Web surfing at UI no longer bound by wires

By Leah George-Baskin

A new Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES) service that started Monday will allow students at the University who have a wireless card in their laptop to enjoy the use of the Internet almost anywhere on campus.

The new program, called QuickConnect, was originally only accessible in a few areas during the summer. It does not require any additional software and allows students to use their web browser from any access point.

Wireless Service Manager Debbie Sligor said this is part of a multi-year goal to eventually have wireless services available at all public access spaces throughout campus.

“All a student needs to do is open their web browser and log in using their NetID and password,” Sligor said. She said the only restriction is that students can only access Web sites that are clear text and secure.

“Students can check e-mail and other sites and are also able to use instant messaging programs like AIM and MSN,” Sligor said. Programs like AIM and MSN are secure because they use their own ports, whereas an instant messaging program like Yahoo may or may not work because they do not, she said.

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While the QuickConnect option for wireless Internet has some restrictions, Sligor said there is another option available to students that does not have any restrictions. The second method requires students to download Virtual Private Networking (VPN) software, which they can get for free at http://www.cites.uiuc.edu/vpn/admin/. Students launch the software and log on to it using their NetID and password, after which they are able to access the Internet without any restrictions, visiting both secure and non-secure sites.

Sligor warns students to be smart and use common sense when going to non-secure Web sites.

The VPN software works by connecting the student to a central server, encrypting everything they send from their laptop to the server. The server then decrypts the information and sends it out to its destination. The information then returns to the server to become encrypted and returned to the student. Sligor says, this way, everything remains safe and secure.

VPN can also be used at off-campus sites such as Green Street Coffeehouse, 608 E. Green St., in Champaign. University graduate Elizabeth Martinez, a barista at the coffeehouse, said anyone is welcome to use their wireless Internet free of charge.

“There are no passwords needed,” Martinez said. “Anyone can use it, people just walk in.” Martinez said some people may sometimes have problems but only because the server occasionally gets crowded with so many people using it.

Panera Bread Company, 510 E. John Street, in Champaign offers another free, off-campus option for wireless Internet.

Katie Pavlacic, neighborhood marketing coordinator for Panera Bread Company, said Panera was the nation’s first chain to offer wireless Internet and is now considered one of the largest hotspots in the nation for connecting.

“Anyone with a wireless card and their own laptop can access the Internet anytime of the day, all day long,” Pavlacic said. “All you need to do is open up your Web browser and agree to Panera’s term of service, and then you can access the Internet without any limitations.”

Pavlacic said the wireless service should be good within the confines of the caf‚, but access from the outdoor seating area may be limited at times.

Nick Gloude, junior in LAS, said he is excited about the prospect of more wireless options throughout campus.

“Wireless Internet is very good – it’s more convenient and allows you to have more freedom to access the Internet wherever you are most comfortable, in any environment where you can get work done,” Gloude said.

Sligor said anyone with an 802.11-B wireless card should be able to access the University’s QuickConnect and VPN. The 802.11-B is the standard for wireless cards that most people have in their homes.

Students should be able to access the Internet as long as they are within 80 to 100 feet of an access point, Sligor said. There are multiple points across campus and more are being made accessible everyday. Sligor suggests that students check http://www.cites.uiuc.edu/wireless/locations.html in order to stay updated as to where they can log on.

If a student does not have a wireless card but wishes to own one, Sligor said they can purchase a standard wireless card on campus at the Micro Order Center located in the Union or at general electronic stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City.