Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Using Wireless While On The Road

By Dennis D. McDonald

I have an odd wireless setup at home; one wireless modem I use to connect to the DSL signal I receive from Verizon, and connected to it, a Linksys router I use to broadcast the signal within the house. It sounds a bit Rube-Goldbergian, but it works. I know I could probably simplify the setup, but due to my lack of network skills, every time I monkey with it or have to call technical support, I lose nearly a day of productivity. So I'm subscribing to the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" philosophy.

We have four systems accessing the signal -- a Windows XP Dell laptop, a Windows 2000 Dell laptop (a real dinosaur), an Acer notebook, and an iMac. Networking around the house -- and on the porch -- are nice.

On the road it's different. At client sites wireless signals are frequently disallowed due to security concerns so using the old Ethernet cable is the usual option. Increasingly, hotels have wireless in their rooms, and at least at the hotels I frequent, wireless access -- though not secure -- is "free" and easy to connect to.

Airports are another thing. There's a real hodgepodge out there. Some have open unsecure access. I really appreciate that since I can check email while cooling my heels at the gate area. The club rooms I've been in usually have wireless, but in my experience it's been of the "T-Mobile" variety where you have to subscribe or pay an inordinate amount to access it for a day. I just can't bring myself to use this type of subscription service; it's like every time you turn around there's another subscription type service holding its hand out for money, and I already have umpteen email accounts to keep track of.

So it was because of this that when I sat down at the Independence Air gate area yesterday in Pittsburgh and turned on my laptop, up popped my meter saying I had a strong signal. I logged on and got my email. And glad I was since one of the emails described a consulting opportunity for my company that I am pursuing.

What was even more surprising was that, when I turned on my laptop while in the air on my way to Washington Dulles, up popped my meter again announcing a wireless signal. I couldn't log in but realized that this might eventually develop into something.

I like wireless. I remember the bad old days of carrying around local CompuServe dial-in numbers from city to city so I could dial in to email from hotels with strange phone switches. Things have definitely improved.

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