Vic college pioneers wireless connectivity

John Paul College in Melbourne is setting the pace as a pioneer in wireless notebook connectivity, recently completing a wireless network to support 50 laptops.

The wireless network adds to the college's existing network of 90 workstations spread across three PC labs.

Liam Davison, principal at Jean Paul College, explained the wireless network is a logical extension of fixed computer access.

"We had a situation where we had gone as far as we could with networked computer labs," he said.

The network is based on 21 Cabletron RoamAbout wireless access points, 22 bridges, a number of file servers and wireless network interface cards for each notebook.

The college's file servers run Windows NT, Microsoft Exchange and Novell Netware.

"The whole school is like a cellular network," Davison said.

The network is estimated to be worth more than $230,000, according to break-down figures supplied by the college. "It's not cheap, but you have to work out how to spend your money for maximum effect," he said.

As a result of the upgrade last year, Davison said the school no longer needs to dedicate another room to computer activities, allowing the complete integration of technology into the teaching environment.

Davison said desktop PCs were too cumbersome and inflexible for student needs.

The Acer laptops and Cabletron wireless network was funded and purchased by the private college through a one-off levy of parents, after Davison convinced them the investment was worthwhile.

While the wireless network is simpler and less secure than other alternatives, Davison said it is working efficiently, enabling students to access the LAN from anywhere on campus.

"We're not interested in encrypting student work," he said.

Davison said students use Microsoft Office for presentations, word processing and data collection. In addition, the notebooks' e-mail and internet access is enabling students to communicate with other students around the world.

According to Davison, the wireless network is a reference site for other schools in the area that are considering the wireless networking option.

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