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Posts Tagged ‘wireless@sgx

Wireless@SG started changing the way laptop users logged in to the service about six months ago. Back then I shared a few teething problems I faced with the changes.

  1. The seamless* experience is not guaranteed.
  2. There is no automated login method for Chromebooks.
  3. The automated connections for laptops is to SG, not the more secure SGx.

*The seamless process is how laptops might log in to the wireless service automatically like on your phone.

Complaints 1 and 3 are mostly not true today. As long as you have installed a profile on your Mac or PC, your system should automatically log in to the nearest Wireless@SGx access point.

However, I have noticed over the last six months of using the same laptop at different spots that the experience varies. A few times I got the pop-up log in option, most other times it was like being on my home wireless network.

However, the Chromebook option is worse now. Whereas I could log in manually before, now I cannot even access Wireless@SG.

On my Chromebook, I get this error message: “Error requesting OTP. Please try again in a moment.”

Wireless@SG error message on Chromebook.

The One-Time-Password (OTP) is sent to my phone, but I cannot get to the next screen where I enter the OTP. (Note: The screen shot above shows the error message. The Verification Code field is not for the OTP; it is for the captcha code).

To be clear, the error message is wrong because the OTP gets to my phone. It is the log in screen that gets stuck on the first page. The OTP needs to be entered on the second page and this prevents access to Wireless@SG.

This is ironic given how Wireless@SG is meant to help users connect to the Web and Chromebooks are essentially thin clients that rely on Web services.

In my previous reflection, I also shared three updates later that same month.

My first update was a complaint that my iPad did not join Wireless@SGx consistently. This no longer seems to be a problem.

My second update was about my MacBook Pro not auto-joining despite having a Wireless@SG profile in the system. As I described earlier, this is no longer the case. Sadly I cannot say the same for my Chromebook.

My third update was that some Wireless@SG hotspots seem to reject VPN connections. This still seems to be the case. The default connection now is to Wireless@SGx, which is supposed to be more secure.


Video source

With the news about the KRACK wifi exploit, I would like to use a VPN service for my own peace of mind. I do not see why Wireless@SGx seems to block it.

To the IMDA I say: One size does not fit all. The exceptions are the rules.

 
Today and tomorrow I link my Wireless@SGx experiences with the educational technology anecdotes of Singapore schools and institutions.

For the uninitiated, Wireless@SG is a wifi-hotspot network in Singapore. In theory, anyone — resident or visitor — can register to access the Internet for free with their own mobile device at malls, libraries, cafes, train stations, etc.

Wireless@SGx is a variant that is supposed to be more secure and can be tied to your mobile phone number so that you do not have to login at hotspots. This is very convenient in principle. For the regular user, however, the practice can be a mixed bag.

I frequent a neighbourhood library to get work done. I have found that I can connect quite reliably to Wireless@SGx on my phone, iPad, Chromebook, or MacBook when I am in the third floor study area.

I prefer the study area on the first level because it is more convenient and beside a cafe. However, my devices struggle to connect to the same network and I resort to tethering my laptop to my phone when I am there. My guess is the clinic next door and one the same level has another Wireless@SGx hotspot that somehow interferes with the library signal.

In short, I can travel just two floors in the same building, but have very different connectivity experiences.

Occasionally I travel to a larger library just a few train stops away. This library seems to be a good wifi signal on every floor. However, when I walk across the road for coffee at a cafe that also has Wireless@SGx, my access seems to depend on a flip of the coin. Heads, I have access; tails, I do not.
 

 
What does this have to do with the educational technology scene here in Singapore schools and institutions?

I am not referring to the infrastructure or the woes that schools have with official networks, segregated wifi, and alternative access.

I am referring to grand plans and standards that, in theory, are very different from the way they are interpreted and implemented in different contexts.

Like it or not, schools cannot share “best” practices because what works in one is not likely to work in another. The contexts are different. Some ideas might transfer where the differences are small. They certainly do not when the differences are large.

