireless adapter to continually aware mode, which turns off the PSP functionality. For details, see your laptop or wireless adaptor documentation.
Apparently the Intel driver, especialy with the Intel 2915 wireless module, is very aggressive in its power saving and will drop the connection speeds right down or even disconnect the connection. Even changing the power mode setting to highest performance and un-checking the 'Allow the computer to turn off the device to save power' box in the 'Power management' tab may not completely stop the network dropouts.

Alternatively, use Eduroam. Because of its advanced features, Eduroam seamlessly moves between access base-stations without dropping higher-level protocols.

I want a WAP near where I work. Can I have one?

Possibly. Possibly. There are a few things we need to discuss first.

  1. Is there OWL in the rest of the building? Is it already available near you? If so, then there is no reason in principle that OWL cannot be made available to you. Obviously, the requirements of a locally-installed FroDo and the relevant networking infrastructure are important considerations. If these are all in place, then a major hurdle is out of the way before we even start!
  2. Is there a secure location we can install a WAP? We typically drill holes in a wall, mount the brackets on the wall, and padlock the WAP to the bracket. These are highly "nickable" items and we wish to protect the Department's investment.
  3. Is there a network point nearby? Power is not (usually) a requirement as we can almost always use Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). Provided there is a cat5e network point near to where you wish the WAP installed (or a cat5 point with a power supply - PoE is only available with cat5e networking), then there's no technical problems.
  4. Who's buying? We cannot, and indeed will not without Computing Committee approval, buy and install WAPs everywhere. It is simply too costly. If you can purchase the WAP yourself (the cost is about 250 for the WAPs we install, and you must abide by our recommended specification as the recommendation comes from OUCS and they are developing new services to run over the OWL networks which require specific hardware), then please contact us at the usual help request email address telling us where you would like it, and what grant or PRA it is to be costed to. We'll do the rest.
  5. If you cannot afford a WAP, but have a legitimate case for one, please put your case to the Computing Committee. They can decide to instruct us to purchase WAPs, as they have the final say on the Computing budget.