Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Airport blogging

I am writing this post in WordPad while sitting at gate B6 in the Philadelphia International Airport. It will be posted later since although I'm sitting about ten feet from an AT&T WiFi hotspot, it isn't free, and I'm not about to pay $9.99 to get online for such a short time.

This afternoon I am flying down Fort Lauderdale, FL to setup equipment demonstrating our product for providing high speed Internet access to hotel guest for our booth at a hospitality trade show. I'll do the actual setup sometime tomorrow, and once everything is up and running I'll drive on over to my Grandfather's house. I'll get to see him and his "mistress," as well as an aunt and uncle.

Although I'm looking forward to seeing relatives, it would've been hard to think of a worse time for this trip. Not only do Amanda and Judith still have their stomach bugs, yesterday Alexandra came home from daycare with a mild fever. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was able to help out Judith yesterday because I had to go on a service installation for a senior VP. And today, my mom was able to take off and watch the kids. Judith was well enough to make it into work, which she needs to do because we've both missed a lot of days this winter being sick ourselves and being home to take care of Amanda when she's been sick. We have our babysitter lined up for tomorrow if needed. Gawd. I'm flying home Thursday.

Regarding yesterday's install, it was interesting. Along with my boss I headed out to a nearby country club, to which the previously-mentioned VP belongs. The club is getting high speed access for the office, plus they want to setup a hotspot for members. To cover the whole building we needed two SMC 2555W-AG access points. To isolate the hotspot traffic from the office LAN, two cable modems were installed, one for the office and the other for the hotspots.

The 2555W-AGs are business-grade APs, offering pretty good security features and good signal. They also support power-over-Ethernet. The interface is a little goofy, in my opinion. Initial setup is done through a console cable on the command line. You have to login via a terminal emulator and set the Ethernet port's IP, and if you are not located in the USA you'll need to change the country, due to different RF regulations in various countries. Once this initial setup is complete you can logon and use the web UI.

Altough the boxes support 802.11a, b and g, I disabled 802.11a. Very few people are going to have compatabile cards and I wanted to reduce the load on the units. Per the customer's wishes we activated encryption. Since the club doesn't have a captive portal this is the only feasible way to limit access.

One thing I disliked about the WAP is that you cannot have just WEP or just WPA. If you activate WEP, WPA is automatically enabled. I realize WPA is more secure but this is a semi-public hotspot and encyption is really only used for access control.

A side effect of having WPA enabled was that my boss could not get his Powerbook to associate with the access point. We couldn't figure out if it was something specific to his machine or an incompatibility between Apples and SMCs. I was wishing that I'd had my iBook with me for another data point.

That's it for now. More later, perhaps.

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