Students can now take their laptops into the hub at the University Center, sit down in their favorite comfy chair, and be instantly connected to the Internet by way of the hub’s new wireless AirPort.

The two wireless AirPorts, one in the UCen lobby installed last fall and a new one in the Hub installed over Spring Break, are available to all students to use to connect to the Internet from anywhere within view of the port.

Students who want to connect to the port need to equip their laptops with a wireless network card that allows the computer to receive the signal from the AirPort and transmit data. This card is similar to a Network Interface Card, which allows computers to connect to networks such as the Internet and comes already installed on most computers.

The wireless ports retail for $299.00 and require little extra maintenance once installed. The service is provided for free, and students do not need to sign up to use it. Instructions are provided near the NetStations in the UCen lobby.

The connection is almost as fast as a cable connection, UCen Systems Administrator Gabe Gador said.

“Theoretically, performance is supposed to be different. With most cabled Ethernet connections, your theoretical speed is up to 10 Mb to 100 Mb per second. With wireless, it’s up to 11 Mb per second,” he said. “Our tests, however, indicate that the wireless connection to the Internet rivals that of a cabled connection.”

According to Walt Williams, assistant director of business and finance for the UCen, the connection speed might be slowed if too many students are connected at one time, though not by much.

“We hope a lot of students do use it,” he said.

The second port in the hub was installed due to a student suggestion submitted to a UCen box.

Some students have been already using the wireless connection, such as junior James Seidel, a computer engineering major.

“It’s a fast connection; I don’t need to wait for one of [the NetStations] computers and I can spend more time online since no one is waiting for me,” he said. “I wish they had more of them.”

Up to 50 users can be connected to the AirPort at once, according to Apple Computer, which manufactures the AirPort. Gador said more than 50 students using the connection at one time is unlikely.

“I don’t expect it to exceed that,” he said.

Some students who use the NetStations in the lobby aren’t aware that wireless is available or that they might be on a wireless connection. Junior art history major Ted Knowles uses one of the cable connections also available by the NetStations to connect his laptop to the Internet.

“I just use the connection; I don’t know what wireless means,” he said. “They should have more open [cable] Internet connections for people with laptops.”