In Wi-Fi They (Don’t Really) Trust

Sometimes, the biggest problem with the network is its very existence. Anytime something breaks, the fingers start pointing at the network. Database stopped responding? It must be the network. Client can’t access the Internet? Must be the network. Never mind that what the client can’t access is just their home page and everything else is working…

The problem isn’t so much that the network exists, but that it exists and most users, and even most IT pros, don’t understand it. Now we take that complex system that people already have a difficult time understanding and replace the simple Cat5 cable with… Magic? Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. For many people, wireless is a magical black box. Actually, it’s usually an opaque white box, but that’s beside the point. Things happen in it, but they can’t be seen and they are not easily understood. The explanations for how it works, or more likely why it doesn’t work, generally involve lots of vague hand waving motions and end with either blaming the client or the network, depending on which side you are on.

Now when something breaks and there’s nothing obviously wrong with the device people trust, it’s logical (from their perspective) to blame the thing they don’t understand. It’s known that it needs to be working for them to do what they want, so that must be what’s broken.

You can read the rest of my thoughts on this on the Aruba Airheads Community.

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How hard can it be not to install wires?

There’s a joke, “How hard can it be not to install wires?” (See this Dilbert comic) However, it’s a good question, so let’s think through this a bit.

Let’s say you are deploying a new wireless network. Maybe you had it thrown at you already purchased and delivered. You just get to implement it. What fun! Maybe it’s “just” an upgrade, so can’t you just swap things out?

Things you need to consider: What model are the APs? Do you have enough for coverage? More importantly, what about capacity?

To read the reast of this article, check it out over on the Aruba Airheads Community.

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My First Aruba Beacon #WFD8

Back at the beginning of October, I had the opportunity to be a delegate to Wireless Field Day 8. The Aruba Networks presentation was very impressive and they also were kind enough to provide all the delegates with a number of nifty items, including some Aruba Networks LS-BT1 BLE location beacons.

If you aren’t familiar with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), it’s an extension to the Bluetooth standard that allows for low power communications. This is the standard that provides the basis to create beacons and allows them to operate for multiple years using standard button cell batteries. Beacons are not the only devices out there that use BLE for communication, but those are outside the scope of the rest of this post, which you can continue reading on the Aruba Airheads Community.

Below is the video of Aruba’s location presentation, featuring Kiyu Kubo, Director of the Meridian Group at Aruba Networks.

Aruba Networks Meridian Stadium Applications with Kiyo Kubo from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Kiyo Kubo, Director of Meridian Group, discusses the use of Aruba Networks Meridian location technology at Levi's Stadium. Use of beacons is demonstrated and security around the technology is also discussed. Recorded at Wireless Field Day 8 on October 1, 2015. For more information, please visit http://ArubaNetworks.com/ or http://TechFieldDay.com/event/wfd8/.

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RFC 7710 and Captive Portals

Portal

Are you captive in this portal?

I like to monitor the IETF mailing lists for new Internet RFCs that are published. Many of these are cryptic things like RFC 7675, Session Traversal Utilities for NAT (STUN) Usage for Consent Freshness. I’m not sure I even know what that means. There are some that do make sense to me. Most recently RFC 7710, Captive-Portal Identification Using DHCP or Router Advertisements (RAs) was published and caught my attention.

To find out why, you’ll have to read the rest at this post on the Airheads Community. :)

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WLC upgrade snippet

I was tired of trying to remember the syntax and all the commands to upgrade a Cisco WLC from the CLI, so I made a quick little TextExpander snippet to save time typing. It’s very simple, but it’ll save time. When you type the shortcut for this snippet, it will bring up a window that you fill in the blanks, then click OK to have the commands typed for you. Below is a screenshot of the dialog and the script. It’s hard coded for sftp and for a code update, but it’s easy to modify to your own ends.

wlccode

transfer download filename %fill%
transfer download datatype code
transfer download path %fill%
transfer download serverip %fill%
transfer download mode sftp
transfer download username %fill%
transfer download password %fill%
transfer download start

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Wireless Field Day 8 Preview #WFD8

 

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This week is Wireless Field Day 8! I’m honored and excited to have been invited as a delegate for my first full Tech Field Day event. I’m certain it will be a memorable experience! It’s a packed couple days with six vendors presenting and the opportunity to rub shoulders with the other delegates. I wanted to give a bit of a preview of the vendors and perhaps some ideas about what they’ll be sharing.

