Confused, and being in the MID West don't help.
I am due to start traveling again, and this time I will be based (I hope) off the West Coast. I need to get a laptop that will allow me to access the net while mobile, and everything that I need to insure connections.
However, I can't seem to get a straight answer here in the middle of nowhere.
If I buy a laptop with a wireless card what do I need to do to get it online? Just find a place with service and set up an account with a provider?
Or should I forgo the wireless and cable the PC into my cell phone and get access through a "dial-up" that way?
Or is there a better choice?
And then the question remains as to what service / provider to use?
Given that you're travelling, I would opt for as many connectivity options as possible.
Most laptops come with RJ-11 (modem) and RJ-45 (ethernet) ports. The modem port lets you dial-up in a pinch (most major ISPs will have local POPs in just about every major city). The ethernet port lets you connect via broadband (many hotels provide this service for a relatively small fee).
Wireless lets you connect at any number of free hotspots along the coast -- though I wouldn't trust the security. If you're using XP, then setting up access should be no problem.
Cell-phone/modem connectivity is another option, but it's painfully slow...even via GSM/GRPS.
Use an ISP that provides the most access for you. If you have an Earthlink DSL account for example, they provide you with 20-hours of free dial-up service per month, plus have POPs all over the place.
One thing to remember about a laptop's onboard WiFi card is that they are meant only for short ranges.
You can add a laptop like this to your home's network, but will likely be out of range of your network's AP by the time you leave your yard.
The FCC caps 2.4GHz transmissions at 30mw...not a lot to work with. Them there is microwaves, son!
A laptop with a decent Linksys PCMCIA WiFi card - AND a pigtailed external omni antenna - will give you about a half-mile of connectivity from an ISP's WL Access Point, given an unobstructed view of the tower. This access is line-of-sight dependent.
The same setup with a directional antenna, with a lot of (expensive) gain, will give you from 2-5 miles. Sounds pretty good until you realize that you must remain perfectly still with the antenna pointed directly at the AP. If the ant turns by as much as a few MOA, well, you lose your link. Same thing happens if you are near a street and a truck drives by between the laptop and the AP. You get bumped.
All in all, a laptop that has an integrated WiFi card is a good investment. I just don't recommend using it as your main connectivity solution.
I suggest you get dialup, since it is cheaper, and then look around for other viable options, so you don't wind up paying for something you cannot use much of the time.
AOL. I hate to say it, but since they have local numbers for just about any area in the US you are going to be that may be your best bet.
Just don't expect to be emailing 10MB attachments and such.
If all you want is access to the net to read email then AOL is a decent choice.
Don't believe everything you see on TV about wireless.
I love that IBM commercial where the guy is at mount Everest and getting a wireless connection.
WHO IS GIVNG HIM THE WIFI ACCESS IS WHAT I WANT TO KNOW.
They make it seem painless, try to access a weak WIFI connection and you'll know what I mean.
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