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WiFi Hotspots: How to hit the wireless spot
by rob

One of the big reasons people buy notebooks and PDAs with wireless capabilities is the promise of working or playing without being tied down to a desk. But you can't take your home or work wireless network with you, so how do you stay connected? You can use one of the many WiFi hotspots offered in any metropolis or tech-savvy burg. A hotspot is a public location, such as an airport, hotel, coffee shop, or restaurant that supplies a wireless internet connection for free or a fee.

Finding a hotspot
One way to find hotspots is to check out the places you frequent. The next time you visit your favorite hangout, be on the lookout for advertising about hotspots. Both national chains and independently-owned locations offer hotspots. You could also find a list of all hotspots in a location using one of the many websites that catalog the thousands of hotspots across the country. Sites like www.jiwire.com, www.wifinder.com, and www.wi-fizone.org, lists hotspots based on location and type of connection.

Free or Fee?
While free hotspots are, well, free, they may not be available where you need one. If you spend a lot of time traveling between airports and hotels, you probably don't have time to run over to the nearest coffee shop for a free dip in the internet pond. It may be beneficial to subscribe to a nationwide WiFi hotspot provider that services the hotels, airports and conference centers you visit.

When you connect to a hotspot, every bit of data you send and receive goes over open airwaves. Any other user on the network could use nefarious means to capture your information. To protect your privacy, use an internet security suite like ZoneAlarm Wireless Security for XP or NetBarrier X for OS X.

I'm sure I don't have to remind our loyal readers about keeping your OS patches and virus definitions up-to-date, but there is more you'll need to do when using such a public resource. You should turn off file sharing and enable the Firewall included in Windows XP and Mac OS X or use a third-party firewall solution like Norton Personal Firewall for XP or OS X.

Now you know how easy it is to connect to the internet on a park bench on a beautiful, sunny day, you'll find going back inside a little difficult. Just tell your boss that sometimes the best place to get work done is away from work.

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