This is a message common to those who try to access email and surf the web via the Aldrich wireless network. As (co-) tech rep for new E, I witness the constant stream of questions and theories that this message invokes. Here we will separate the fact from the fiction and try to answer some of the whats and whys.
The On/Off Switch
A little history. Wireless networking was introduced to Aldrich in January, 2000. Although limited to just a few classrooms, the network was accessible at all times-including during class. Initially this new capability was embraced by students who realized they could become more productive if they multi-tasked during class. But a class full of typists does not make for a rich learning environment. When the wireless network was rolled out to the remaining Aldrich classrooms in August, 2001, the response to both faculty and student complaints about in-class network use was to turn the entire Aldrich wireless network off during the class day (~8am – ~3pm).
With our best interests in mind, IT services found an improved solution in the form of Bluesocket. Bluesocket provides a wireless gateway that is generally used to protect wireless networks from passersby. With a little massaging the Bluesocket system could authenticate HBS students only when they were not in class.
“I can’t connect…”
Now the use of Bluesocket at HBS is a bit different than elsewhere. Between classes there are up to 900 people trying to connect within a couple of minutes. This is not what the system was designed to handle. The result is that while a few of us are able to connect during our breaks, the majority sit hitting the refresh button in frustration. The only people able to connect are those with the most nimble fingers who beat the rush by timing their connection just as class ends.
Help is on the way
From here there are two options. 1) Return to the On/Off system, or 2) customize Bluesocket to meet HBS demands. Lucky for us, the engineers at Bluesocket are keen on making this system work and have thought up a number of technical solutions that should help improve the situation. With some luck and a bit of patience we should all be back surfing carelessly between classes.