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ISSUE 117 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/23/2004

Web access to increase with switch to wireless

By Laura Trude
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 23, 2004

This summer, wireless Internet is coming to campus. All laptop users will be able to get online in the main level of the library, the Pause, the Crossroads, Fireside and possibly the patio outside of Buntrock Commons without using a cable.

Honor houses may also benefit from this installation. Currently, they are not connected to the campus network, but if Informational and Instructional Technologies (IIT)'s field tests go well, they will acquire wireless access points, too.

"What we're planning on doing is putting some wireless access points in so students can use their laptops to get access to the campus network and/or the Internet," Roberta Lembke, director of IIT, said.

Wireless Internet involves a small device, the size varying upon the company, that acts like a radio transmitter. If a computer has a wireless card, as most new laptops do, it interacts with the main transmitter. The result: Internet access without cables.

The current system of cables does have some benefits. They are more secure and can transmit information at a faster rate.

However, the technology of the wireless transmitters is catching up. The transmitters St. Olaf will install are more secure than some options. As such, they cost more - - about $1,000 apiece after installation rather than Macintosh's $300 version.

A number of students agree that wireless Internet is a good addition.

"I think it would be really beneficial for a lot of people. I know that working in Buntrock and Fireside is sometimes hard because there are limited computers," Christine Gille '06 said. "Just for a lot of research and things, a lot of people need the Internet. The number of people who have laptops is great enough that a lot of people will benefit."

"It's a good idea," Allison Madison '07 said. She has a laptop with a wireless card.

However, students unaffected by the change are more ambivalent. "It doesn't really make any difference to me because my computer doesn't have wireless access," Sarah Gilles '06 said.

IIT hopes to eventually make the entire green space outside wireless accessible. Then students can enjoy beautiful weather even while typing out research papers.

"We might look at putting something in a shared space, like a lounge or something," Mike Sjulstad, IIT's network engineer, said. Residence hall rooms are already wired for cable access, which is still quicker and more secure than wireless access.

"I tend to think of this a lot like cell phones. Ten years ago, how many people did you know that had a cell phone? Probably not too many. How many do you know today? Probably everybody," Sjulstad said.

If a computer does not already have a wireless card, students can purchase one for under $100. The access points work up to 300 feet away, but best results are generally within a couple hundred feet.

"The specifications say 300 feet, [but] that varies a lot depending on walls," Sjulstad said. "If everything pans out, we'll have it up and running at the start of the school year."

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