IBM puts Wi-Fi in Boys and Girls Clubs

IBM is installing wireless LANs in more than 600 Boys and Girls Clubs of America facilities across the U.S., one of its largest deployments of the 802.11b wireless networking technology so far, IBM said Wednesday.

Instead of stringing wires in the clubhouses, many of which only had one computer for Internet access or none at all, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America decided to go wireless, said Pal Normark, client manager at IBM.

"To hardwire a lot of these facilities would be a tremendous cost, so the wireless capability fit their need nicely," he said.

IBM is using Linksys gear at the clubs. Linksys was recently acquired by networking giant Cisco Systems. The wireless networks are connected to a high-speed Internet connection.

The setup may be atypical, because the clubs are using desktop computers on the wireless network instead of laptops. The IBM contract also includes the delivery of 6,400 IBM desktop PCs with wireless cards, IBM said.

The PCs come with a custom software image installed, and are configured for the wireless network and for the Hewlett-Packard printers that the Boys and Girls Clubs of America also ordered, Normark said. Part of the software bundle is an easy restore feature that can restore a PC to its last saved state in about 20 minutes.

"These Boys and Girl centers typically don't have IT experts on hand," Normark said, explaining the need for simple troubleshooting options.

With headquarters in Atlanta, Boys and Girls Clubs of America has about 3,300 facilities across the U.S. and runs programs for kids aged between 6 and 18 years, according to the Clubs' Web site. The organization receives many gifts from large technology companies, including Microsoft and Intel. However, the agreement with IBM was not a donation, IBM said.

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