The Gathering Technical blog

Wireless - part 2

30 Mar 2013, by Bjørn Petter Kysnes from

It's now saturday, and we've tried to fine tune the wireless network for the past few days. We're now finally at a point where we are pleased about the result.

As expected, the 2.4GHz band is pretty much impossible to use. If it works for you; great, consider yourself extremely lucky. If not, we're sorry, but there is unfortunately very little we can do to resolve it.

The reason for this is the extreme number of interference sources. The 2.4Ghz band is unlicensed, and is used by all sorts of wireless equipment, such as Bluetooth, some wireless mice, keyboard and headsets, and the wireless controllers used by both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. All of that in addition to the wireless networks set up by the participants.

To counter interference from other wireless networks, we use something called rogue suppression/containment. Basically, this prevents wireless clients from connecting to other than our networks. This means that if you set up your own access point, it will be pretty much impossible to use. Sorry about this, but this is necessary to provide a better service to our users.

For wireless, we use a management tool called Cisco Prime Infrastructure, which when combined with a product called Cisco Mobility Services Engine, allows us to map out our wireless environment in an interesting way. Here's an example which shows wireless users:
Clients

For those interested, we have discovered a total of 563 Xbox 360's at The Gathering this year; here's an interesting row:
Xbox

The maps are not 100% accurate, but close enough that we can get some nice data from them.

To fine tune the wireless network, we got some amazing help from Jon (Fishy) in Tech:Server. In addition to helping us tweak some settings, he wandered around the ship with his laptop, streaming with twitch.tv so that we could monitor his progress. You may have noticed him on his tour around the ship :) He has uploaded this video to Youtube, for you all yo enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xRsCMLaaXM&w=560&h=315]

As you can see, it is actually possible to have a decent wireless experience at The Gathering, as long as you connect to the 5GHz network. It took a lot of time and work to get it to work as well as it does now, but in the end, we are pretty pleased with the result :)

For those who are interested in radios and wireless networks, we did some spectrum analysis on one of the access points in the hall:

2.4GHz:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BDdnhxzpHQ&w=560&h=315]

5Ghz:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7tdzsngl0s&w=560&h=315]

If you want to learn more about our wireless network, just contact me on IRC, my nick is bepe86 :)

Bjørn Petter Kysnes

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