Connecting to UNR’s wireless umbrella may be technically difficult to set up, but you’ll love the lasting convenience

Photo By Jill Wagner

On the University of Nevada, Reno campus, laptops are popping up like spring flowers. Students sipping iced lattés in the Wolf Perk café have their miniature PCs open, reading the latest news from their favorite news Web site. The main floor of Getchell Library is littered with students and their ever-ready laptops, typing reports while researching online documents. Last semester, UNR took a giant a step forward into the technology of the 21st century: wireless networking.

Most of UNR’s wireless network is still in its testing phases, but the most popular study areas already are comfortably covered in an invisible halo of Web access. The current locations for wireless access include the Jot Travis Student Union, Ansari Business, Getchell Library, William Raggio Education Building, Church Fine Arts, Lombardi Recreation and Scrugham Engineering & Mines. The implementation of other wireless hotspots can be found at computing.unr.edu/wifi/status.html.

Senior technician for the E.L. Cord Computing Lab and Help Desk on campus, student Jennifer Gallegos, said wireless is the way to go for new students.

“The new wireless network is convenient when you don’t want to be surrounded by other people in the lab,” Gallegos said. “You don’t have to worry about the lab being full when you only want to check your e-mail quickly before class.”

To access the wireless network, students, faculty and staff need to have a UNR Net ID and a compatible wireless card. The UNR Net ID is the account that allows members of the UNR community to access UNR’s online services, such as library databases and online courses conducted in WebCT. UNR Net ID accounts can be activated online or from an appropriate terminal on-campus. The wireless wavelengths that have been tested and system administrator-approved are the 802.11B or the 802.11G.

Be warned: Configuring the connection to work properly can also be a bit tricky.

“The average person is below average when it comes to computer skills. But, the Help Desk is always willing to offer adequate support” Gallegos said. Plugging the card into the laptop will not make for a successful connection, even if your PC says it can detect a signal. Users must set up what’s called a VPN, or a Virtual Private Network. It is the mechanism that allows users to authenticate onto the network. The VPN acts as a security precaution for both students and the University. Users know the connection works when a small box appears on their screen, asking for their username and password.

The convenience of wireless also extends beyond laptops to OS Palms and Microsoft Pocket PCs. This, of course, depends on the version of the device and if it has a wireless card. But if yours does, a wireless connection is literally at your fingertips. Configuration instructions for these hand-held devices as well as laptops can be found online at computing.unr.edu/wifi or by visiting the Campus Computing Help Desk, on the main floor of Getchell Library.

“I love wireless!” said UNR student Elaine Van Der Wall. “I just bought a laptop for my job and have been able to connect to the Internet via wireless connections at the airport and various coffee shops around town. I was so excited when UNR got it because the lab always gets so crowded, and I like using my laptop more than a public computer.”

Elaine turned back to her laptop, smiling contentedly that wireless networking has come of age, and it has taken campus by storm.