I spent the bulk of the day, starting at 9:00, at ACES (Area Cooperative Education Services; one of the Regional Education Support Commissions a.k.a. RESCs - they operate at the county level helping the towns in their area - ACES serves New Haven county). Rob, my counterpart at the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) had collaborated with the technology coordinator at ACES to put on a half-day workshop on municipal optical networking. CEN is the first state educaton network in the nation to put an optical connection into every town (other States' ed networks reach all towns, but they use slower leased circuits for small or outlying towns). Now that the connections are there, towns need to work the 'last mile' to get network access from all of their schools to where the CEN connection is. Rob asked me to be one of three presenters representing towns/cities in the state that have built their own optical networks. Forty to fifty people came to the workshop -- school technology coordinators, and school system IT people.
As the mid-morning break was winding down and I was getting my PowerPoint preso loaded Rob asked me "so what do you think at this point?" I told him that I was thinking about how long it's been since I last presented to a group this big! I was second in the batting order -- going after the CIO from Manchester (the town that built the first municipal optical network and soundly defeated SBC when they attempted to block the network by going to the DPUC) -- and that worked out pretty will. He covered a lot of ground and introduced a lot of topics, which meant that I didn't have to. I was able to build on what he had introduced and spend more time on concepts and less on definitions. I talked for ~30 minutes, and it seemed to be pretty well received.
The workshop ran until 12:30; a presenter from Shelton followed me, and then Rob gave some wrap-up remarks. It was nice to get out and meet some of my counterparts, hear what other people are doing, and talk up some of the neat things that we are managing to do in Hartford in spite of our funding going straight to hell!
After grabbing a late lunch back in Hartford, and getting caught up with my coworkers, I had about an hour left in the day. I looked around thinking "well, I could spend the hour finishing the inventory of the parts room" ... I rejected that idea as it would take nearly fifteen minutes to dig out all of the bar-code labels and the reader, get setup etc. I wound up working on something far more interesting (to me at least): wireless.
Some impulse in the back of my brain fired and I decided that I had been talking about setting up a proper wireless network in the building for long enough -- it was time to do something about it. So, I dug out one of our spare Cisco Aironet 350 access points (AP) and got to work. I configured it to sit out on our public Internet segment. It's broadcasting it's SSID (which is Hartford_Open_WiFi), and has no encryption running. Tomorrow I'm going to nip into work and get the two existing APs in the building reconfigured to match.
Why do I want to run these APs wide open? Because we've been talking about providing free wireless in the city and we have to start somewhere. Capital Community College is across the street, and UConn has satellite campus going in next door. Our offices may not be near City hall, or the central city park, but we front an area where there are a lot of savvy people moving around. So, why not? I'll track how they get utilized, and that will give me a feel for how the placements work, etc. For staff who want to get on the inside network wirelessly, they'll do what industry best practice says they should do: fire up their VPN clients and come into the network through our VPN server, riding a highly-encrypted IPSEC tunnel.
The one question I have is how long will it take the college kids to figure out that there's free wireless to be had? I wonder if anyone will War Chalk us?