WiFi plans for January

We have continued to monitor our WiFi service across the Campus over the last couple of months and I’m aware that whilst it has now improved for many people, there are still some people having difficulty in using the WiFi network. Our own engineers have been testing the performance regularly across the Campus and gathering information on specific issues, and we have been working closely with the manufacturer throughout this period. We know that there are issues connecting some types of device, some issues when people move from one Campus location to another, and some specific areas of the Campus where people are consistently having more difficulty connecting to WiFi than other areas. On the plus side, we can see from our system monitors that there typically two to three thousand successful connections being made by people at any point in time during the day.

We have now reviewed the issues we are seeing with the manufacturer, and are getting support from very senior level within the company. We have agreed an action plan with them and they will be placing engineers on our Campus week commencing 5th January to carry out a complete review of our entire installation, and as part of that to make some specific changes that we have agreed. There will be some outages during the first week in January, but we anticipate these will be short.

Our own engineers and the manufacturer will carry out an initial assessment of the impact of this work over the first half of January. With such a large user population and range of devices it will be important that we do further checks after that so that we can be confident that we have resolved the issues people are experiencing and have a stable and reliable service across the Campus. We’ll do this by asking a group of staff and students in the first instance to keep a more detailed diary of their use of WiFi – when it works and when/where they have problems.

We are giving a high priority to resolving the remaining issues on WiFi and will work through this as quickly as we can. Please do keep providing feedback via our Helpdesk, visit the Georgina Scott Sutherland Learning Centre or contact us via ITHelpdesk@rgu.ac.uk if you need any help meantime.

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WiFi

I outlined in a previous blog post the work we have carried out over the last several months to improve the WiFi service on Campus. We’ve been carefully monitoring the service since the start of semester, and over the first few weeks it performed well and we were seeing it handle a much higher load of users successfully when compared to the same period last year. We had good feedback from those users we were in contact with.

I’m aware, however, that over the past two weeks in particular there have been some problems which have affected people trying to connect to Eduroam over WiFi on our Campus. Once they are connected, the connection is good and performs well, but there have been a number of reports of people not being able to connect from time to time. The problem seems to be that the attempt to connect either hangs, or says that it can’t connect, or asks for a password.

IT Services engineers have raised this as a high priority issue with the manufacturer, and they currently have an engineer on site from Europe backed up with specialist advice from the USA. They are able to trace what is happening on the system and are currently working on a number of options to address the situation. I’m sorry that people are experiencing some problems at the moment – we know how important the WiFi service is and we have stressed to the manufacturer the urgency of getting our WiFi system back to a stable state as quickly as possible.

If you do encounter difficulties in connecting meantime, the tips provided in the previous blog post may still be useful to help you get connected.

Update on Wireless Service

First of all, a Happy New Year to all staff and students at RGU! This blog has been a bit quiet last few weeks so new year resolution is to put more out on the blog.

Back in August, I gave an update on our plans for improving the wireless service on our Garthdee campus. Our plan then was to install the new service, based on “Eduroam”, in Riverside East and the refurbished space in Aberdeen Business School, followed by a rollout to the rest of the Campus to replace the previous system. We had hoped that the previous system would have been able to operate for an interim period of time until we completed the full rollout of Eduroam, but unfortunately it continued to cause problems from the start of Semester.

So, we decided to quickly replace all the wireless access points on the old system so that Eduroam is now the only wireless system on Campus. We also installed additional access points in the refurbished ABS Foyer and that has greatly improved the cover there.

However, we don’t yet have wireless coverage across all areas on Garthdee and we are working to extend this over the next few months. At the moment, the whole of Riverside East is covered, the open central areas in Aberdeen Business School, and Faculty of Health and Social Care are covered, Sports Centre and a number of open areas and meeting rooms in the other buildings. Until we get the cover extended, you may find some rooms where the wireless signal is not strong enough to give you a good connection – it’s not broken, it’s just that we haven’t yet brought the new system to these areas.

We know that WiFi is an important service for our users. Students, as usual, have a wonderful way of expressing their service requirements and one of the Class Reps shared this little pyramid with me – thanks!

