Answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions about Wireless Networking

 

What is a wireless network?

A wireless network is a computer network that allows users to be free of network cables. A wireless network uses radio waves to transmit and receive data and so enables a computer user to be more mobile -- you can be connected to the Internet indoors or outdoors.

The conversion from the wired network to the airwaves is performed by a device called an "access point." An access point contains a connection to the network, and a radio that communicates with wireless-capable computers. The signal can be strong enough to reach a computer up to 1000 feet from the access point; however, walls, shelves, furniture, etc., dramatically reduce the signal's range. Also, as you move further and further away from the access point, the amount of data bandwidth available will drop.

Where possible, access points are installed out of view, however, you can see what one looks like by visiting Saint Albert Hall Library--one is located near the top of the main stairway. 

What wireless IS NOT...

Wireless networking is not a replacement for wired networks. Although wireless networks provide greater flexibility and convenience, performance, reliability, and security is less than that of a wired network. Compare the difference between a wired network to a wireless network as you would between a "hard-line" telephone and a cell phone. Wireless networks are generally less secure than wired networks, so you may not want to conduct highly sensitive transactions across a wireless system. 

What is SMC "Wireless Zone"? 

SMC Wireless Zone is a series of wireless access points (hot spots) located throughout SMC main campus areas, with a common "SSID" (smc-wifi), that provides a way for members of the SMC community to wirelessly connect their laptop computers and other mobile devices to the SMC network and the internet. 

Where is the Wireless Zone available?

Please see coverage areas & access points

How do I access SMC Wireless Zone? 

When you are out in one of the Wireless Zone locations, turn on your portable computer or mobile device, and your wireless interface software should detect the presence of a nearby access point (the ssid of the Wireless Zone is smc-wifi). Depending on the wireless software you have, you will probably have to select the wireless network in the driver software the first time you connect, or you may need to set up smc-wifi as a preferred network. Then start up a web browser (Firefox or Internet Explorer, for example). When your browser opens, you will be automatically redirected to the authentication page (if this does not occur quickly or you see an error page, enter the url of any web site on the internet of your choosing in the address window and hit return). Enter your SMC username and password in the spaces provided on the left side of the authentication page. Once this is done, you are ready to browse the web normally.

What's my password to log on to Wireless Zone?

Wireless Zone uses the same user name and password as your SMC E-Mail account. This is the same password you would use if logging on to one of the lab computers, or SMCnet. 

I am a faculty member and I have a SMC-issued lap top. It displays the Novell log-in window when it starts up. Do I have to do anything different when I log into the Wireless Zone?

You log into the computer and domain first. The wireless gateway will pass the Novell domain log-in data. However, to connect to other services on the SMC network and/or to the internet, you will first have to launch a browser and authenticate as described above. 

Do I have to log out of Wireless Zone when I'm done using it?

No. In general, whenever you log into something, you should log out properly. However, with Wireless Zone, turning off your machine or putting it to sleep is equivalent to logging off your session. 

Does it cost me anything to use SMC Wireless Zone?

There is no charge to access Wireless Zone for members of the SMC community who have a valid network (E-mail) account. 

What is SMC's Service Set Identifier (SSID, also called "network name") for use on campus?

smc-wifi (Note: All letters are in lower case--case is important) 

Do I need any special network configuration to use Wireless Zone? 

You will need to have your laptop configured to connect to a network, just as you would to connect to ResNet. Step by step directions are available starting on page 4 of the ResNet User's Guide, available on SMCnet, or at the C&TS Help Desk in Saint Albert's Hall. If your computer is already properly configured for network connection, then, other than the SSID, you do not need to enter any other special configuration. 

How secure is Wireless Zone? 
The Wireless Zone requires authentication, which prevents use by unauthorized persons, but it is not a secure network. No encryption key is currently required so that connection is simple. Since wireless networks are EXTREMELY easy to sniff (wiretap), we currently do not allow access to non-encrypted SMC network resources (such as the file servers) via the Wireless Zone to prevent disclosure of passwords to would-be "wiretappers." Also, you should use caution when conducting business on-line while connected through the Wireless Zone. If you are doing any financial transactions, or purchasing products on-line, be sure you are using a secure website; a secure website normally has an "s" after "http"(example: https://www.bankofamerica.com) in the URL displayed in the browser address display. 

Can I check my SMC E-mail account through Wireless Zone? 
Yes. Once you are logged into the Wireless Zone, point your browser to: https://mail.stmarys-ca.edu. If you prefer to use your own E-mail client, such as Thunderbird or Outlook, you should configure it for encrypted POP or IMAP so that your email session is secure.

Can I connect to my ifolder while using Wireless Zone? 
Yes.

Can I connect to my file server (S drive) while using Wireless Zone? 
Yes, after authentication. 

How fast is the wireless connection? 
The Wireless Zone has been growing for several years, and there is a mix of newer and older equipment. There are 802.11b, g and n access points in the system. 802.11b access points can have a bandwidth up to 11 Mps; 802.11g up to 54 Mps; 802.11n can theoretically have a bandwidth up to 300 Mps, though only when using channel bonding. We do not employ this technique because of the interference problems it can cause in an environment with multiple access points, so the practical bandwidth for those "n" access points is around 130 Mps. The older 802.11b access points are gradually being replaced with access points of at least the 802.11g standard. In practice, the speed of any particular connection to a local access point will also depend on the number of users simultaneously connected and the protocols they are using.

Can I install my own access point in the dorm? 
No. You will not be allowed to install your own access points in the residence halls. Installation of your own access point is prohibited by the Saint Mary's College Technology Use Policy. Violations of this policy may result in disconnection, loss of network privileges, and other disciplinary action by the Office of Student Conduct. 

Will the Wireless Zone be expanded into the Residence Halls?
Yes. SMC is actively pursuing grant funding for this purpose. 

Where do I get help if I am having problems accessing Wireless Zone? 
If you are having problems accessing Wireless Zone, go to the Service Desk in Saint Albert's Hall Library Computer Lab or call the Service Desk at x4266. You can also e-mail questions to servicedesk@stmarys-ca.edu.

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