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Free wireless Internet gives USF students access

USF is on its way to having a fully Internet-savvy campus. Equipment and infrastructure for wireless Internet accessibility has found its way into most buildings over the last few years. This allows students to hook up to the World Wide Web from a seat in class, at the Library or even outside in the Florida sunshine, absolutely free, fast and without any wires. Aside from the apparent “coolness factor,” this gives students and faculty research and communication abilities that previous generations of students could only dream of.

To use the system every student will have to authenticate at the beginning of every semester. But what could be a technically difficult chore was cleverly solved by Academic Computing: The first time a student tries to use wireless networking to bring up a Web page, he or she is redirected to a page to enter the USF e-mail address and password every student has to use for Blackboard. It then only takes about five minutes for the system to allow the student to access the Web, check e-mail, instant message or whatever else the student may choose to do with the access.

It could not be simpler, aside from getting rid of a password altogether, and it is definitely a better way to handle safety concerns than the confusing and annoying methods other universities are using.

The standard such networks use was first introduced into laptop computers by Apple Computers in July 1999, when the company introduced its colorful iBook line. Since then, many other companies have jumped on the bandwagon and the standard is now widely accepted and readily available for all computers, be it Mac OS-, Windows- or Linux-based.

Yet, marketing has made the dream of wireless Net accessibility a bit confusing, since many of the vendors choose to call the standards by different names. Apple introduced it under the name AirPort, others under WiFi and several other names are floating around.

The technical specification name is still the easiest for students to make absolutely sure their system will be able to connect. Hiding behind the name 802.11g is the newer standard that allows data transfer of up to 54 megabits per second. USF has yet to adopt this standard. But since it is compatible with the older and slower standard, 802.11b, used at USF which offers data rates of up to 11 megabits, both should work.

Wireless networking is offered in virtually all main buildings of the Tampa campus, including the Library, Cooper Hall, the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, Engineering and the new Natural and Environmental Science building.

There are still some “blind spots” where such access has yet to be put into place, but the groundwork has been laid to make Internet access on the USF campus as convenient as possible.