Connecting to the Columbia Medical Center's Athens WiFi network with Linux

Columbia University’s Medical Center, like many university campuses, has many WiFi access points. To meet HIPAA privacy regulations all their wireless networks require use of VPNs or sophisticated encryption protocols.

Connecting to their athens wireless network, which uses IEEE-802.1x authentication, is a little non-obvious with Linux, but is possible given your wireless card supports WPA and works with wpa_supplicant.

To save the many weeks I spent fiddling, the magic wpa_supplicant.conf stanza that works for me:

network={ ssid="athens" key_mgmt=WPA-EAP eap=TTLS pairwise=TKIP group=TKIP phase2="auth=PAP" identity="foo" password="bar" priority=2 }

Replace foo with your Columbia University UNI and bar with your password.

Wikimania 2006

Wikimania 2006, a conference for Wikimedia and Wikipedia people, fans, and advocates, finished up today. I attended as a visitor, to just see the seminars and sessions and soak up enthusiasm about wikis in general.

A separate event held before Wikimania, the Wikimania Hacking Days, had many of MediaWiki and Wikipedia developers come to discuss future directions of the infrastructure and software architectural of Wikiedia. Even though it was held at the offices where I work, the OLPC, I did not attend any of the seminars or hacking sessions. Most were heavily focused on MediaWiki, which I can honestly say I do not like much: the Wiki syntax is awful, and it is slow (I think Wikipedia is the fastest MediaWiki-powered site I know of).

Some of the interesting stuff I liked at Wikimania:

  • Chuck Smith’s Wiki Markup Mess poster detailed the many different types of Wiki markup in use, and put forth a “standard” Wiki markup to be adopted by all. I personally think this is the way standards should be made, that is, after-the-fact based on things that are already working in the wild. Interesting enough, ErfurtWiki, which I used on my old website, supports the syntax unification they were proposing.
  • Lawrence Lessig’s Ethics of a Free Culture Movement talk was excellent. While the presentation he used was a little corny, it detracted nothing from his message: copyright law has stinted the culture of the last 100 yrs, and new laws are needed for the new culture of the next 100 yrs
  • Markus Krötzsch’s Semantic MediaWiki extension, demonstrated as part of the Wikipedia and the Semantic Web panel, was very interesting to me. Lack of structure to information in wikis is a pet peeve with me; semantically tagging bits of information so they can be pulled out from articles with automated tools is just cool.

New MediaWiki skin based off of MySkin: NullBook

I’ve created a new theme for MediaWiki-based sites (by proxy, Wikipedia as well) called NullBook.

I do not like Monobook; I feel as if it wastes too much space on the screen, difficult to read, and doesn’t follow established web usability guidelines. Some of NullBook’s features:

  • Fixed-position “tab bar”, set to use GUI colors, that stays with you as you scroll down a page. The tab bar contains the contents of the “Views” menu, as well as the go/search box.
  • No font size definitions; uses your browser’s default. Skin (mostly) scales well with font size changes.
  • Underlined links, and more recognizable link colors. Blue for unvisited links, purple for visited links, and green for broken (or uncreated) links. Moving over a link highlights it to red.
  • Removed sidebar to stop wasting vertical screen real-estate, and relocated it to the bottom of the page. Also hid the other languages list since I tend to only look at English Wikipedia articles.

You can find more information about NullBook (including screenshots) by looking at the NullBook section of WikiMedia’s Gallery of user styles.

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