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August 3, 2007

Introduction To The Wide World Of Wireless

Connecting to the internet wirelessly allows much greater mobility and efficiency. If you have purchased a new laptop or PDA, it likely has built in Wi-Fi capabilities. Even if your device is a bit older, it is not unlikely that you can still make use of the convenience that Wi-Fi offers. For those who are just now tip toeing into the world of wireless computing, a brief review of some of the basics should help to answer any lingering questions and knowing a few good resources can fill in the gaps.

What Do I Need To Consider Before Using a Public Access Wireless Connection?

Public access sites make connecting easy and offer users the ability to use time productively when they aren’t sitting at a desk, tethered to a cable. On the other hand, a wireless connection is a bit slower. When connecting at a public access site, you are sharing bandwidth with others around you, thus there may be delays when downloading, e-mailing, and so forth. The other consideration is security. When connecting via radio waves versus a cable, it is much easier for others to get access to information on your computer without appropriate security measures.

What Do I Need to Connect?

In order to wirelessly connect to the internet a user must first have a Wi-Fi enabled mobile device which supports standard 8.2.11 b or g Wi-Fi. Many new devices have this built-in. For devices that don’t have this capability, a Wi-Fi enabled PCMIA card or an enabled Wi-Fi adapter is needed. Of course, if you are traveling with a laptop it is also wise to take along a surge protector, a spare battery, and a power adapter.

Secondly, a user must have access to a Wi-Fi “hot spot”, a location which will connect them to the internet. Some homes are now Wi-Fi enabled while many airports, hotels, and public institutions such as libraries are also Wi-Fi enabled. Indeed, some cities are working toward having Wi-Fi cover their entire geographic area. Many local businesses also offer access to Wi-Fi; businesses such as Starbucks and MacDonalds commonly have access. Some hotspots are “free”, although most business understandably expect only paying customers to make use of their Wi-Fi service while other hotspots require payment.

How Do I Locate Hot Spots?

There are a number of ways to locate hot spots. Many businesses post signs on their windows indicating they are a Wi-Fi hot spot, but for those in less familiar surroundings searching for a connection doesn’t have to be haphazard or time consuming. There are a large number of resources that can be accessed.

Using a web enabled cell phone, users can check sites such as 4info.net to search for hotspots in a given location. Another option which requires a bit of pre-planning is to check one of the many sites available on the internet which allow users to search for hotspots anywhere in the world. Sites such as wifinder.com, wi-fi-zones.com, wifi411.com, and jiwire.com are just a few that can help users find the connection they need prior to leaving home. Another option is to download a database onto your mobile device which can be accessed later without an internet connection. One such service is jiwire.com.

Is There Anything I Need to Know Before Connecting Wirelessly?

Yes, security needs to be attended to as hot spots are unencrypted. Data being transmitted wirelessly is therefore susceptible to being intercepted by others. Users must assure they take precautions to assure the security of their own data; file and printer sharing should be disabled, files should be made private and password protected, and firewall and other security programs should be installed. Many such programs are on the market but jiwire.com offers one such program and the Microsoft site offers more detailed security precautions and instructions to help first timers. (microsoft.com/atwork/stayconnected/hotspots.mspx)

Once you arrive at the hot spot you will also need to enter the SSID, or name of the access point, in order to log on. The SSID can be found on the internet when searching for a hot spot and is also available at the hot spot location. For anyone logging on the first time, step-by-step guidance is available via online tutorials. Again, jiwire.com offers such a guide complete with screen shots to help the beginner.

The leap to wireless computing can offer great rewards such as increased mobility and efficiency. Using just a few online resources can make the process of connecting via Wi-Fi almost effortless.
Christine Peppler, the author provides useful information about using and selecting home electronics on her website at homemedias.info.

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