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Dynamic Registration of Personal Computers

The Preamble

In a rush? Go ahead, skip to the next section.

As some of you will have noted, we have made some major changes to our DHCP services on the Research (and Undergraduate) networks. These changes give us much better control over address allocation (and control) and over passing information back to users whose computers have been blocked from network access because of viruses or other such nasty stuff.

Unfortunately these changes have also resulted in a loss of functionality which is adversely affecting some users' ability to get their work done.

The problem becomes apparent with personal laptops. Before the new services were turned on, any never-before-seen laptop or computer would get an address from the DHCP server without any authentication at all. This was a problem because we must be able to trace every computer on our network back to the user who was using it when there was a security problem. While this may be a rare event, we are required to do it as part of the contract between the University and their Internet Service Provider. The new services provide this functionality.

But in order to provide the functionality, the DHCP server needs to know something about each and every MAC address which will be asking for an address. Generally this is not a problem since the Systems Group registers DNS and MAC addresses for new machines at the same time. However we do not always see personal computers (like laptops) before they get plugged into the network.

We thought we had a fix for this problem: Dynamic Registration. This is being used in the Residences and Libraries where students (and faculty and staff) can plug in their laptops. We arranged for this to be provided on the Research Network. A new computer plugged into a Research Network port is redirected to a web page which requires a UWO login in order to proceed. Filling in this page registers the computer to the person logging in and, supposedly, solves all of our problems.

The Problem

What we did not know, until we'd implemented the changes, was that the Dynamic Registation service limits registrants to only one computer at a time. Which is a problem in Computer Science where people tend to have more than one laptop and where they want them connected to the network at the same time.

We have officially requested that the Dynamic Registration service be modified to permit faculty members (along with anyone else we designate) to register more than one host dynamically. ITS has admitted that this ability was part of the original design of the system but that it was not implemented. We have assigned a rather high priority to this feature. The latest response read:

Thanks for the input - there isn't a quick fix for this but we have placed it in the queue, we will get back to you when we have some firmer time lines on completing the coding.

Which means we don't know when it'll get fixed.

The Procedure

In order to avoid this problem we need each faculty member who has more than one laptop to bring them (or, at the very least, their MAC addresses and the names you'd like to refer to it by) to a member of the Systems Group before attempting to use them on the network.

It only takes us a very few minutes to get the machine registered. This will save you endless amounts of frustration.

And if you're bringing a new laptop back with you from your travels, send us the MAC address before you leave so we can get it set up before you arrive.

By the way...

Dynamic Registration is not available on the Undergraduate or Administration networks. Undergraduates students should use the UWO wireless system instead of attempting to plug into ports in GAUL labs.

Faculty members whose laptops have already been registered (either dynamically or by the Systems Group) will be given an address if plugged into a GAUL port. This is a new service.

 

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