WIA: Minimum requirements

Before you sign up for WIA, check that you have all the equipment you will need.

IT Services do not sell computer equipment, you will need to buy the equipment for WIA (eg wireless network adapter) from a computer equipment retailer. Always check the warranty and returns policy before you buy.

Netbooks

Netbooks (eg the Acer Aspire One and the Asus Eee PC) are a fairly recent phenomenon (the Asus Eee PC, which is credited with launching the trend, was launched in late 2007).

Netbooks are small, cheap, low-powered laptops which provide basic functionality (eg word processing), in a portable device, for less then all but the cheapest laptops. However, a £300 netbook does not provide all the functionality of a £1000 laptop. Netbooks have slower processors and less memory than full laptops, so are slower (especially when running more than one program at once) and are unsuited to graphics or processor-intensive tasks such as playing games or working on complex spreadsheets.

Many netbooks do not offer full wireless support and do not work with the University’s WIA network. The issue is that netbooks are designed for home use, so many do not support enterprise wireless networks (as used by Universities and large companies).

Specific netbooks that IT Services is aware of which do not support enterprise wireless networking, so cannot be used with WIA, are:

  • Acer Aspire One netbooks runnning “Linpus Linux Lite version” (the default Linux operating system). According to Acer’s documentation, these can be recognise by having an “A” after the hyphen in the model number (eg “AOA110-Ab)
  • Asus Eee PC 701 & 901 netbooks runnning Xandros Linux (the default Linux operating system)

These netbooks do support Infrastructure wireless networking (i.e. connecting to a single wireless access point, which is the typical home setup and is also common in coffee shops etc), the limitation only applies to connection to enterprise wireless networks. Also, the limitation does not appear to apply to current Acer, Asus and Samsung netbooks running Microsoft Windows XP – in testing IT Services have successfully connected a Samsung NC10 netbook running Windows XP to the WIA network.

If you are buying a netbook for use with WIA, we strongly recommend that you confirm with the vendor that the model they are selling you supports enterprise wireless out-of-the-box (i.e. without any additional software) and that they will take the netbook back and give you a full refund if this turns out not to be the case.

If you have a model of netbook which isn’t listed, please let us know whether it is able to connect to WIA and we’ll add details to these pages.

Wireless network adapter

Most recent laptops have a built-in wireless adapter but with older laptops you will need to purchase an external PC Card (also commonly known as a PCMCIA card).

You need to install your wireless adapter as per the manufacturer’s instructions (eg installing the driver for it) before attempting to configure your laptop for WIA.

Minimum – your adapter must be compatible with the 802.11b and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) standards.

Suggested – we suggest using a multi-band wireless network adapter, supporting either 802.11g (backward compatible with 802.11b) or ideally 802.11a/g. An adapter supporting a range of wireless standards will give better value for money in the long
run as you are likely to be able to use it outside the University or if we upgrade the wireless network in future.

Recommended – the following adapters have been tested by IT Services and confirmed as working with the University’s wireless network.

  • 3COM 11a/b/g Wireless PC Card with XJACK Antenna (3CRPAG175)(Guideline price: £65 inc VAT and delivery)
  • D-Link Air Xpert IEEE 802.11a/b/g Wireless LAN Adapter (DWL-AG650) (Guideline price: £45 inc VAT and delivery)

Laptops running Microsoft Windows XP SP3, Vista or Windows 7 are fully compatible with the wireless network, but Apple laptops running any version of Mac OS prior to OS X (eg Mac OS 9) are not.

Operating system

Only operating systems for which an actively maintained security updates service is available may be used with WIA. See Terms of Use, section 1.4. It is strongly recommended that you use Windows XP with Service Pack 2, because of the level of wireless support and improved security that this provides.