Take Your Laptop For A Walk On The Wireless Side
Wireless internet access is truly the wave of the future and depending on where you live the future could be now. Wireless "hotspots" really are popping up somewhere on a daily basis. Not that I'm complaining, because having the ability to access the internet via a wireless connection is a great convenience and allows you to "Take Your Laptop For a Walk on Wireless Side".
On the other hand, even though there are thousands of "hotspots", they don't always get a whole bunch of publicity. However, if you were to do a search for "hotspots" in your town you may be pleasantly surprised. You may have thought that there weren't any in your area but if you live in even an average-size city then it would be more of a surprise if you didn't find a few "hotspots".
Another alternative would, of course, to do a search for "hotspots" or "wireless hotspots". There are a ton of websites you can go to and find "hotspots". One "hotspot" that is generally considered to be on the most comprehensive is www.jiwire.com. You can search for local "hotspots" from the JiWire website or could simply type your zip code into Yahoo Maps and choose 'WiFi Hotspots' from the menu located on the right side of the screen.
Another option would be to check out the nearest Starbucks. They are literally everywhere and almost all of them offer wireless internet access in at some part of the store. Borders and Kinko's are also pretty good bets and if all else fails... keep a watchful eye out for a local cafe or simply ask around a little bit and someone should be able to point you in the right direction.
Small Wireless ISP Fee
You may find that some of the larger hotspot networks with multiple, convenient locations require that you pay a small fee to a wireless ISP to access through them. In many instances, you can simply purchase a prepaid card at the place where the access is offered so it's really not a big deal. However, if you want to free access your best bet would be to stick to the smaller independent locations.
Why Would a Cafe Offer Free Wireless Internet?
Actually, if you think about it, it's really nothing more than good business. Rather than pay to access the internet in some dingy Internet cafe, you can access the Internet for free in their place of business and while there buy their food and drinks. Cafes are willing to pay the minimal cost of providing wireless Internet access in exchange for the new customers it brings into their business. Especially, in areas where Internet access is hard to come by, any other way. The same goes for hotels and airports: customers see wireless access as an added value and in many instances; they will choose a particular hotel based on this feature alone.
Actually, the real growth area in wireless "hotspots" is in the private sector. Businesses are falling all over themselves to provide free Internet access to their business customers - cafes, hotels and airports are all starting to offer wireless access to anyone who happens to be around. All you need to do is bring in your laptop with Centrino technology or a wireless PCMCIA card.
We've already covered a number of potential public hotspots to take your laptop and go searching for but one that hasn't been mentioned is in reality may be one of first places to check out is your local public library. Public and university campus libraries are increasingly offering wireless access and if you're a student there's a good chance that your whole university campus is wireless enabled - or will be soon.
Hotspot Locator Software
Hotspot Locator Software allows you to create a database of known "hotspots" on your computer that you can search at any time, whether you are online or offline. Simple type in a zip code or the name of a city and the software will come back with the nearest "hotspots"... all sorted by distance from your location. And to make sure that your database doesn't get out of date, each time you access the Internet the software automatically connects to its servers and checks the latest hotspot to your list and if your list if out of date it will download and update your list with the latest information.
If hotspot locator software sounds like something you'd like to take for spin, you're in luck because it's offered for free from many of hotspot providers' websites. T-Mobile Hotspot is currently the largest provider and offers a free download at: http://www.tmobile.com/hotspot.
About the Author: Laramie Cahill is a contributing writer to: Wifi, VoIP and Trade Show Booth. This article may be reproduced only in its entirety.