installing a wifi card on my laptop

Hi all,

I have a newbie question for the group (I know, it's annoying). I have a wifi-enabled laptop, and although I currently use a DSL line at home, I'd like to be able to have wifi access while travelling. Since there seems to be free wifi wherever I go, I'm wondering what is the best way for me to take advantage of that. Can I just install a wifi card on my laptop and I'm good to go? Again, I don't think I'd be using this at home (unless I can scam a signal off my neighbors...).

Thanks! Julie

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All that means is that I'm a little less obnoxious and critical than usual. Very little.

Make and model? All laptops are not created equal.

Good thinking. That's how Wi-Fi is normally used at coffee shops, hotels, airports, etc.

The best way? Legally, of course.

It's considered good form to ask the neighbors before mooching off their bandwidth.

Basically, the answer is yes. Buy a suitable wi-fi card and find a suitable hot spot. Lots of cards and hot spots to chose from. Most recent model laptops have a socket for an internal wireless card. Check if that's available before buying a USB or PCMCIA (PC Card) type of wireless card.

To see what's available, try one of these search tools:

The problem is that they're not all free and not all the same. For example, if you hang around Starbucks coffee acting cool while sipping Chai, you'll need an account from T-Mobile:

Hotels, marinas, fast food, and airports use other service providers. Some are very tolerant of people sitting around all day sipping on one cup of coffee. Others will demand that you buy something or get out.

Some will have a splash screen that demands a credit card number to charge before you can surf. I would be wary of these as it's possible to sniff the card number and account info. At the least, be sure that the browser is in SSL 128bit encrypted mode when entering the information.

Hint: Also carry a towel. You will spill coffee on your keyboard while travelling. I've seen the results (a week or two later) all too often. If it happen (and it will), turn the laptop keyboard *DOWN* so that the liquid drains out of the laptop, not inside. Once it dries and turns to tar and corrosion, the keyboard is usually unrepairable.

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Jeff Liebermann

McDonalds has partnered with Wayport in providing WiFi hotspots.

And then SBCglobal comes into the picture with a really low cost service.

If you are a SBC DSL subscriber, you can get the McD/Wayport access for only $1.95 per month added to your SBC account.

If you are a SBC dialup subscriber, you can get the McD/Wayport access for only $19.95 per month added to your SBC dialup account.

Or...if you are a Cingular user, you can add the *SAME* McD/Wayport access for around $60 per month to your Cingular account.

Anyone for a *McdByte*?

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Hi, Julie.

A standard response is "RTFM" (read the *** manual), "DAGS" (do a Google search) and "read the FAQs" (Frequently Asked Questions).

Saves a lot of wheel-redesign.

Then there are lots of good, basic references out there on wireless comm. Takes a moderate attention-span to form a mental picture.

Seems you have a wireless networking device "wi-fi enabled laptop." My guess is that you just need to learn how to manage connecting it to access points, and the do-s and don't-s. That's what the "standard response" above was referring to.

Best Wishes, J

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What do you mean by wifi-enabled? It already has a WiFi card and you just haven't used it yet?

Free WiFi is not ubiquitous. I wouldn't depend on it being available in any given location. Some hotel do make it available for their guests, and their are paid connections available in lots of places, but the residential points that used to be open and free are not so popular any more.

What do you mean by wifi-enabled? It already has a WiFi card and you just haven't used it yet?

Scamming off the neighbors is generally lacking in social merit, unless the access point says something like "freds free wifi", and that might be seriously lacking in social grace if Fred is not truly a nice guy.

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Hi. As others are saying, it sounds like "wifi enabled" may mean you already have what you need. If your laptop is newish, then it likely has a wireless network adapter built-in.

First thing you want to do is get out the manual (or google for an online manual) for your laptop and find the section on wireless and see what it says. There may be a switch on your laptop to turn on the radio. Or it may be turned on using a keyboard combo. IF your laptop has built-in wifi....

Once it's on, find the utility that controls it (the manual tells you about this) and have it scan or whatever and see what it picks up. If you can see names of different access points, then your radio is working and you are well on your way to success.

Final step is connecting.

You should know that there are settings in your brand's (Dell, Toshiba etc) Wireless Connection Utility and Windows Networking for your address, DNS and passwords if needed. These settings will depend on the network you want to connect to, but generally the default settings for address and DNS (automatic) work and I believe that most hotspots don't need passwords or keys.

So basically, when you are at a hotspot, you boot up, start up your wireless utility (that you read about in the manual), have it scan for availible networks, select one and tell it to connect. If it connects, then start up your Internet browser and take it from there. If it asks for a password or key, then check with the people who run the hotspot.

Cheers, Steve

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(unless I can scam a signal off my neighbors...).

I imagine that you use "scam" like some folks to mean "get them to share it with me"

"Dude, can I scam a bite off your veggie burrito?- I'm starved"

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Or just boot up and see what happens next. Some laptops have a button to turn the radio off or on, others don't.

Magic might occur, if this is a Windows XP laptop. If you are sitting in a Starbucks or McDonalds or UPSStore that has WiFi, you might be presented with a popup asking if you want to connect to this unsecured hotspot. Click yes, and then open a browser window, like Internet Explorer. You might be presented with a screen from the hotspot asking for login information.


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would be good reading.
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has a hotspot locater that might reveal some test places for you to visit. If you get a signon screen, you are connected to a hotspot. You don't actually need to log in (and pay) in order to test.

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There are many considerations here. If you are a road-warrior you need a hot "USB"Unit with the RF unit out on the end of about five feet of cable so that you can move your RF unit around a bit to connect up to weak signals. Some units are A and B. If you're just going to connect to Wayport or T-Mobile at a table at Starbucks or MacDonalds your built-in may be all you'll need. Cards look pretty, and some will accept an external antenna, but a few db will be lost in the feed. If you want to look for an Engenius with a swappable antenna, you, in my opinion will be far ahead of the game..One caveat many USB devices are not really plug-and- play will destruct when yanked out and plugged in. There is a learning curve..Good Luck

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