So… it’s over

Posted by – 20/04/2008

And fisl9.0 is over. This was a great one… not only because of its size, but there were so many things at stake that I am positively surprised such a few went wrong. We’ve got a lot to think until next one…

To begin with, there’s a major difference between this “inter-fisl” time: we already know where next’s going to be and how much it’ll cost us. The event-center cost, as you can imagine, is the most expensive part of our budget, and knowing that in advance, I believe, will play an important role in our planning. Also, we got more time to plan for the next one: it’ll be in June, not April, as usual.

Moving back to PUCRS (from FIERGS) as fisl’s event-center – now I can say – was scaring me to death. PUCRS is smaller and we were foreseeing a huge event. Guess what! The event was bigger than first imagined, and PUCRS held it without major drawbacks. Sure, lectures were crowded… but they were already crowded at FIERGS anyway… The expo had more people than FIERGS, but I am sure our sponsors did not think that was a problem 😉

Of course, not everything went OK… I think we had two important problems to solve for next fisl: our network must be born already correctly configured for the streaming, and our wireless infrastructure must be stronger. The first one I already wrote about and I think it had to to with the inexperience of the network people this year: apparently they’ve put everything under a crappy load-balancing and while this might work for web-surfing or sending small amounts of data, it just hurts anything that should be continuously transfered, like real-time videos. Here is a piece of advice: network planning involves the “right” amount of everything (the right amount of cables, the right amount of bandwidth, the right amount of uplinks), including the right amount of configuration! I think our network problems were more a case of overconfiguration than one of lack of skills.

The problem with the wi-fi is deeper. Maybe I don’t completely understand the technology (and people handling it were not very helpful). How do you manage an event like fisl in the wireless front? PUCRS have provided us with enough wi-fi to hold 1500 concurrent connections (so they say), and have reported we never had more than 400 concurrent connections… and yet, as many people have reported, to connect our laptops was a hassle. I don’t have a laptop, but I’ve seem a lot of my friends trying to connect with no luck. During the second day, PUCRS wi-fi technicians told us that the problem was the Access-Points people brought to fisl (according to them there were more than 30) that were, somehow, messing with the channels they were using. So we reserved some channels to PUCRS and asked people to use other ones. I tend to believe that the majority of the people listened to our appeal and reconfigured their Access-Points… but no improvement were reported.

So, either PUCRS cannot hold more than 400 concurrent connections in their wi-fi system, or there’s some other problem we’ve not identified. What is the right thing to do? To forbid people to bring their own Access-Points? No way I am going to see the day fisl organizing committee will disallow people to carry their own communication devices!! There must be a better solution… I think I am going to study wi-fi at least not to be easily fooled around by this “messing the channels” crap (please, comment to this article if you have any ideas).

Finally, people are dreaming of a 10-thousand people fisl next year. I think it’s not more than a dream… but hey! When we made the first fisl, there were only 300 people… it has been a 9-year long dream… Maybe that 10-thousand one will come true, as the previous ones did. I will just add one more problem to our list: the first day long lines to get people’s badges must be addressed in a creative way…

Thanks to all that came to fisl. See you next year!

4 Comments on So… it’s over

  1. spectra says:

    Thanks for the insights so far… Meanwhile I’ve been studying wi-fi to see if I can find a way to do without forbidding people to bring their own A-P. Maybe cooperation is the key! We could reduce the number of A-Ps we manage and ask people to join the same network, increasing the wi-fi coverage with participants’ A-Ps.

    Roger… you’re right about sponsors’ A-Ps… while we may not want to forbid participants to bring their own A-Ps, it may become a policy to forbid sponsors’ A-Ps… We still have to study that option.

  2. Fabio says:

    Riku is right about the explication of the channels.

    Adding to the explication of the PUC wi-fi technicians, the change of the channels is a part solution. Ever if they block the MAC Address of the devices to don’t delivery services, it doesn’t matter if the people continue to use their radio frequencies devices to broadcast signals. There is no wi-fi system which will provide a good service if there a place with 30 radio frequencies devices broadcasting signals.

    I don’t know, as you said, if forbid the people to bring their own Access-Points is the best policy, but will be very difficult to improve the service if some management action won’t be made in the next FISL.

    I think this wi-fi problem is more a management problem than a technical problem.

  3. Roger says:

    I´d read your post now, and have some considerations to do about Wi-fi.
    Really only exists 11 wi-fi channels, but only 3 usefull Chanel 1,6 and11.
    The others (2,3,4,5,7,8,9,10), are sub-divisions of channels´s 1 and 6.
    About the rogue ap´s, a lot of them wasn´t connect to network, only acquiring data about connections tries.
    Others rogue ap´s was using the same SSID “FISL”, but the solution provided by PUCRS was a cisco controlled solution, which attacks the rogue ap´s and clients sending disconnect packets, but it´s impossible to attack the RF signal transmitted from rogue ap´s, so all rogue signals detected was only messing the connectivity from the event.
    The organizing committee which was responsible about FISL, should asked for the sponsors to turn off their AP´s, because on the places which don´t have others signals the connectivity was perfect, only on the central pavilion which has the RF´s messy signals really was impossible to connect.
    I really believe IF the wi-fi solution OFFICIALLY provided to suply the FISL requests was the only solution used by users and sponsors they would have much less problems.

  4. Riku Voipio says:

    Congrats for a successfull conference 🙂

    Well.. while there is 11 wifi channels available, they are all overlapping, giving you only 3 non-overlapping channels. So practically three misconfigured AP’s can kill the network from everyone.. Take many rogue access points and lots of people with buggy wifi drivers and mess you have.

    Imagine a 3-dimensional, invisible coax 10base2 ethernet network with 400 users – that’s large-scale wifi 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *