Closed Zone RIP

March 27th, 2010 by Alistair MacDonald Leave a reply »

Warning, this post might have turned in to a bit of a BT rant. ;-)

If you have been to a “geek” event that had flaky wifi and I was present you may well know about “ClosedZone”. It is a small and portable wifi access point I have been taking with me that shares any wired, wifi, or 3G connectivity we can get.

Well, last weekend a sad thing happened. The access point (a Linksys WRT64GC) failed completely. Like most Linksys equipment the AP worked very very well, but at BarCampNorthEast3 the PSU died (also like most Linksys equipment I have ever owned). The replacement PSUs are comparatively costly are cumbersome so this might well be the end of ClosedZone as we know it.

Now the ranting… The history of ClosedZone name all started with bit of a BT OpenZone cock-up at BarCampLondon2. This was held at BT HQ in London. You would have thought that a large telecommunications company would have been able to supply a good guest wifi service in the HQ, but sadly not. The wifi was a set of OpenZone hotspots and a nightmare, and when we got a good connection we only had access to OpenZone for 24 hours of the 2 day event without paying. There second PR fail of the event.

Then BT installed the wifi at Hackday London 2007. This was a large community coding event where access to the Internet was essential, and it just did not work. The venue was wired for OpenZone and for the first day it was as good as dead. We were given many reasons for this, but at least one of them was just rubbish. The second day was better once connected, but getting on was unreliable to the extreme.

Now a year passes and we end up at the same venue as Hackday London 2007 for Mashed. In fairness the wifi did work this time, mostly. The one big problem is that many of the 24 hour passes finishing early, including mine, and we could only use one device each. This is when ClosedZone was fist used in anger.

Since then it has been used on many occasions coping with wifi that either did just not work, did not work well, or was secured beyond practical usability.

I perhaps should also mention the UK Maker Faire 2010 where we stupidly did not bring ClosedZone with us. Extra connectivity was installed by BT for the event and they succeeded in completely screwing the events wifi, and the venues normal wifi. This ended in a Twitter campaign to @btcare (who will not follow me for some reason) to try and get something done as BT were essentially not answering the phone. You should know when you need a twitter campaign (including directors of a leading UK science centre) is needed to lodge an urgent support call you have a problem.

We also had our problems at BarCampNorthEast3 with the same wifi at the same venue, but this is one of the times I can not really blame BT. We installed our backup ClosedZone system quickly, but within hours the lights went out and it was no more. :-(

So lets all have two seconds of silence for ClosedZone. You served us well.

Now some good news. First I am going to stop ranting about BT for a few minutes. They have some good people working for them now and I feel when the people stopping progress retire it will have a much better future. Second I have invested in some new wifi access points supporting MIMO and can create one large virtual network for simultaneously serving over 250 devices. If you need a smallish geek event networking then they are available. Finally, if you know where I can get a small 3.3V 2A UK power adapter as a sensible cost then let me know so ClosedZone can live again.


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