WiFi

IT Services can see from the system logs that many people are using WiFi without any difficulty, but at the end of last year there were a number of people reporting some problems. Remember, there’s good support material which you can find online on the IT Helpdesk’s support pages.

We made a change in December as recommended by the supplier to address some problems in connectivity and “roaming”. What’s “roaming”, you may ask? Well, when your device connects to a wireless network it connects to a wireless access point (transmitter) close to you. If you move around the building, the system has to release you from the original access point and connect you to another one. Technically, that’s a complex process and sometimes, it can take a minute or two for that to settle down, so if you are finding problems with WiFi as you move around, allow the system a bit of time.

Some people have been confused by “RGU Connect” – you only use RGU Connect once, and what it does is configure all the settings on your device. Once you’ve done that, your device should automatically connect to eduroam from then on. Please don’t try to use RGU Connect as your main WiFi – it causes problems for other people trying to connect, and anyway won’t work very well.

IT Services also found last year that some devices worked better than others – this appears to relate to the manufacturer and the operating system – whether its Microsoft, Android or Mac. IT Services hope that the change made in December will have improved these issues but are continuing to monitor and work with the supplier on this.

Some apps that have worked in the past aren’t working fully. Some of these IT Services have been able to fix, others, are more difficult to diagnose. I am aware that Facebook Apps work on some devices but not on others – this is not a University policy to block Facebook!!! IT Services are continuing to work to resolve these issues, although some of this is dependent on getting information from the people that wrote the apps.

When you visit other eduroam campuses (in Aberdeen you can access it at Aberdeen University and NHS teaching hospitals) you will need to turn off “proxy” settings to allow you to use the service there (remember to note what they are before you turn them off!) then switch the proxy settings back on when you come back to RGU – they are normally “proxy.rgu.ac.uk”.

And finally (!) – if you are running a conference or event, remember that IT Services can provide guest logins for the WiFi. Only guests from other Universities will be able to use eduroam, and even then only if their University supports it.

Connected Aberdeen

Aberdeen and the surrounding regions are widely recognised as a global energy hub and a substantial contributor to the economy. Aberdeen was the only major UK city to grow during the last recession, oil and gas exports are around £7billion annually and 11 of Scotland’s top 25 companies are located in the region.

Driven by the vibrant commercial and residential sectors, there is a growing demand for digital connectivity in the area. There is also a recognition that currently it is behind the curve in the deployment of next generation broadband and that connectivity overall is not in keeping with the region’s role as a global energy hub.

Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council are working in partnership on an initiative called “Accelerate Aberdeen” to improve digital connectivity within the City and the immediately surround regions. Late last year it was announced that Aberdeen City had been awarded over £5m from the UK Government “Urban Broadband Fund” to become a ‘Super Connected City’. This is being taken forward in a number of distinct strands and Aberdeen City Council have engaged early on with the two Universities in the city and with North East of Scotland College to ensure that they are involved.

One of the strands is called a “wireless concession” and has been launched as a public tender . Aberdeen City Council wants to see significantly improved mobile and wireless coverage across the city. To achieve this, the Council will allow the successful bidder to use the Council’s lampposts, bus stops, and buildings across the City to install the necessary infrastructure to provide 4G mobile coverage, and WiFi in key areas. It’s fantastic that the Council have recognised the importance of this to the educational institutions in the city. Between the two Universities and the College we probably have over 30,000 learners in the city – the vast majority of whom will rely heavily on good mobile and wireless coverage for communication and accessing modern digital learning resources. Anything that improves connectivity across the city will benefit the learner and research communities and their interaction with enterprises across the city.

Formally, this procurement covers assets owned by Aberdeen City Council. It might also be possible to extend this in a similar way to assets owned by the Universities and the College in order to improve coverage on our campuses, but we’ll need to wait until early 2014 to talk to the successful bidder and see what might be possible here. Will keep you posted.

Wi-Fi and Eduroam

Commissioning of the Wi-Fi system in the Riverside East building and Aberdeen Business School started on 14th August and will continue through to the 27th September. The service will initially be focussed on the Library tower, followed by the rest of Riverside East and finishing with the redeveloped are of Aberdeen Business School.

