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really does seem like wireless is being offered everywhere. If you know
where to find so-called 'hotspots' (areas where there is wireless
internet access), you can take your laptop for a little walk.
When you take your laptop and go searching for hotspots, the first place to look is big public institutions. Libraries increasingly offer wireless access and, if you're a student, the chances are that your university campus is wireless-enabled, or will be soon.
The real growth area in wireless hotspots, though, is in the private sector. Businesses are falling over themselves to provide free Internet access to their business customers -- cafes, hotels and airports are all starting to offer wireless access to anyone who happens to be around. All you need to bring is a laptop with Centrino technology or a wireless PCMCIA card.
But how does it benefit cafes to offer wireless Internet access for free?
Well, think about it: instead of paying money to sit in some dingy Internet cafe, you can use the Internet for free in an otherwise normal cafe - while still buying food and drinks, of course.
Cafes are willing to pay the minimal cost of providing wireless Internet access in exchange for the new customers it gets them, especially in areas where Internet access is hard to come by any other way.
The same goes for hotels and airports: customers see wireless access as a big value-add, and will vote with their feet for places that provide it.
For some reason, even though there are thousands of hotspots, they don't get a lot of marketing. Doing a search for hotspots in your town could really surprise you - you might think there aren't any, but if you live in a decently-sized place then it'd be surprising at this point if there weren't.
There are plenty of websites you can go to and find hotspots (try a search for 'wireless hotspots'). The most comprehensive, though, is generally thought to be at JiWire.com. You can see information from JiWire at their website, or alternatively by typing your postcode into Yahoo Maps and choosing 'WiFi Hotspots' from the menu over on the right of the screen.
If you can't be bothered with that, one tip is to just look out for a Starbucks. The things are everywhere, and almost all of them offer wireless Internet access in at least part of the shop. Borders and Kinko's are also good places to try. Failing that, just keep an eye out for a cafe - it can't hurt to ask, after all.
Your Wireless ISP.
You might find, though, that some of the larger hotspot networks with more convenient locations require you to pay a small fee to a wireless ISP to use them. You can usually do this by buying a prepaid card at the place where the access is offered, though, so it isn't too much to worry about. If you want to stay free, just stick to the small independent places.
Of course, it's a little useless to have to look for hotspots on the Internet, or go hunting for them on foot. It takes time and energy to go walking around searching, and if you had Internet access, well, why would you be looking for a hotspot? The solution, then, is download and install hotspot locator software on your computer.
Once you have this software, you have a database of known hotspots on your computer that you can search at any time, whether you're online or offline. Just type in a postcode or the name of the town where you are and the software will come back with the nearest hotspots, sorted by distance from you.
Each time you do manage to get an Internet connection, the software connects to its server and downloads the latest hotspot list, to make sure that your database doesn't get out of date.
Where can you get hotspot locator software?
Well, it's offered free from the hotspot providers' sites. T-Mobile Hotspot is currently the largest provider, and offers software for free download at http://www.tmobile.com/hotspot.
Published by Dunway Enterprises
WIRELESS NETWORKING INDEX
Information shown in any of the articles shown above
does not in any way constitute medical, financial or legal advice.
If you require such advice, you should seek appropriate professional guidance.
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