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Wireless Networks Thread, Wireless networks and large groups of laptops in Technical; Hello, Well as you can tell I'm new here and straight in with a question. Has anyone on here (I ...
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    maniac's Avatar
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    Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Hello,

    Well as you can tell I'm new here and straight in with a question. Has anyone on here (I bet loads of you have) had experience with large groups of laptops (30 or so) using a wireless network all in one location?

    I ask because someone had the bright idea of buying a trolly of laptops for the school I work in (and didn't consult us before making the purchase) and we've had nothing but trouble with them, particulalry at login. My conclusion is that the wireless access point(s) can't cope with that many workstations all trying to use them at once, and our advice to SLT has been not to buy any more wireless gear for students as it simply doesn't work reliably enough. Problem is they're dead keen on the idea of wireless laptops for student use and want to buy more, so we're keen to either find a way to make it work reliably, or find enough evidence to present to them to convince them it's a bad idea.

    We've been using a wireless network for staff sucessfully for a number of years now with relatively few problems, but it just doesn't work reliably for students. For your information, the access points are 3com and are only 5 months old with the latest firmware loaded to them. The signal strength in the rooms they're used in is good to excellent in most locations.

    One or two laptops on their own work ok, any more than about 5 at once and we're having trouble.

    Any help or advice appriciated.

    Mike.

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    Geoff's Avatar
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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Your experience is about average for the kit and situation you have. Your advice you've given to SLT is correct. Current technology (802.11g) can't deliver reliably what your asking of it.

    The reason is that WiFi is a shared medium (just like old BNC networking or 10mbit hubs) so eventually you just run out of 'space' in the radio channel the AP is using and laptops start interfering with each others signals. Eventually, you get to the point where there is nothing but signal noise. Then it all falls apart.

    Wait a few years and try again with WiMAX (also 802.11n might work, but I've no experience of it).

    The odd teachers laptop on WiFi should be fine though. So sticking an AP in the staffroom, meeting rooms for example is a worthwhile exercise.

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    maniac's Avatar
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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Thanks for that, that sums it up nicely for me, and if anything makes me rest easier knowing it's not anything we're doing wrong!

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff
    The odd teachers laptop on WiFi should be fine though.
    We have over 100 teachers laptops on a school wide wireless network (and they all work fine)

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Trouble with any more than 5?? That sounds a bit rubbish! There's probably something wrong there.
    We have 15-20 on one AP without any trouble - occasionally, if they all hit the logon button at exactly the same time, group policy won't apply correctly to ONE of them, but that's fixed by logging off and back on.

    You may have to go with a more commercial-grade wireless network - like blue socket or some of the cisco stuff. Some folks on here have experience of this. Basically, you have a controller, server end, then 'dumb' access points. The controller can then load balance the clients across several access points. At the moment, all the clients will attach onto the loudest ap even if it has 30 users on it and there may be a slightly weaker signal a few doors down with none on it. They can also automatically 'turn down' some APs and switch channels.

    (Our aps will pick their own channel - you have changed away from the defaults haven't you?) You also may want to look at the cards. I've found that some of the Intel internal cards get a bit funny with more than a few users and linksys ones don't like *certain* APs with WPA encryption. Our D-Links work fine (now we've spent 2 years getting the firmware and card driver combination sorted!)

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Yes - I have exactly the same problems logging on 30 laptops in the same room at the beginning of a lesson using Aruba wireless hardware..

    No solution just yet. New wireless cards, drivers etc and yesterday there were some kids that hadn't completed the login in 50 minutes!

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    webman's Avatar
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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    gwendes: Is that 30 laptops connecting to one access point?

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    We have the same problems when 30+ log in in one room. We are reconfiguring all our access points to use just the 3 channels and jigging them about a bit, more to satisfy the users that we are trying something to improve it.

    We are under no illusions that it will work any better, but it shows we are trying

    I've deliberately missed off increasing the number of laptops in the development plan for next year

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by webman
    gwendes: Is that 30 laptops connecting to one access point?
    Sort of - the Aruba is supposed to be intelligent. The building has 5 access points that are apparently capable of around 50 clients each. It is supposed to force traffic to others if it is busy. Each room has about 3-4 available but the houses across the road are starting to be picked up too.

    I really hate wireless.

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Is it centally managed? Our d-links are supposed to be able to force a client to go to a different access point if one AP hits a certain number, but it's very crude and they sort it out amoungst themselves. As you'd expect, it just crashes the whole thing! So it remains switched off.
    I suppose, it might just work if you had 2 or 3 APs all in exactly the same place e.g on the trolley but on 3 channels, working as one cluster. (But I doubt it!)

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Why not use mac filtering on the WAP's to restrict which clients can connect to each WAP?

    Ben

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by eean
    Is it centally managed?
    Yes
    Quote Originally Posted by eean
    I suppose, it might just work if you had 2 or 3 APs all in exactly the same place e.g on the trolley but on 3 channels, working as one cluster. (But I doubt it!)
    The access points are all over the school site - the switch can produce a site map showing perfect coverage. The signal strength is fine I just need something to point at where the problem is with a big red arrow!

    Everyone knows that wireless networking works by magic anyway...

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Hi,

    I setup a mobile classroom of 30 laptops last summer. the mobile classroom is used in 3 rooms, Humanities, Design and technology and English. The AP i use are 3com 802.11b/g/a, the laptops have been configured to use only the 802.11a as it is more fault tollerant. the 3 rooms have 3 AP each so thats 10 laptops per AP. I wont let the laptops be used any were alse in the school even if you can still pick up the point, this just simply cuts down the problem as you abvouisly start to lose signal strength.

    Up to now it has worked really well, had a couple of odd problems such as user not been able to log on as domain not available etc. also its not a good idea to push out software using Group policy as when the kids come to log on during lesson this can as you would imaging cause a lot of problems and delays. My self and the IT coorinator manage the laptop booking. each lesson is about 50 minuts i think so we only allow for 3 back to back lessons of use.

    its a pain in the ass when it comes to updating the laptops or sending out a new ghost image. If you are ghosting i would conect the machines using cat5.

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by bishopsgarthstockton
    its a pain in the ass when it comes to updating the laptops or sending out a new ghost image. If you are ghosting i would conect the machines using cat5.
    I know that pain! I can do about twelve at a time overlapping them but it is not fun... I'm creating a new image atm and the plan is to image the entire disk with an image on the second partition so hopefully no more cat5!

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    each laptop has been individually setup to connect to a persific AP.

    laptop 1 can connect to ENG001A, DT001A, HUM001A
    laptop 2 can connect to ENG002A, DT002A, HUM002A
    laptop 3 can connect to ENG003A, DT003A, HUM003A
    laptop 4 can connect to ENG001A, DT001A, HUM001A

    etc

    this takes out the decision process for the laptop and no more than 10 will ever connect to a AP.

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    Re: Wireless networks and large groups of laptops

    Quote Originally Posted by bishopsgarthstockton
    each laptop has been individually setup to connect to a persific AP.

    laptop 1 can connect to ENG001A, DT001A, HUM001A
    laptop 2 can connect to ENG002A, DT002A, HUM002A
    laptop 3 can connect to ENG003A, DT003A, HUM003A
    laptop 4 can connect to ENG001A, DT001A, HUM001A

    etc

    this takes out the decision process for the laptop and no more than 10 will ever connect to a AP.
    How have you done this?



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