Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Wireless Networking Hardware Hacking Networking Build

IETF Attendees Reengineer Their Hotel's Wi-Fi Net 120

Posted by timothy
from the better-than-legionnaires-disease dept.
alphadogg writes "What happens when a bunch of IETF super nerds show up in Paris for a major conference and discover their hotel's Wi-Fi network has imploded? They give it an Extreme Wi-Fi Makeover. Members of the Internet Engineering Task Force, who gathered for the outfit's 83rd meeting this week in France, discovered as they arrived at the Hotel Concorde Lafayette that the Wi-Fi was flakey and became flakier still as scores more attendees arrived and tried to connect, and the wired net was having issues of its own. Working behind the scenes, a team of IETF attendees negotiated with the hotel and were granted access to the wireless network, and began rigging up all sorts of fixes, which even included taping a Nexus S phone to a ceiling and turning off the radios on numerous access points to reduce noise."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

IETF Attendees Reengineer Their Hotel's Wi-Fi Net

Comments Filter:
  • the phone (Score:4, Funny)

    by C0R1D4N (970153) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:56AM (#39509733)
    Someone please explain the usefulness of taping a phone to the ceiling to me.
    • by Spad (470073)

      Ad hoc wireless access point, one would presume.

    • Re:the phone (Score:5, Informative)

      by AntmanGX (927781) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:58AM (#39509801)

      "There was no WiFi signal when on the desk in front of the window in my room, but after some experiments, I discovered that the signal was quite good... on the ceiling of the bathroom," emailed Marc Petit-Huguenin.

      "I have a Nexus S phone, so I taped it on the ceiling of the bathroom, and used tethering over Bluetooth to bridge the gap to the desk," he explained. This is a slow connection, but good enough to send emails over SMTP or use vi [the popular Unix text editor] over SSH."

      FTA

      • Re:the phone (Score:5, Informative)

        by SailorSpork (1080153) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:18AM (#39510169) Homepage
        In other words, it was a short fix so he could get initial wireless access to the network from his own computer so that they could get in an poke around some more. They did not deploy smartphones around the whole hotel as a permanent solution. I think the whole Smartphone thing was played up to make the article seem more appealing, but after he did that it looks like they used more mundane, standard approaches to tune and adjust the network to get it running to spec.
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        That is some real MacGuyver networking there. I can picture Richard Dean Anderson saying, "I need some duct tape and a cell phone!"

    • by tzot (834456)

      Translation: “I can't bother to RTFA, tell me the tl;dr version”.

    • by Night64 (1175319)
      have you tried RTFA?
    • by schitso (2541028)
      FTFA:
      "'There was no WiFi signal when on the desk in front of the window in my room, but after some experiments, I discovered that the signal was quite good... on the ceiling of the bathroom,' emailed Marc Petit-Huguenin.

      'I have a Nexus S phone, so I taped it on the ceiling of the bathroom, and used tethering over Bluetooth to bridge the gap to the desk,' he explained. This is a slow connection, but good enough to send emails over SMTP or use vi [the popular Unix text editor] over SSH."
    • by geekmux (1040042) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:06AM (#39509955)

      Someone please explain the usefulness of taping a phone to the ceiling to me.

      It's part of the IPv7 protocol. Don't worry, you'll see them release a paper next week on it...and I'm sure industry will get right on implementing that...sometime in 2037.

      In other news, it was reported that part of the re-engineering of this Wi-Fi network was implementing IPv6...unfortunately, they could find no one outside of the IETF super nerds who knew what the hell it was for...

    • Re:the phone (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mellon (7048) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:06AM (#39509967) Homepage

      Oh come on, why does it have to be useful? The hotel let us do it! (I'm guessing that it had a USB ethernet dongle, but I wasn't there, so I don't know for sure.)

      I feel very fortunate that a majority of my business travel is to IETF meetings, because this is the only time that I ever experience functional internet in a hotel. It can be pretty fantastic--in Hiroshima, the WIDE team rewired _all_ of the IETF hotels, which is about five different hotels. In almost every IETF since Seoul, the IETF NOC has provided the connectivity for the conference hotel for the duration of the conference, and the connectivity has been excellent.

