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4/14/06 Advice needed on using Wi-Fi access in public

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 13, 2006 4:51 AM PDT
Question:

I will be traveling to a conference in a month, and the hotel that I am staying at has wireless Internet access. My new computer has the capability to access it, but I haven't had the chance to try it out. What should I expect and what do I need to do to be online while there? Additionally are there any do's or don'ts that I should be aware of? I am running a Dell Inspiron 9300 with Windows XP. Thank you!

Submitted by: Dawn C. of Arizona

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Answer:


Wireless Internet access, or Wi-Fi, is something that 10 to 15 years ago, we probably wouldn't have thought would be a reality, and we probably would not have imagined the ways we'd use it. Now those of us who have gone Wi-Fi can't imagine living with out it. Many restaurants, coffee shops, truck stops, and hotels, and even some entire cities, have gone Wi-Fi in efforts to attract customers. And it works; I'm more likely to stay at a hotel that has free Internet access if I have a choice. However, some hotels charge for access, so your computer recognizes a connection but won't process it until you pay up.

Wi-Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity, but it is simply a network without wires. Its speed is typically somewhere between dial up and broadband, and it has two standards, 802.11.b, which transmits at rates up to 11 mb/second and 802.11.g, which transmits at 54 mb/s; Wireless b and g for short. Those rates are peak rates, so things like distance from the signal, walls and physical barriers, and the number of users at a given time, can slow it down a bit more. The good news is that wireless b and g are compatible, so if your laptop is wireless g and the hotel only has wireless b, you'll still get a signal; it will just be at the wireless b speed.

Almost all new laptops, like your Dell, come equipped with Wi-Fi, meaning that they have all the hardware and software you need to wirelessly connect to the internet straight out of the box. And most older laptops still in use have bays that you can slide networking cards into to go wi-fi. If your computer is Wi-Fi enabled, all you have to do is make sure the Wi-Fi is turned on (usually there is a button on the computer somewhere for this), and if your computer doesn't automatically detect and connect to the network, just open the wireless network setup from your quicklaunch buttons and go through its setup: search for existing wireless networks and then connect to one.

Safety can be a concern. The slower the connection, the less encryption there is. An experience hacker can break the encryption on a wireless b connection in a matter of minutes. Wireless g is more secure, but still not perfect. The upside is that in order to be hacked, a hacker has to be near you, and has to target you specifically, both of which are unlikely. Also, most banking and shopping websites use an additional layer of encoding called Secure Socket Layer, or SSL for short, which encodes the information so that only the user and the website can see it. Websites that use SSL start with an 'https' instead of 'http,' which sends your computer a specific encryption key so your data cannot be hacked. The dashboard on your web browser will also display a lock symbol to indicate that you are on a secure website, and you can even have popup windows alert you when you enter or leave a secure site. If you plan on using your computer a lot remotely, do not check the "do not show this warning again" box, as this will continue to give you alerts as to when your web browser is on secure pages.

Your company might also use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which uses remote internet connections to securely connect you to your company's network. You can also install firewalls on your computer to keep people from hacking into your machine. But the most secure thing to do is to turn your internet connection off when not in use. Most laptops have some sort of Wi-Fi button that will toggle your connection on or off. Not only will this protect your computer, it also saves battery power.

One of the trickiest security threats is what's called an "evil twin." Evil twins are when a hacker sets up a computer to act like a wireless access point, and gets you to enter in personal data (an evil twin might impersonate a paypal or citibank website and ask for your login info). You can avoid these security issues by 1, using the https web pages, 2, payng attention to your popup windows that tell you when you're sending unencrypted information, 3, using a VPN if your employer has one for you, 4, making sure that a link has not redirected you to an unrelated address that looks the same as your bank's page, and 5, simply avoid doing your banking, bill paying, or ebay purchases unless you are at home and know the connection is secure.

Buying extra software or demanding your employer set you up with a VPN may seem like a bit much, and maybe it is, but only you know how safe you need to make your computer. The good news is that if this is a business expense, you might be able to get your employer to refund you things like connection fees (if the hotel doesn't have free Wi-Fi) and security software. You could at least deduct them from your taxes. Enjoy the new world of Wi-Fi, but play it safe!

Submitted by: Jeremy S.
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Honorable mentions
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 13, 2006 4:52 AM PDT
Answer:

I have stayed at several hotels with wireless internet access. In my experience, setting up a connection should be quick and painless. When you check in, first ask the desk if there are any charges that you should know about. Some hotels will charge a separate fee for internet access, but in my experience most don?t. The signal should also be strong enough to cover most of the hotel, but ask about this as well. Wi-fi will only go so far and some hotels are not completely covered. Make sure that the desk books you into a room within the coverage area if this is important to you.

When you check into your room, or even in the hotel lobby, boot up your laptop and bring up your browser of choice. Make sure that your wireless is enabled. In my experience, the hotel will serve you a page with a policy statement asking you to agree. Some of these are time sensitive, meaning that each day or two your policy agreement will run out and you will have to agree again. It isn?t a big deal.