Like it or not, schools need to find their own way by making mistakes and learning from them.

Like it or not, the stories that are told by the press or official communiques that are released are often sugar-coated. They do not reveal what is most important about the educational technology implementations — the mistakes — because this looks bad.

We need to read accounts of visitors to our system, as well as official pieces and articles by local papers, about technology enhancements in classrooms with a shaker of salt.
 

 
This is not to say that the today’s classrooms are not different from one a generation ago. They are in terms of expectations, mindsets, and some behaviours.

The computing technology that might be in them is also different, but they are likely:

  • used and not integrated
  • used to do the same tasks as before
  • largely in the hands of the teacher
  • not leveraged on as often you might hope
  • shiny instead of being transparent

Anecdotes do not a system make. In the best case, they enlighten. In the worst case, they misinform. I elaborate on one such anecdote tomorrow.

My first major note about Chromebooks was over two years ago. Back when they were new, I wondered if Chromebooks were the new netbooks.

While Chromebooks evolved, I waited. And watched. And waited some more.

I added the Toshiba Chromebook 2 to my Amazon wishlist last year after reading how it topped many reviews. I had also tried one out when I visited a Google Store in London.

Then I bought it. It arrived at doorstep two days ago.
 
Toshiba Chromebook 2
 
I have a new Chromebook baby. I am a Chromebook baby. Here are some things I have learnt about it.

Freebies

Chromebook owners are eligible for “freebies” and this is the official place to check. There were three on my list.

  • I was expecting an additional 100GB of Google Drive space for two years and I got it.
  • Google Music is not available in Singapore so I do not benefit from the deal.
  • I am not in the US so 12 GoGo in-air Internet passes on domestic flights there are useless.

Hardware

I have been spoilt by the trackpad and keyboard of MacBooks. The Chromebook’s trackpad in tap mode is good, but to click it requires too much depth and force.

I paired the Chromebook up with a Logitech bluetooth mouse. While I could change the trackpad scrolling to “Australian” mode (Apple calls this natural mode, where up means up), there was no option to change the mouse scroll direction.

The keyboard is too sensitive with some apps (e.g., typing in Google Docs can rrrrresult in repeeeeeated letttttterrrrs.) and not enough with others (e.g., the ported Android version of Evernote). The keyboard also picks up and shows off fingerprints too easily.

The Chromebook has an HDMI video out port which I tested with an HDMI cable and an HDMI-to-VGA adapter (important as VGA projectors are still more common).

I discovered that some HDMI heads are a very tight fit for the port. Once connected, both HDMI and VGA video outputs default to extended screen. I had to manually switch to mirror mode.

Wireless@SGx

Yesterday I decided to test the Chromebook at a library and use Singapore’s Wireless@SG and Wireless@SGx wifi networks. Wireless@SG requires manual logins and is older. Wireless@SGx requires a one-time set up, typically with phones, and it connects automatically.

Wireless@SGx is more convenient and I wondered if anyone here had tried this on a Chromebook before. I was not disappointed. Here is a detailed guide by Geek Bryan.

I found out that I could only set up the connection on-site and not in advance. I also had to use a “long form” version of my user ID instead of the simple one illustrated in the guide.

I only realised this option would work because my normal user ID — the one I use to manually log in to Wireless@SG — did not work when I tried. I had generated the long version of my user ID for my iPad several months ago using this SingNet/SingTel site and choosing the Type 2 option.

The longer version of my user ID coupled with the instructions by Geek Bryan helped me connect to Wireless@SGx.

Battery life

I spent about two hours at the library getting some work done. The battery gauge let me know that the Chromebook could go on for another 6.5 hours. Only my MacBook Pro could offer that sort of run time, but it is a heavier beast.

The Chromebook does not gulp. It sips.

Coming up next

It is unwise to spend any amount of time on a public wifi connection. So tomorrow I share how I set up my Toshiba Chromebook 2 for a virtual private network (VPN).


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