      It's too bad that hotels can't afford to pay IETF geeks to fix their connections on a more general basis, and that there isn't a commercial provider that's able to provide a similar level of service for a price hotels can afford. Sometimes I think we ought to have an independent hotel WiFi rating service, so that hotels would have to actually compete on the basis of the quality of their Internet service.

      • Re:the phone (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:13PM (#39511167)

        Having all hotels provide connectivity suitable for a LARGE group of internet junkies is financially stupid.

        Most hotels have adequate coverage for their normal guest load, so they use the cheapest provider capable of providing that adequate coverage.

        No other event in the hotel is going to require the connectivity perfection that an IETF conference is going to require, its a waste of money for them to engineer and build out an IETF compatible network. Its far simpler to get some joe the plumber from the PCGuys Shop down the street to throw in a DSL line and enough APs that no one bitches, and for the most part, works just fine.

        Not every hotel NEEDS that kind of connectivity. For instance the hotel I went to for my wedding had absolutely shitty connectivity and if you asked they would politely respond, aren't you here for your wedding sir? And they were right :) Disney has absolutely shitty connectivity and their response is rather atypical for Disney in that it is intentionally bad, you're not supposed to be dicking around on the Internet at Disney.

        They also don't need to pay for DS3 or so of bandwidth for the hotel if it isn't filled with bandwidth hogs (which I actually doubt the IETF are, probably the opposite but just making a point.)

        • Bah. There is other technology than DS3s for high-speed internet, many of which are much cheaper.

          If you can't get a 50mbps connection for your hotel, for less than the cable bill, than you are doing it wrong.

          The last thing anyone wants, in this day and age, is some cheap ass hotel trying to serve over a hundred customers with an ADSL connection.

          • If you know some trick to get 50mbps to an arbitrary location for less than a cable bill, I'd absolutely love to hear it.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              A hotel gets a cable bill and you get a cable bill. The numbers are different though. Regarding the argument that a hotel should provide more bandwidth: The TV usually provides some revenue (via pay-per-view). Free Wifi doesn't. If it's too good, it will be used for VoIP and then it eats into the phone bill. Wifi just needs to be "good enough" that you can put it on the list of amenities.

              • by jmauro (32523)

                At this point cell phones have pretty much killed charges for room charges from the phone. I don't think I've used a phone in a room in like 15 years.

                Having bad WiFi is one of the things that can drive business customers from staying there, and business customers are usually the most profitable customers for a hotel.

            • Where there's a hotel capable with 500 rooms, there's likely to be a cable ISP within easy reach. The larger the hotel, the more cheap bandwidth is geographically handy.

        • by mbone (558574)

          For instance the hotel I went to for my wedding had absolutely shitty connectivity and if you asked they would politely respond, aren't you here for your wedding sir? And they were right :)

          Haven't been to many IETF weddings I guess.

    • by rvw (755107)

      Someone please explain the usefulness of taping a phone to the ceiling to me.

      It is there to hide it from Inspecteur Clouseau!

  • by nemui-chan (550759) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:58AM (#39509777) Homepage
    Nerds get together and do nerdy stuff en masse!
    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Nerds get together and do nerdy stuff en masse!

      At least they weren't genetic engineers.

      (a get-together of plastic surgeons, on the other hand...)

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Nerds get together and do nerdy stuff en masse!

      Ah, that explains all those dudes at the park dressed up in medieval garb and why I got hit in the head with a beanbag.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can't wait until Micheal Bay directs a movie about this.

    IETF Agents struggle to defend paris against an onsluaght of transforming alien turtles and explosions

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Can't wait until Micheal Bay directs a movie about this...

      Why? Are there massive explosions and car chases when you configure your AP? If so, you might be doing it wrong.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        Can't wait until Micheal Bay directs a movie about this...

        Why? Are there massive explosions and car chases when you configure your AP? If so, you might be doing it wrong.

        Or very very right, depending on how you look at it. Seriously, if you can get your AP to explode, literally, just by configuring it, I would be impressed.

      • Doesn't matter. Michael Bay could shoot "Sex in the City" with massive explosions and car chases.

    • by firex726 (1188453)

      SHUT UP.
      You might give him ideas.

