U. now providing WiFi to iPhone users

Monday, September 8, 2008

Computing and Information Services has made it easier for students with handheld cellular devices like the iPhone or the Palm Treo to access the Internet.

CIS installed Exchange ActiveSync on the University’s e-mail servers during the summer, coinciding with the iPhone 2.0 firmware release. ActiveSync is a Microsoft program designed to help synchronize mobile devices with network servers. Users will now also be able to access Brown’s VPN network, allowing them to log into library resources off-campus.

For students with handheld cellular devices like the iPhone or the Palm Treo, the change means they are returning to a more technology-accessible campus.

Connectivity has previously been an issue for iPhone users. According to a Sept. 18, 2007 Herald story (“Despite devotees, iPhone reception weak”), students reported difficulty accessing the Brown wireless network, which required them to reauthenticate every 10 minutes.

The Brown-Secure network was not available for handheld devices last year, although it now works on iPhone and iPod Touches.

“We upgraded the wireless controls because we knew there would be more wireless devices on the network this year in addition to laptops,” said Christopher Grossi ’92, manager of help-desk field support and software distribution.

“The issue was basically that the previous versions of the iPhone were not compatible with (Brown’s security requirements),” Grossi said. But “manufacturers like Apple are coming to that standard,” he added, which has allowed for the recent changes.

The addition of a third-party software like ActiveSync enables students to use their phones to check their e-mail, Grossi said.

Ethan Mack ’11, who received his iPhone last January, said he noticed the efforts to make Internet access at Brown “more inclusive.”

“I think they’ve done everything they can do,” Mack said. “I have had more problems with the Internet on my computer than my phone,” he added.

However, for some students, the improvements come too late. Sara Papamarcos ’09 said, after experiencing difficulties with on-campus e-mail access, she just set her iPhone to connect to AT&T’s EDGE network.

Those with access to the Brown network can download the software to enable VPN and Brown-Secure wireless access at the CIS Web site.

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