The initial service will cover Windows devices and apple phones and mobile devices. Other devices (e.g. android and Macs) will be added as commissioning continues.

Further details on the commissioning of wi-fi are available on RGyoU. Follow the link and enter your username and password to access the page.

Staff and students at RGU will be pleased to know that as part of implementing this new Wi-Fi system we will be implementing “Eduroam”. What is Eduroam? Very simply, it is a worldwide arrangement whereby staff from one academic institution can, when they are visiting another academic institution, log in to the wireless network at the other institution, but do so using the username and password they normally use at home. So, staff or students at RGU can visit other participating institutions and log in with their RGU username and password.

Likewise, visitors to RGU from other participating institutions can sign on to the RGU wireless network using their own username and password.

The key benefit is that when you are visiting another institution, you don’t need to request a “guest” username and password, you can just log straight in. It works on laptops and mobile devices, and some institutions may allow you to connect to their wired network as well if you need to.

We are implementing Eduroam as part of the implementation of the new wireless network this summer. This wireless network will be implemented in Riverside East first, and then Aberdeen Business School as part of its refurbishment, and then later in the year in the rest of the Campus. When the new wireless system is up and running, the SSID will just be called “eduroam”. This means that we will also be using Eduroam for the normal wireless access for our own staff and students on Campus – it’s easier just to have one system.

For a few months, we will be operating with two wireless systems. Buildings other than Riverside East and Aberdeen Business School will continue to run the current wireless system until it is fully replaced. However, as soon as Eduroam is available in Riverside East you will be able to use it at other participating institutions if you happen to be visiting them.

Before you can actually use Eduroam, there will be some things to check and configure on your own equipment, you will need to comply with Eduroam and institutional policies, and you’ll need to enter your username in a particular way – but more details of all of that will be issued nearer the time. There’s loads of information available about Eduroam, but a good place to start is on the Janet web site .

If you are looking to see where you can use Eduroam, you will see that each institution can be listed as a “Home” or “Visited” institution, or both. You want to look for institutions listed as “Visited” – these are the ones which will allow you to log in when you visit them.

There’s also an amusing animation which you can view to get an easy understanding of what Eduroam is about.

First Move

First Move

Well, it’s the 30th May 2013, and the Library staff and books have moved into the new Library Tower in Riverside East, and this is the first day that they’ve opened to staff and students.

In a recent post I explained what was involved in preparing the IT infrastructure behind the scenes, so this post is by way of an update and also a huge thanks. Many IT staff from IT Services and from the Faculty IT&AV team, have worked immensely hard over the last 2-3 weeks on fitting out all the IT facilities and I am grateful to their commitment in getting everything to this stage. Thanks also to staff from the Library, Estates and various contractors for their assistance.

With some final construction work still ongoing in the building, and furniture and book moves happening at the same time, it’s been a challenge to schedule everything and work around issues and snags that have been arising on a daily basis. But over the past few weeks the IT teams have commissioned the network infrastructure required to service the Library and front desk and deployed around 400 workstations into the Library ready for use. There are some last minute issues with power connections at the moment which are preventing the workstations from being powered on today but hopefully that will be resolved quickly and everything is then ready to go.

Now that the IT in the Library is finished, the IT teams will turn their attention to the rest of the building. There is a schedule over the summer for staff moving from the three Schools into the building and the IT teams will be working ahead of these moves to prepare the network and install workstations. Priority will be given to this, and the installation of IT equipment into the various teaching spaces in the building will fit around preparation for these staff moves. The IT network will also be required to support other functions in the building, such as the building management system which is used to manage a range of building services and that will be scheduled too.

Finally, the WiFi system also has to be installed in the building. The system has already been procured and delivered and IT Services will start to deploy this once all the significant remaining building work is complete and the priority areas of the main IT Network are ready.

It’s hard to convey the scale of all this work to a non specialist. When talking to colleagues in the Library, I was interested to hear them refer to “kilometres” as a measure of how many books they were moving. That’s a great measure and something that you can visualise. I wonder what the IT equivalent is – kilometres of networking cabling? Or alternatively who can suggest how many kilometres there are in a terabyte?