  • So these nerds Jury Rigged the WiFi in the motel, and when they are gone, the whole network collapses.
    • Re:Jury Rigged WiFi (Score:5, Informative)

      by robot256 (1635039) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:19AM (#39510187)
      I don't know if what they did qualifies as jury-rigged. They basically mapped out the entire network and assigned RF channels and power levels so that adjacent floors would not interfere with each other. Seems like whoever installed it before just threw up an access point in every other room and left it on full power. What the IETF guys are doing is certainly not totally optimized yet but it's a big improvement over what was there before.
      • by chelliot (2606649)
        We will remove the connection to their uplink, so performance will go down when we leave. However, they are keeping our configuration changes, so I expect the performance to still be significantly better than it was before we arrived.
        Chris.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have been in hotels with a cable co wifi modem in the room (good as I needed to reboot it aka unplug and replug to get it working)

  • by pesho (843750) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:19AM (#39510181)

    Can somebody explain to me why did these guys go to this conference? In my experience there are two reasons to go to a conference:

    1. Business - meet people learn new things

    2. Pleasure - screw the talks and go skying

    This conference is in Paris of all places and if they don't care about the place and the talks why the hell did they go there. I am pretty sure every single one of the participants has better internet connection at home.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because those guys have jobs and need to be able to access the network at those jobs. If you'd read the article you would know that they were reengineering the network specifically so that their VPN connections wouldn't drop constantly.

    • You're right. There's absolutely *nothing* to see or do in Paris.

    • by chelliot (2606649)

      1. Business - meet people learn new things

      Please read up on what the IETF does. We meet to design the protocols that allow the Internet to work. Our primary focus is not to meet people or learn new things, although both things happen as secondary outcomes. Your ability to transmit your message above is because of the work we do.

      This conference is in Paris of all places and if they don't care about the place and the talks why the hell did they go there.

      The selection of the sites for the IETF meetings is complex and many variables go into the mix. We try to encourage participation in the IETF around the world while somewhat equalizing the inconvenience of travel by having

      • by mbone (558574)

        Well, except for Peter Lothberg, whose Mom has better Internet connection.

    • by FunkDup (995643)

      screw the talks and go skying

      Can I come Skying? I have no idea what it is but it sounds really fun!

  • Lower power (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ai4px (1244212) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @11:22AM (#39510263)
    I like what I've read in the article so far. One of the mantras of ham radio is use as little power as possible to communicate. I love that these guys were smart enough to turn off some access points entirely, to reduce receiver sensitivity and transmitter power. It seems they reduced the number of access points to 3... one for each non-overlapping channel. Great!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "It's a 2.4Ghz infrastructure in a highly 3D and rather radio transparent environment -- where the three non-overlapping channels [all that are possible in that band] are a real problem."

      They're in Paris. There are four non-overlapping channels in Europe: 1, 5, 9 and 13. While it is customary to use 1, 6 and 11, especially in settings where international visitors are expected, if the network really needs 4 channels, they are available and should be used.

      The proper way to fix the Wifi in multi-story building

      • Re:Lower power (Score:5, Informative)

        by chefmonkey (140671) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:50PM (#39511775)

        And that's ultimately what Chris did: we're now operating on four channels. Well, six, actually -- some of the APs could operate in the 5 GHz spectrum, so rather than leaving them off, they were re-purposed for the equipment that could use them (which offloads all the Macs and iPads from the 2.4 GHz spectrum, bringing the noise floor down). So now, running down one side of the building, we have 1, 5, 9 and 13; and then on the other side, 13, 9, 5, and 1. The APs on the tips of the building (it's shaped like an American football in horizontal cross-section) are on the 5GHz channels 40 and 44. The pattern is reversed for every other floor, to provide as much vertical spacing as possible.

        This should help you visualize the layout: http://www.ietf.org/proceedings/83/slides/slides-83-iesg-11-ietf-operations-and-administration-plenary.pdf [ietf.org]

        Keep in mind also that the APs, when we showed up, were turned up all the way up. Look at the diagrams, and keep in mind that these are small rooms (the building is maybe 150 feet wide along its longer axis), and you begin to see how the deployment failure was pretty complete before we got here.

        Of course, we didn't show up with 300 directional antennas to fix the APs themselves. All we could do is change their configuration. The change has been dramatic.

