Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Get Free Access To Wi-Fi


I spend most of my time in hotel ballrooms. A lot of time! It is difficult to send and receive email when I am tethered to an audio system for several hours without a break. So I researched the market and found a few devices that made everything easier. And Free!

Hotels are very accommodating when it comes to picking up a Wi-Fi access point in the lobby. However, when you are in a ballroom the hotel would rather have the occupant pay for a T1 line for internet access. This can cost several hundred dollars per day. As a result it is far and few between that I am working on a show or convention where there is any access to the internet.

Find the Yagi Flag at:

What I did was invest in a PC card and external antenna. There are two brands that I have used with very positive results:

The Cisco Aironet 350 PC card is a 802.11b Wi-Fi card with a MMCX antenna connector. The antenna that came with the unit (shown above)is made by YAGI and is manufactured and marketed by TELEX. It is a +8db gain directional antenna that mounts on the back of my laptop screen. It has a working distance of 2000 feet (no obstructions). I recently upgraded to a Orinoco Gold 802.11b/g card to take advantage of the wider bandwidth of the (G) codec. The Orinoco card has a MC antenna connector which is different than the Cisco card. I would suggest purchasing an antenna/PC card combo package so you don't have problems with mismatched connectors.

I found the Orinoco card and antenna combo on a web site for about $140.00 including shipping. The Cisco card and antenna was purchased for $150.00. If you enter the name "YAGI Flag" in the Google window to the right of this page, or just use the card's brand name, you will find several products and price ranges.

From most downtown ballrooms I can use my antenna to find several Wi-Fi access points to go online with. Other computers around me, with the latest and greatest Wi-Fi cards, will show nothing. From my hotel room I'll point the antenna towards the window and usually find several access points from neighboring buildings. I have even used this setup near lobby windows to hitch a free ride from neighboring hotels from more than a block away! It really shakes people up when they see me surfing and downloading from several optional access points when they can't even see one!

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