If you are planning to attend PyCon 2011 and use the network, please read this. And if you are thinking of going and haven't signed up, please do so soon, it is expected to sell out. In a good way.
Executive Summary: Please bring 5.2GHz gear if at all possible (A.K.A. 802.11a). There will be a few hundred wired ports but they are highly concentrated. Please leave your 100+mW cards at home. Read this full message for all the details.
You should see several networks available, including “pycon”, “pycon2” and “pycon5”. The latter two indicate that they are operating at 2.4GHz or 5.2GHz. The “pycon” is a blanket “whatever I can see”, but the “pycon2” and “pycon5” networks allow you to more easily pick one of the specific frequencies. It also allows you to tell if your card is capable of 5.2GHz operation.
My recommendation: Use “pycon5”.
One thing I've learned doing PyCon networking over the years is that 5.2GHz (802.11a) networking gear just tends to work, and 2.4GHz (802.11b/g) just tends to have problems… If you rely on the network at PyCon, particularly during the “big 3” days of the conference, please try to bring 5.2GHz gear.
802.11n, the newer protocol, is a bit trickier to tell, because they don't have different names for it depending on the frequency, like they did with 802.11a/b/g. You'll have to check your hardware to see if it supports 5.2GHz.
Last year, at peak, we had around 70% of connections via 5.2GHz, and 30% using 2.4GHz. Only 10 out of 600 connections were at 802.11b (the older, 2.4 GHz protocol).
Why? There are a couple of issues with 2.4 related to congestion. There are only 3 non-overlapping channels in 2.4GHz, but also the venues tend to have a lot of other gear including their own APs and other gear that operates at 2.4GHz. 5.2GHz has many more channels, and tends to have fewer users on it.
So, while we do our best to offer service to 2.4GHz, it often just doesn't work in the main ballrooms, there are just too many users for too little wireless spectrum.
I will be buying more Ethernet switches this year, but that's still only around 32, and we have hundreds of tables. So only a few tables will have wired ports available. If you are having networking problems, feel free to sit by the switches and use them.
If wireless is working fine for you, please leave the tables with Ethernet available for others. Don't go overboard, if there's nowhere else to sit, feel free, but if there's plenty of space open, try to save the wired tables for those who need it. If you're at a wired table, please do use the wired network, everyone we can get off the wireless network will help, particularly in the 2.4GHz spectrum.
If you need to do a big download (or to a lesser extent, upload), during the main 3 days of the conference, please try to use one of the wired connections if you can, especially on the 2.4GHz spectrum.
A lot of people love the high power cards, that have 100mW, 200mW, or more power… But at PyCon, these cards are like a fog-horn, deafening everyone for miles around. Again, especially in 2.4GHz, these cards can stomp on many other wireless “cells”, blocking out other users.
And it's really not likely to help. All the APs at PyCon, in 2.4GHz, are set to their lowest power settings – to make many little “cells” rather than trying to blanket a huge area. So if you need big power to reach the AP, chances are that the AP isn't powerful enough to reach back to you.
Please be careful of the configuration of your card, and what networks you connect to. Be careful not to set up your card in Ad-Hoc mode. This basically makes you look like a provider of PyCon wireless access, and unskilled users may connect to your network and then not be able to reach the public Internet. We've had serious problems with this in the past.
Likewise, when you are connecting to the network, be aware of this possibility. Most network management programs will differentiate the Ad-Hoc networks as “computer-to-computer” or showing a computer icon next to it, as opposed to the real PyCon wireless which is in “Infrastructure” mode. Do not connect to the Computer-to-Computer networks.
Please report networking problems to registration. If you can, write down a quick note with where you were having problems, what frequency (2.4 or 5.2), and the nature of the problem. Registration may or may not be able to help you, depending on how busy they are and if there is anyone there who can help. However, worst case they will get the notes of problems to me to investigate later.
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