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The Cloud / BT OpenZone - Nick [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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The Cloud / BT OpenZone [Dec. 11th, 2006|11:29 am]
Yesterday, in the cafe, the wireless was provided by The Cloud. We assumed that, given it's a fairly well known paid-for wireless provider, things would be easy, but we were wrong :(

First up, we tried using Dom's laptop. This could see the cloud access point ("WiFi Zone - The Cloud"), but was unable to get any useful data back from it. Then we tried mine, which could see several cloud access points, and did eventually give me an IP address.

As soon as we tried to use the web, we were sent to the usual portal. It offered to let us log in, buy time, or use on of their partner's logins. We tried the BT OpenZone page, tried to say we were a vodafone customer, and got a 500 page. Going in again, this time it gave us 404s. Until we deleted all the btopenzone cookies, it'd only give us 404s and 500s, not impressive....

Next up, we tried to buy some time on the network. Since we'd visited the BT OpenZone portal by then, it would only offer to sell us time via them (though at the same prices). Speaking of prices, these are pretty steep. 3 quid for an hour, 7 quid for 3 hours, or 10 quid for a day. They really seem to be trying to push their 12 quid / month subscription...

Having bought a 24 hour pass, all seemed fine for a little bit. Suddenly, the internet stopped responding, and we couldn't ping the access point. Dropping the DHCP lease and getting a new one, I discovered we were now on a new subnet. I tried to access the internet, and was asked to log in again. Only snag, I was told my authentication had failed.

So, I rang the support line (handily, it did offer a help link with the login error, which did contain a real phone number). They answered very promptly, and when I said my connection had disappeared, and now wasn't letting me log in, knew exactly what was wrong. Apparently, my session was still logged into another access point, and would stay like that for at least 15 minutes (until it noticed I'd gone away). So, they forced the logout, repeatedly, and eventually I could log in.

All was great, for about 20 minutes, until the new access point crapped out, and I found myself back on the first one. A DHCP renew and a new IP address later, and I was back where I was. Another phone call, another forced logout, and all was fine.

Having learnt my lesson, I re-configured my wireless to only connect to one cloud access point, and not try roaming between access points with the same ESSID. This meant that when the access point crapped out (about every 20 minutes), I'd loose connection for about 45-60 seconds. When it came up again, it let me carry on using my old IP, which was already authenticated, and all was fine (no need to log in again).

So, the trick seems to be to lock your wireless to just one cloud AP, and put up with the periodic drops. Also, have a ping running to the access point (it'll be the default gateway). This will let you know when it's died again (your pings will stop), and also let you know how likely it is to die. I found that in normal operations, it'd DUP every second or third ping you sent it. When it was sending back 6-7 DUPs to most pings (so you get 7-8 responses to each ping), you know it's about to die again....