Once you have agreed to the policy statement, you should be able to navigate freely. The policies are mostly standard, as in you won?t use the hotel connection for business purposes (meaning you won?t use it to make money) and you agree not to run a web server on the connection.

Hotel wireless technology is not completely flawless. At one hotel, I spent the better part of an afternoon wrestling with a connection stability problem. I finally went down to the desk and asked them if the problem could be on their end. After resetting the router, everything worked fine.

I have only stayed in one hotel where the wireless did not work. That is to say, there was a router, and I could connect to the router, but the connection led nowhere. The hotel didn?t care about the problem, and apparently Comcast didn?t care about the problem (I called for the hotel). I finally got the hotel to assign me to a downstairs handicap room which had a hard wired internet connection.

Submitted by: Eric M.

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Answer:


When the hotel I often use added high-speed wireless internet access for guests, I couldn't wait to try it out with my own Inspiron 9300. Alas! My computer told me it detected a network available in range, but for the life of me I could not connect. I finally went to the front desk to ask for help and learned I needed a password; otherwise anyone with a wireless laptop could sit in the parking lot and get free access. I felt pretty sheepish because I should have figured that out for myself. But, once I returned to my room with my password I was on-line in a flash. And, boy was it fast compared to telephone modem dial-up! In fact, when I got home I ordered DSL.

As for dos and don'ts, I do what I do anywhere else. All firewalls, virus protectors, spam filters, and other internet security devices are installed, up-to-date, and active. I always keep in mind that if I am on an unsecure network, I want to be protected not only from what may come to my computer from the internet, but also from someone snooping into my computer locally. Someone else can better answer how this works and how damaging it can be; I only know that when the signals are flying around through the air, there may be someone who is able to snag them and do something with them, and that person is not my friend! Keep your computer protected no matter what your means of connection is. Good luck!

Submitted by: Scott M.

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Answer:


A few suggestions for Dawn:

1) When you check in, ask the front desk what you have to do to use their wireless network. Most probably they will give you a paper with a username and/or password for you to login to their wireless network. Make sure to ask what is the name of the network the hotel uses (in case there is more than one network available, which is possible).

2) When you get to your room (assuming you have the wireless network feature turned on in your computer), go to "Control Panel"->"Network Connections" and with a right-click, choose "View Wireless Networks". A window will appear with a list of available networks.
Select the network that the hotel uses and click "Connect". Your computer should connect to the network.

3) Now, open your Internet Browser. Unless you have the "blank" page as your Home page, it most probably will access a page which will ask for the information that the front desk gave you (username/password).
Fill out the information, send it and you are ready to surf the Internet, read emails, etc.

Observation: It may happen that, by some reason, you have a problem connecting to the network. Then I suggest you call the front desk and ask for information about support for the wireless connection. They will probably either connect you to someone or give you a phone number for you to call for help. But I don't think you will have any problems.

Now, some tips:

1) I would suggest not using sensitive information while using this wireless connection (such as confidential information, accessing bank accounts, sending emails with important information, etc.). You never know what can happen.

2) If you are staying for more than a day (or night) at the hotel, make sure that the front desk gives you a password that you will be able to use for the whole time. Some hotels have passwords that expire in a certain number of days.

3) You might have to repeat this process every time you login to your computer. Save the password information very carefully.

Hope you have a fun trip!

Submitted by: Maria O.

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I have a 9300 Dell with Intel PROSet/Wireless 802.11a/g installed. On the assumption that you have the same wireless installed it should be a simple matter of;

1. Double click the icon that should be near the clock which will open the wireless window.
2. Click on the box drop-down on the bottom left of the window that allows "Enable Radio". That should start searching for "Profiles".
3. When it gets through searching, the available profile/s will show in the window with the name of the profile and the network name. It should show the "Available Network/s" in the second window down.
4. Highlight the "Network Name" and click on the "Configure" tab. (If no "Available Network/s" shows in the second window down, click on the "Refresh" tab.)
5. After clicking on the "Configure" tab a window will open that allows you to choose to "Connect" or "Configure". You will probably have to click on the "Configure" tab and then follow the instructions given to you by the hotel, usually your room # plus a password.

You should only have to do this once and the next time you boot up it will show that "Available Network" automatically.

If you don't want to be "on-line" for security reasons, you can go back to step 1. above and "Disable Radio" and again "Enable Radio" to reconnect.

I hope this is correct for your computer and helps, it has been a long time since I have had to do this.

Submitted by: Mike F.

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Regarding traveling out of town and using a new computer to access wireless internet; I'm only a modestly experienced non-geek user but I have discovered two things:

1) Once you know how to access a wireless service on your computer, hotel services are self-explanatory, in my experience by connecting you automatically to a screen that leads you through it and collects your money if there's an additional charge: the key words are "once you know how". I urge you to follow the old seasoned traveler's advice; always make sure something works before counting on it on a trip. I only ignored this advice once, and regretted my rash action for a week in Bermuda. Try the wireless at a Starbucks or some other wi-fi access and enjoy a latte while you learn your computer.

