Free wifi at the WA State Library

I wrote a version of this post for the State Library blog, but I thought I should also post it here to reach the widest audience.

ENABLEnet is in theory still in trial mode and has not been publicly launched, but has been running quietly for the past two months. Being open to discovery and word of mouth has resulted in over 150 sessions a day in the past few weeks. As many people use the wifi on Fridays, weekends and public holidays when the library is open for fewer hours as they do during the week.

There is an interesting mix of devices connecting, the great majority are laptops. However, over 10% are a collection of ultra portable PCs, PDAs, phones (including a large number of iphones), iPod touches and PSPs (PlayStation Portable).

The biggest surprise from the statistics is the language of the devices connecting, a third are English, another third Chinese, 17% Korean, 8% French, 2.5% German, 2.5% Japanese and the remaining 2% other European languages. This is due to the large number of international students who use the library to study and that the library is close to a number of backpacker hostels. One of our regular users can connect from her hostel room.

The technology used to provide the service is the same as MetroMesh and ResourcesNet, with three access points, one on the Art Gallery roof and two on the State Library roof, providing coverage to public areas of the State Library, most of the open area of the Cultral Centre and even some of James Street. Speed is limited to 128k, which is find for most tasks except downloading large files.

To connect it is a simple case of starting your wifi, finding the SSID of ENABLEnet, connecting to it and opening a browser and going to any page on the internet. You will be redirected to the ENABLEnet home page, where you have to agree to the terms and conditions, you will then be logged in and directed to another page. From there you can navigate away to another web site or use any other internet tools.

There have been a few issues, a couple of times there has been power issues which have caused problems with the uplink, which means while the ENABLEnet appears to be working, it does not connect you to the network (it does not give out an IP address). Unfortunately because of the intermittent nature of the fault and the location of the devices (on the roof, 5 stories up), this problem may rear it’s ugly head again.

If you are unfortunate to be using Vista, on occasions it appears to only connect to ENABLEnet but not the internet and any attempt to open a web page quickly returns an unable to connect error. The solution appears to be to type the URL http://slwa.wa.gov.au/wifi/start.html into the browser. The start page will open and once you accept the terms and conditions, you will be logged in. and be able to access the internet even though Vista say you can not.

Sometimes, you will be logged in but you end on MetroMesh landing page or a inn.roamad.com page saying you have successfully logged in. This appears to be a random problem, but do not worry you have been connected to ENABLEnet and can browse away.

There is a problem with the login in process when using a Windows Mobile device and Internet Explorer, which prevents the device from logging in correctly and accessing the service. This is an issue with Internet Explorer as Opera Mobile on Windows Mobile does connect, and is being addressed. Opera Mini and similar mobile browsers which require a connection to a proxy, do not work.

Do not expect technical support from library staff, surprisingly most are librarians not network experts. While they can provide some configuration settings for most common OSes, they will not make changes to your laptop. And after seeing some of the setups of some laptops, I do not blame them.

So if happen to visit the State Library, the Cultral Centre or nearby and connect either successfully or unsuccessfully please let me know of your experiences.

2 Responses to “ENABLEnet”

  1. Ruth Ellison Says:

    That’s great to hear about the free wifi at the WA State Library. I’m loving how innovative libraries are around Australia :)

  2. Nick Says:

    Museums and Libraries are doing some of the more interesting and innovative things with the web in Australia. I am happy to be working there right now, just wish I had more time and a bigger budgets to work with.