Penn State Wireless 2.0 Upgrade

23 Oct

A friend told me recently that Penn State has expanded it’s efforts to upgrade their wireless infrastructure. Currently, students and faculty have to suffer through the arduous process of using a Cisco VPN Client to connect securely to Wi-Fi around the campus. This new system, dubbed Wireless 2.0 merely requires your Penn State User ID and password. The next generation of Penn State Wireless infrastructure now offers access points in the following locations (taken directly from the ITS information page):

  1. Willard Building (Entire Building and outside area between Schwab and Carnegie Bldgs.)
  2. Life Sciences Building (Ground Floor-available in six General Purpose Classrooms, #9 through #14 only)
  3. Telecommunications Building (Entire Building)
  4. Thomas Building (1st and 2nd Floors, and outside plaza area between Thomas and Ritenour Bldgs.)
  5. Business Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)
  6. Ag. Science and Industries (General Purpose Classrooms and Portions of the Ground Floor, 1st, 2nd and 4th Floors)
  7. Food Science Building (Entire Building and Creamery Outdoor Seating area)
  8. Forest Resources Building (Entire Building and adjacent outdoor areas)

Before being expanded to these new locations, the Wireless 2.0 system was being tested over on Services Road by the Blue Band Building and IM Fields. By shedding the VPN client in the new wireless infrastructure, users can expect to see far less connection issues. The time that it takes to connect to the networks has decreased dramatically- from about a minute (with the VPN) to nearly instantaneous. Even better, coverage of Wi-Fi between buildings has been improved.

To get connected, visit this page (PSU Access ID Required) for instructions. It is incredibly simple: you select your platform, click submit and follow the well-written and illustrated instructions. Because this new wireless platform does not utilize VPN, many more platforms are supported included Linux, 64-bit Windows, Apple iPhone or iPod Touch, and other generic platforms.

Search for the SSID (name of the Wi-Fi network) of “psu” in your wireless connection menu. Select “psu” and input your Penn State Access ID and password if required. Keep in mind that the legacy, VPN network is named “pennstate” and cannot be used with this new configuration. In some places on campus, both SSIDs will appear, but will not interfere with each other.

I have tried the Wireless 2.0 system from my 32-bit Vista laptop as well as my iPod Touch. Both were able to connect with incredible ease, and the connection was always strong. I for one welcome the upgrade, especially after the difficulty of connecting iPhones and iPod Touch after OS 2.0 offered VPN Access. Even though that problem has been solved, it is nice to see that this new system will be able to support a multitude of devices in the future.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about those of you that are technical in nature and want to find out about the infrastructure details. The SSID uses 802.1x (EAP-TTLS-PAP) with WPA-TKIP encryption. I’m glad to see that Penn State is going with this type of security as WEP security is essentially useless in security Wi-Fi access point.

ITS is very interested in getting feedback on their system. They encourage people with an Access ID to try out this new infrastructure. Click here to visit the feedback form.

Leave your comments below about your experience with this new system. If you find another place on campus that offers the “psu” SSID, let us know so I can add it to the list.

I thought I’d try doing a poll for this article:


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3 responses to “Penn State Wireless 2.0 Upgrade

  1. russwbeck

    November 4, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I can’t live without Cisco VPN lols

  2. Jim

    January 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Connecting to the VPN wireless scheme takes under 10 seconds with Ubuntu 8.10 and VPNC. The real problem is how terribly intermittent the connection is; my suspicion being VPNC isn’t completely compliant. I use OpenVPN and it was a drag having tun0 connect to some PSU server- not my OpenSolaris VPN server at home.

    WEP insecurities could be rectified with RADIUS.

    Has Wireless 2.0 moved to Boucke yet?

    • Steve S

      January 31, 2009 at 12:41 pm


      I have heard from ITS Lab Consultants that they are planning to move the wireless 2.0 system to the rest of the campus over the summer. The 2.0 system still resides in the same locations.


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