        • by chelliot (2606649)
          Well, to be pedantic, 8, actually. I used 36, 40, 44, and 48, two on each end of each floor (each floor of the concorde looks like a 2D football).
          Chris.
      • by ai4px (1244212)
        About converting the 3d problem into multiple 2d problems by using high gain antennas is abso-freaking-lutly a good solution. I've always pictured an isotropic radiator as a balloon in my head. If you add gain, you squish the balloon in one axis and it expands out all around perpendicular to that axis. Zero signal straight off the tip of the antenna. Ideally a high gain antenna would radiate out 360 in a plane and APs on adjacent floors would not hear each other. They could also make sure the APs were
  • by magarity (164372) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:17PM (#39511227)

    " they arrived at the toney Hotel Concorde Lafayette"

    Do you mean "tony" as in "upscale and/or fashionable"?

    • by mbone (558574)

      Regardless of what they meant, the Hotel Concorde Lafayette ain't it.

      • Yeah, it's kind of an overpriced crap pit with chronic theft problems in which the staff appear to be complicit (if not the actual perpetrators). But that wasn't really the main thrust of the article. :)

  • Happens all the time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:26PM (#39511417)

    The IETF basically re-engineers the Hotel's network every place they meet. The big difference is, sometimes they get permission to do this before the meeting, and sometimes (as here in Paris), they don't get this permission until after the Hotel's network melts down.

    (By the way, I am at the meeting, and I heard that the Hotel's IT head has now been fired. This is not too surprising when one of the major fixes was to turn off
    the majority of the access points.)

    • But but.... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dareth (47614) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @02:17PM (#39513117)

      Nobody ever got fired for listening to a vendor. They all have your needs and best interest at heart when they quote you the bare minimum you absolutely need to buy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The access points have been turned back on, but on different channels. The transmit power has been upped to the default value again as well. In the end the best result came from just changing the channels: http://www.ietf.org/proceedings/83/slides/slides-83-iesg-11-ietf-operations-and-administration-plenary.pdf

      If the hotel fired the IT guy because he had not provided them with as good a network configuration as a hotel full of IETF engineers did, I think they're going to be surprised when they hear what kin

      • by chelliot (2606649)
        The solution was in many changes. That included changing the lowest allowed speed and broadcast/multicast rate to 2Mhz (from 1) for the 2.4G APs and changing the receiver sensitivity on the AP radios by changing the Colubris wireless interface config "distance" from "large" to "small". Often it is a set of small changes that, together, effect change far larger than they do individually. You can see the incremental improvements in the bandwidth graph in the presentation.

        I suspect that the channel realloca
  • by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @12:35PM (#39511555)

    I would so watch that show! Every week, they take us to a company to look over their pathetic network and re-do it properly and with moar power. I can see it now...the teary-eyed IT manager is brought in to see his new network...it'd be like Bob Vila for geeks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I would so watch that show! Every week, they take us to a company to look over their pathetic network and re-do it properly and with moar power. I can see it now...the teary-eyed IT manager is brought in to see his new network...it'd be like Bob Vila for geeks.

      Wrong. The Teary-eyed IT manager is fired. And the ensuing publicity is enough to blacklist him for some time.

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Heh, I'm renting a room right now, and pretty much had to do a wifi makeover to get good connectivity in the basement. The signal was very spotty, and it seemed like we would have to reconnect every few minutes if anyone upstairs was also using the signal.

      They didn't want to run wires down to the basement, but I found that there was great wifi signal in the wine cellar around the corner. I bought a wifi extender [google.com] to bounce the signal around the corner. It helped a little bit, but my system would still bou

  • a team of IETF engineers who were granted access to the Hotel Concorde Lafayette's Wi-Fi network received complementary hookers and champagne, and had all of their room charges dropped. Some of the hookers who could be reached for comment called the IETF engineers "extraordinarily poor tippers".
  • I spent much of last Friday (before the IETF meeting started) tying the hotel wireless infrastructure to our dual gig uplinks in the convention center. An amusing part of this was that to find the fiber that went between the convention center and the hotel required us to dig out our own documentation from when we used this facility in 2005. One page allowed us to locate where the fiber terminated in the conference center--a room on the roof of the center. We then had to get one of the conference staff to cl
    • by gnapster (1401889)
      Thank you for participating in this thread. I have enjoyed reading your perspective in addition to the article.

PLUG IT IN!!!

Working...