Written by Veronika Vigliano

Taking advantage of public WIFI hotspots

Taking advantage of public WIFI hotspots

If you are a road warrior away from your home, and you don’t have an easily accessible place to find an Internet connection for your laptop enabling access to the Internet world to get your email, or read your reports, work on Excel spreadsheets and send off a Power Point presentation. That’s where Wi-Fi hotspots play a role. These are wireless networks that can be very convenient.

You will realize that a lot of cities have jumped on the bandwagon of providing Wi-Fi throughout the downtown axis. Thereby enabling business people to make use this facility provides a boost to the local economy.

There is a cost to the municipality of doing this viz a viz they need a provider to set up and maintain the network. However, the physical structure of the network has to take the size and layout of the city; from the tree cover, to the landscape and other factors must be put into consideration. Recently, I read an article which addressed the problems some major cities are having with Wi-Fi zones. Chicago and Los Angeles have given up on this project because it is too costly and resulting from advertising revenue projections being way too high.

Before you ride merrily off to the next burg you need to know if your hardware will support Wi-Fi. A wireless network makes use of radio waves just like cell phones, televisions and radios do. In fact, communication across a wireless network is a lot like two-way radio communication.

Now here’s what happens:

  1. The wireless computer adapter translates data into a radio signal and then transmits it using an antenna.
  2. The wireless router receives the signal and decodes it. Then sends the information to the Internet using a physical, wired Ethernet connection.

This process also works in reverse, with the router receiving information from the Internet, translating it into a radio signal and also sending it to the computer’s wireless adapter. As long as they all have wireless adapters, several devices can make use of one router to connect to the Internet. This connection is convenient and virtually invisible, and it’s fairly reliable. Therefore, if the router fails or if too many people try to make use of high-bandwidth applications at the same time, users can experience an interference or more so lose their connections.

If you want to take advantage of public Wi-Fi hotspots, the first thing you have to do is make sure your computer has the right wireless gear. However, most new laptops and new desktop computers come with built-in wireless transmitters. If your laptop doesn’t, you can purchase a wireless adapter that plugs into the PC card slot or USB port. Desktop computers can make use of USB adapters, or you can purchase an adapter that plugs into the PCI slot inside the computer’s case.  A lot of these adapters can make use of more than one 802.11 standard.

As soon as you have installed your wireless adapter and the drivers that allow your PC to operate, your computer should be able to automatically discover existing networks. What this means is that when you turn your computer on in a Wi-Fi hotspot, your computer will inform you that the network exists and ask whether you want to connect to it. If you have an older computer, you may need to make use of a software program to detect and connect to a wireless network.

There might be question requesting why not use a web-enabled PDA device. They are wonderful for most emailing but if you must know, they are problematic when it comes to opening attachments or working with lengthy reports. The screen is also so small and you can get a headache just from squinting at them too long. And your typing skills can drop dramatically so that your messages can somewhat be unintelligible. In conclusion, for the heavy-duty stuff, a laptop that can access Wi-Fi becomes not just convenient but a necessity.

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