Of iPhones and Oxford

Having used the iPhone at the University of Oxford since November, my experience has been generally good, but there are a mishmash of departments, colleges, and the central university computing service (OUCS) to deal with.  Now, with the iPhone 2.0 software update, I finally feel like I can take advantage of all the services that are on offer.

OUCS announced today that iPhone will be an officially supported platform, at least for getting WiFi access, with the possibility of them building some ‘local applications’ (which I interpret to mean native apps).  The site claims that they’ll release instructions for accessing eduroam WiFi access points shortly, which will add iPhone to the list of mobile platforms that already includes Windows Mobile 5 as well as the Nokia N95, 770 and N800.

However, eduroam isn’t as widely available as the older OWL-VPN system, which is available in most libraries and commom rooms.  In order to use this service, you had to install a Cisco VPN client which authenticated your connection and allowed you to access the internet.  Unfortunately, mobile users (not just iPhone) were left out in the cold because there was no Cisco VPN client for mobile platforms, hence the switch to eduroam, which doesn’t require the VPN.  However, the new iPhone 2.0 software includes support for Cisco VPNs, meaning that OWL-VPN is now available for iPhone!  You can use the instructions below to configure your iPhone to access the OWL-VPN for places where eduroam is not yet available.

  1. Register for a remote access account.  If you’re accessing OWL-VPN from a laptop, you’re already good to go.
  2. View this configuration document (you’ll need to sign into WebAuth to view it), and make note of the IPSec secret.
  3. On your iPhone, connect to an OWL-VPN wireless access point.  This will appear without the ‘lock’ symbol, but when you connect to the VPN, you’ll be secure.
  4. Next, on your iPhone, select Settings -> General -> Network -> VPN -> Add VPN Configuration.
  5. Choose IPSec at the top, and enter the following:
    Description:  <whatever you want it to appear as, I used ‘OUCS’>
    Server: vpn.ox.ac.uk
    Account: <your remote access username, i.e. abcd3456, from step 1>
    Password: <your password from step 1>
    Use Certificate: <should be grayed out, leave it alone>
    Group Name: oxford
    Secret: <the secret from the document in step 2>
  6. Tap Save
  7. On the VPN control at the top, tap to turn it ON.  If all goes well you should see a ‘VPN’ symbol next to the WiFi signal indicator at the top of your iPhone.  Surf away!

I haven’t tried to get onto an eduroam access point yet, but as soon as I do, I’ll post an update with any special instructions.

Update: I’ve been able to connect to eduroam (outside the Earth Sciences building, if anyone cares).  Oxford types will need to get a Remote Access account, then connect to the ‘eduroam’ access point from their iPhone.  It should ask you for the username and password (your remote access password, not your WebAuth/Email password).  You’ll be prompted to accept a certificate, which should be issued by GTE Cybertrust Global Root.  It came up ‘not verified’ on my iPhone, but I connected anyway and was able to start surfing away.

Update 2: After my triumphant first day of success with iPhone and OWL-VPN, I’ve been subsequently unable to surf successfully.  It connects to the WiFi and VPN without complaint, but seems unable to get any data.  Anyone else have this trouble?  I’ll have to investigate this further when I’m back in Oxford.

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4 Responses to “Of iPhones and Oxford”

  1. Miguel Urbano Says:

    Hi and thank you for your recent post on the iphone and eduroam.

    I have an ipod touch and have already installed the 2.0 software upgrade but I am having trouble connecting to eduroam.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  2. Spike Says:

    Well, I was able to connect without issue with my iPhone in Oxford. Could you be a little more specific about the problem you’re having?

  3. Miguel Urbano Says:

    I guess the problem is with the certificate, which has expired. I’ll see what the system administrator can do…

  4. David Says:

    I was having the same problem using OUCS VPN with my iPhone (that is to say, I couldn’t). Then I upgraded to the iPhone 3G and it works fine. I’ve also noticed that the 2.0 software is less laggy on the 3G. Odd given the processing hardware’s the same. Maybe Apple didn’t care to do much 2.0 quality assurance on the original model?


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