Laptop lose its connection again? Can’t do homework or go on Facebook because the “internet stopped working”? Whatever you do, avoid posting a complaint about it on Yik Yak. Try calling IT, because chances are they can solve and pinpoint problems with Knox Wireless much better and faster than your Yakarma can.
Vice President and Chief Information Officer Steve Hall is aware of the complaints about Knox Wireless, but that doesn’t mean he’s fully aware of the problem at hand.
According to Hall, 90 percent of the issues students have with the campus Wi-Fi happen as a result of their individual device issues. However, in order to fully diagnose the issue at hand, more information about the device, operating system, location it is being used in or device settings must be known.
“We can’t solve any problems unless we know about them,” he said. “What we really need is for people to call in and report their problems.”
Larger system issues that involve groups of people in one residence hall, academic building or even the entire campus are also more easily addressed and pinpointed when multiple people call in to explain what exactly is going on.
An example of a larger system issue happened when students moved in and the increased number of devices overwhelmed the system. This year, the biggest growth happened with smartphones and tablets. Other devices include gaming devices, smart televisions and wireless printers.
“One year, one student had some sort of kitchen appliance that had a network interface on it,” Hall said.
To assuage system issues, IT has recently upgraded its network and equipment with new wireless access points and network switches (which connects devices to the computer network).
The wireless access points were installed in residential areas with an increased growth of wireless devices, specifically the Hamblin apartments. As more students are using computers and tablets in class, the wireless access points in the academic buildings were upgraded. Lastly, for better wireless use outside, access points have been added to most of the sporting facilities as well as the south lawns and the Quads’ courtyards.
These upgrades and additions come as a result of planned upgrades every five years. These upgrades help Knox stay consistent with the “evolving standards for technology” and strategically plan and budget for the next couple of years.
Still, no amount of changes or upgrades can completely fix certain issues that stem from users themselves, as mentioned in an email to the campus Thursday, Sept. 18. In it, Hall cites 141 rogue wireless access points that cause problems for the network to work properly. Devices that can act as access points, oftentimes unknowingly, include wireless printers, Xboxes, hotspot-enabled phones and even laptops.
These independent and rogue access points work on the same frequency as normal access points, which confuses the wireless system. When the systems are confused, they have to reconnect to available frequencies, forcing connected devices to temporarily disconnect. These temporary disruptions in the service can be avoided by simply turning off the access point functionality of the rogue device, but they oftentimes go unnoticed by users.
To combat this, IT does send emails to users of the independent devices, telling them what’s wrong and what they have to do. If that doesn’t work, denial of service attacks can get sent to the devices, which forces them off the network. When students eventually call in, they’ll be informed of their rogue access point.
In other cases, problems can even be faced in person, as connected and registered devices can be located and pinpointed. Hall refers to those options as “draconian countermeasures” and considers it a last resort.
“We prefer voluntary cooperation,” he said.