Technology

Freedom Through Ad Hoc Networks

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The University of Calgary's wireless networks are generally pretty fast, but there are often times when they are at peak capacity and everything's really very slow. If you're trying to transfer a large number of large files between computers or play networked videogames on the LAN, chances are you're not only giving yourself headaches, but your neighbours as well.

Another scenario occurs when you want to do something that lies outside the narrow confines of the university's definition of acceptable technology usage. Frankly, the university's network should be used for academic things- not transferring that 30 gb archive of sybian porn to a friend in your residence building. Even playing games using shared computing resources (like the network) could get you in trouble with IT. Why bother with all this hassle when the service often isn't even that great in the first place?

One solution is to buy a wireless access point and create a small network that way. Yet, this is both expensive and even against UCIT policy, so back to the drawing board.

The solution to this is a little-known facet of wireless networking called "Ad Hoc" mode. Most people believe WiFi cards can only act as slaves, perpetually chained to a wireless access point of some sort. While this is true if you need access to a wider network such as the Internet, Ad Hoc mode allows individual devices to create their own small networks unbeholden to any lord or university.

Here's how to do it in Mac OS X:

  1. Open up System Preferences and click on "Network."
  2. Click the device in the left column corresponding to your wireless network card. It should have an icon resembling a triangle made of waves.
  3. In the "Network Name" dropdown box, click "Create Network..."
  4. Under "Name," type what you want your grand new wireless frontier to be called. Be creative.
  5. If you want to protect your kingdom with a password, check the "Require Password" box. Type it twice, click "OK."
  6. Generally leave the channel set to "Auto," however, if you find you're having connection difficulties and there's a lot of wireless traffic around, it may be work experimenting with.

To connect to an Ad Hoc network in Mac OS X, use the same drop-down in the System Preferences "Network" panel to locate your friends' networks, or if you have the wireless icon shortcut in your menu bar, click it and look for networks listed under "Devices." To access the Internet or other networks such as AirUC, just join them again like you would any other wireless network.

To create an Ad-Hoc network in Windows Vista:

  1. Right-click the Networking icon in the Taskbar, near the time.
  2. Click "Connect to a network."
  3. Click the "Set up a connection or network" link.
  4. Click "Set up a wireless Ad Hoc (computer-to-computer) network."
  5. Click "Next" and type in your network's name.
  6. If you want an open network that anybody can connect to, select "No authentication (open)" from the Security Type dropdown.
  7. If you want a password, type it in; otherwise, click "Next."

Windows users can connect to ad hoc networks by locating them in the list of wireless networks that appears when you click "Connect to a network" after right-click the network icon in the Taskbar as in step 1.

Windows users may have some trouble finding Mac users and vice-versa, but generally systems that announce their presence will show up during Ad Hoc sessions. This means that network games should work as normal and not require locating individual IP addresses. In the case that stuff just isn't showing up, to find your local IP address in Windows, open a terminal by going to "Run..." and typing "cmd" before hitting enter. Type in "ipconfig" and look it up for your wireless card. Mac OS X users can go to the "Sharing" panel in System Preferences and click "File Sharing" in the left column. The IP is the bit after "afp://" directly above the folder listing.

You may have to move around a bit because ad hoc networks are lower power than traditional, but they're good in a pinch.

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