Penn State Wireless 2.0 Upgrade

A friend told me recently that Penn State has expanded its efforts to upgrade their wireless infrastructure. Currently, students and faculty have to suffer through the arduous process of using a Cisco VPN Client to connect securely to Wi-Fi around the campus. This new system, dubbed Wireless 2.0, merely requires your Penn State User ID and password. The next generation of Penn State Wireless infrastructure now offers access points in the following locations (taken directly from the ITS information page):

  1. Willard Building (Entire Building and outside area between Schwab and Carnegie Bldgs.)
  2. Life Sciences Building (Ground Floor-available in six General Purpose Classrooms, #9 through #14 only)
  3. Telecommunications Building (Entire Building)
  4. Thomas Building (1st and 2nd Floors, and outside plaza area between Thomas and Ritenour Bldgs.)
  5. Business Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)
  6. Ag. Science and Industries (General Purpose Classrooms and Portions of the Ground Floor, 1st, 2nd and 4th Floors)
  7. Food Science Building (Entire Building and Creamery Outdoor Seating area)
  8. Forest Resources Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)

Before being expanded to these new locations, the Wireless 2.0 system was being tested over on Services Road by the Blue Band Building and IM Fields. By shedding the VPN client in the new wireless infrastructure, users can expect to see far fewer connection issues. The time that it takes to connect to the networks has decreased dramatically- from about a minute (with the VPN) to nearly instantaneous. Even better, coverage of Wi-Fi between buildings has been improved.  My friends at ITS Lab Consulting have told me that Penn State will be moving over to the new system over the summer.

To get connected, visit this page (PSU Access ID Required) for instructions. It is incredibly simple: you select your operating system/platform, click submit and follow the well-written and illustrated instructions. Because this new wireless platform does not utilize VPN, many more platforms are supported included Linux, 64-bit Windows, Apple iPhone or iPod Touch, and other generic systems.

Search for the SSID (name of the Wi-Fi network) of “psu” in your wireless connection menu. Select “psu” and input your Penn State Access ID and password if required. Keep in mind that the legacy, VPN network, is named “pennstate” and cannot be used with this new configuration. In some places on campus, both SSIDs will appear, but will not interfere with each other.

I have tried the Wireless 2.0 system from my MacBook, a 32-bit Vista laptop as well as my iPod Touch. All were able to connect with incredible ease, and the connection was always strong. I for one welcome the upgrade, especially after the difficulty of connecting iPhones and iPod Touch after OS 2.0 offered VPN Access. Even though that problem has been solved, it is nice to see that this new system will be able to support a multitude of devices in the future.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about those of you that are technical in nature and want to find out about the infrastructure details. The SSID uses 802.1x (EAP-TTLS-PAP) with WPA-TKIP encryption. I’m glad to see that Penn State is going with this type of security as WEP security is essentially useless in securing Wi-Fi access points.

ITS is very interested in getting feedback on their system. They encourage people with an Access ID to try out this new infrastructure. Click here to visit the feedback form.

Leave your comments below about your experience with this new system. If you find another place on campus that offers the “psu” SSID, let me know so I can add it to the list.

This post originally aired on Digital Frontier.

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About the Author

Steve S.

Steve Sharer is a Security and Risk Analysis major and an overall good guy. He brings Onward State readers enticing posts such as "Question of the Day" and "Campus Explorer" and will continue to do so until he becomes the President of the United States of America in 2024.

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