Wednesday

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Cambium Networks will present on Wednesday morning. Cambium was formed when Motorola sold their Canopy and Orthogon businesses and they were combined to form Cambium. Cambium has a long history in point-to-point and point-to-multipoint licensed wireless systems for wireless ISP, public safety, and other business/industrial applications. They recently announced cnPilot, a cloud managed Wi-Fi solution, which I presume is what they will be presenting. I don’t know much about them and am looking forward to learning more and hearing what they have to say at their first WFD event.

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Cradlepoint presents early Wednesday afternoon. Cradlepoint is well known for their broadband routers and mobile broadband solutions. Most of these have Wi-Fi built in and use an LTE backhaul. They have solutions that range from small branch routers to rugged units designed to be used in vehicles. Internet of Things / Machine to Machine solutions and broadband failover solutions are all right up their alley. To top it off, all these things can be managed through the cloud. My initial guess is that they will be talking about their IoT solution, but tune in on Wednesday to find out what they really have to say.

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Ruckus Wireless is a major Wi-Fi manufacturer that I’ve heard a lot about, but haven’t done much with. Earlier this year they released some SOHO gear under the Xclaim brand, which seem nifty as easy to configure units. More important, they partnered with Juniper Networks back in June to deliver wired/wireless solutions. Ruckus was also first to market with an 802.11ac wave2 AP. They haven’t been to a TFD event for a couple years, so I’m expecting a refresher on who they are and an update on their products. Of course, you never know. They might just release something new and shiny at the event.

Thursday

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Cisco is the 900 pound gorilla of most segments of the networking industry, and wireless is certainly included here. Cisco wrote the post It’s All About Simplicity to explain that they are focusing on operational simplicity. They will be presenting their 802.11ac Wave 2 AP, Mobility Express (potentially very shiny), the latest on CMX 10.2, and an overview of Meraki System Manager. Cisco is what I work with the most and I’m particularly interested to learn more about Mobility Express and CMX.

 

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Zebra is another newcomer to Tech Field Day events. You may already be familiar with Zebra for their wireless printers, but last year they purchased a chunk of Motorola that included 802.11 products. They’ve continued with the WiNG products and that’s about all I know. It will be interesting to hear what they have to share.

 

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Aruba Networks is a regular at TFD events. This is their first since becoming an HP company and I expect it should be interesting. They are a huge player in Wi-Fi and have been active in promoting the Wi-Fi community and related events. They are promoting their participation in WFD8 with an image that includes a picture of an outdoor AP, an indoor AP, and BLE beacon. One presumes this is a hint as to what they will be talking about, especially since they’ve started embedding BLE beacons in their APs and producing their own standalone beacons. I’m very interested to learn more about Aruba. I’ve dabbled with their Instant products and would like to learn more about their full blown solutions. Jake Snyder, another WFD8 delegate, just earned his Aruba ACMA and it sounds like a pretty easy way to start, so I may go down that road, myself.

Got Questions?

That’s a lot of vendor presentations for two days and it all starts tomorrow. I’m looking forward to learning more about all these companies and their products while sharing the information with you. If you have questions for any of these vendors either before or during the presentations, send myself (@scottm32768 or any of the other delegates a tweet and we’ll be glad to ask on your behalf!

I do not yet know the exact times for the broadcasts, so for the most up to date schedule and to watch the live broadcasts, tune in at http://techfieldday.com/event/wfd8/. There’s a list of all the delegates there, as well.

FIN

A Strange, Unsolved WLAN Problem

I’m seeing strange behavior on the WLAN at one location. This location is one of many that are on the same controller and identically configured, save for AP locations and IP addresses. No other site is reporting this problem. Here’s my problem description:

Users report that many devices are unable to access “any site that requires a login”. From what I’ve seen, this really means most (but not all) SSL protected URLs. HTTP URLs work fine, HTTPS URLs timeout. This only happens on the open guest SSID. If one connects to the secured corporate SSID, everything works normally. Reports indicate that many, but not all devices are impacted. We couldn’t find a single Apple device that was impacted, but on-site staff believes it hits some of them, too. One of the staff owns an Android phone on which the problem is reproducible. I’m heading out there tomorrow with a suite of test devices to see if I can duplicate it with any of them. There is a possibility it only hits 802.11ac devices, but this is not the only 802.11ac site and it is the only one reporting this problem. I have connected with an 802.11ac laptop and had no issues. The 2.4GHz RF environment leaves something to be desired (and was the source of the Spectrum Analysis as Art post), but this problem also occurs on 5GHz. The APs are in FlexConnect mode, so I tried switching them to local mode and that did not change the behavior.

Does this sound like anything someone has seen? Any ideas what is going on?

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