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Domiciliary Hot Spots
Kirt's Cogitations™ #210

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Domiciliary Hot Spots

I just realized that my home is a wireless hotspot. It has been over a year since installing an 802.11g wireless router (Belkin) in the house, where Melanie and our two college-attending (commuting) kids each have a notebook computer that connects to the router. Philip's Toshiba notebook computer has a built-in 802.11b/g transceiver, as does Melanie's Dell. Sally's Compaq uses a Belkin plug-in card. Thanks to very good engineering on the parts of the manufacturers represented, all three computers automatically configured themselves to communicate with the router, and everything has worked flawlessly from day one. With just a little extra work on my part, all of the notebook computers are also able to communicate fully with the main desktop computer (a 3-year-old Compaq running at 1.8 GHz) and can even print to the desktop's printer via the connection. That such a system has been installed and configured by me is as expected by my family as is the maintenance I do on the cars and the house. To borrow a slogan from Microsoft, "It just works."

"How does this qualify my house as a hotspot?" you might ask. Here's how. Occasionally, my kids will have friends come to the house and they sometimes bring their notebook computers with them. I never thought much about it before until this weekend when Sally had a friend from Liberty University stop by on her way home for Thanksgiving break. I walked into Sally's bedroom and noticed her friend Instant Messaging on her own computer that she brought with her. Neither she nor I had done anything to get the notebook computer to talk to our wireless router. Since I do not have any type of password requirement for connecting, her computer took the liberty (no pun intended) of configuring itself and communicating. Sally's friend never even thought about the fact that all she had to do was turn on her computer and, just like at school, she would have a broadband Internet connection. It was simply expected. The only thing that might have even made her consider it was if she had fired up her computer and there was NO connection. Samuel Morse's famous words, "What hath God wrought?" applies here, today, as aptly as when he sent that telegraphic message on May 24, 1844, from his key in Washington, D.C., to the loudspeaker in Baltimore, MD.

Governments and private businesses all over the world have been working tirelessly to provide ubiquitous Internet connectivity. The grand plan is to be able to go virtually anywhere in any city and be able connect in a seamless flow from hotspot to hotspot. Some of the connectivity is offered at no charge to the user (not free, since somebody is paying for it), and other connectivity is provided at a nominal fee. Amazing progress has been made in spite of the infamous tech bubble bursting in 2000 and the subsequent setback of September 11, 2001, in the U.S. There is a big push to also implement seamless connectivity along the nation's major interstate highways. Other countries, particularly in Europe, are mounting all-out efforts to make Internet connections available throughout their cities. Sadly, one of the biggest obstacles has been security issues, where scumbag evildoers attempt to exploit the goodwill of others to their own advantage, but I digress.

As with just about every subject, there is a plethora of information presented on the Internet regarding setting up and connecting to hotspots, as well as numerous websites that have extensive listings of local hotspots. The Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory lists hotspots by state and by country. There are 22 hotspots listed in my local area of Winston-Salem and Greensboro (North Carolina). As is also typical of websites, a lot of the hyperlinks you will find are dead; however, there are still thousands of useful links given. Wi-FiHotSpotList returns five within 10 miles of my house, which is actually between and north of W-S and Greensboro. WiFiNDER claims to have the largest collection on the entire Internet. Traveling in Canada? Try FatPort. Wi-FiHotSpotsDirectory is another resource; it shows about 140 hotspots in Ireland and 4 in Costa Rica, but alas, no hotspots in Azerbaijan. Here is a website for our German friends - Wireless LAN und Hotspot Link Index. The list goes on and on. A Google search on "wireless hotspots" returns over 4.5 million hits. My house isn't listed in any of the hotspot guides yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

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RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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