2) Most internet access services will not let you send emails through them unless you are connected directly to them (a spam prevention), so you will be able to receive emails at the hotel but will have to get tech assistance from the hotel service to enable you to send emails.

Good luck. Sorry I can't help you with the Dell specifically; I'm a Mac man...

Submitted by: Phil T. of Princeton, NJ

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Dawn,

Testing first is a good idea. Your sig says you are in Arizona. Presuming you are in the Phoenix area, go catch lunch at a Schlotzsky's Deli. They have free wireless access. You should be able to connect up on it, and gain some public hot spot experience (for the rest of you, there are several web sites that list places with free wireless).

As far as what you should expect? It kind of varies, but in general, once connected, you should be able to operate just as if you were connected at home. Usually the hotel has a initial log in site where you are required to accept some terms and conditions. Sometimes you must sign up and accept a charge to your room, which (if the wireless is free to you) is reversed at check out. Your best bet of course is to ask the desk agent about it when checking in. Usually they have been asked a few thousand times, and are pretty good at answering questions.

As for any do's or don'ts? Honestly, I?d just say use your common sense, but I have used Hotel wireless in several Far East countries (including China), and never had any issues.

Just be aware of one important thing ? Once you have experienced being un-tethered, there is NO GOING BACK!!! You will join us addicts!

Enjoy.

Submitted by: Rick M.
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Wow! Several good tips in here. esp Mike F and Phil T
by Cadillac84 / April 14, 2006 12:50 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

Mike has a Dell like yours (as do I). Take a look at your keyboard and see the blue-labeled key Fn at the lower left. Hold that key and tap the function key F2 a time or two (waiting between taps) and watch what happens. If you are playing solitaire or writing a report that doesn't require you to be connected, it is a good idea to turn off the wireless. You'll see the blue light turn off and a huge icon will momentarily appear at the SysTray (lower right where time and date usually is displayed along with other icons) showing that the wireless signal is off. I'd describe the icon, but there's no need; you'll instantly know what it means -- and it will shrink to normal size in a few seconds.

Phil T suggested you drive by Schlotsky's or some other place that has free Wi-Fi before leaving on your trip. That is a great idea because it will give you good chance to experience the ups and downs of wireless before you find yourself at 1 a.m. in the hotel and the person on duty doesn't know how to help you.

I have another suggestion. Go to Wal-Mart or your favorite computer supply place and get a twenty foot (or thereabouts) CAT-5 Ethernet cable. Just get a good one, you don't need the ''gold'' one. Put the cable in your suitcase in case you wish you had it. Many newer hotels have wired Internet connections to each room and ALSO offer wireless. Given the choice, you should open the package, remove the CAT-5 cable and use the wired connection. It will be faster and much more secure.

Happy I usually find taking a small alligator or a puppy along is good for opening those blister packs they put the cables in; you might want to do that before you leave. Happy

If you are using the wired connection, toggle your wireless off (Fn + F2) for two reasons: first and foremost to keep your computer from being confused about which connection to use; secondly, for security to keep anyone from ''seeing'' your computer. Third reason is to extend battery life if you are on battery. I keep my wireless off all the time except when I need it because it is so quickly available via the Fn + F2 toggle.

Don't forget to take your a.c. power adapter for the Dell and a three-wire ''cube tap'' is handy. Many hotels fill up all the electric receptacles with lamps, TVs, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee pots, clock radios, and I can never find a place to plug something in except in the bathroom and I just hate sitting on the toilet while I surf the Internet. Grin

If you share files and folders in your normal environment (home and/or work), I'd recommend you NOT do that while using wireless. It is pretty easy to turn that off (I think) by opening Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer) and click on Tools, select Folder Options, click the View tab, pull the slide down so you can see the last item on the list ''Use simple file sharing'' -- unchecking that box should do it.

You'll mostly find your 9300 Inspiron will work the wireless stuff without a hitch. Have a great trip; happy surfing.

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correction about sharing thanks to R.F.S. of Naples
by Cadillac84 / April 14, 2006 12:56 AM PDT

I told you wrong about sharing. To make sure your drive(s) is not shared, go to My Computer, right-click on the C: drive (and others if any) and select Properties. Click the Sharing tab and make sure the drive is not being shared. If you normally do share the drive, you can change it back when you get home.

R.F.S. suggests doing this before you leave home. That will ensure you are not already sharing the drive at the hotel before you make the change.

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Hardware Firewall For Mobile Wireless
by klamathcraig / April 14, 2006 2:04 AM PDT

I'm feeling a whole lot safer about my wireless connections on the road since I purchased my Kensington Personal Firewall. This device looks just like any other USB flash drive but its sole purpose is to give your notebook bidirectional firewall protection. It protects your identity and data in all wireless environments and it will not interfere with corporate firewalls or anti-virus software. It is a breeze to use and well worth the $49 I paid for it.

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I've read ...
by EmiLee69 / April 14, 2006 3:41 AM PDT

... that this is actually a software firewall on the USB jump drive. Since I already have firewall, antivirus, and antispyware software installed on my laptop, I'm assuming this wouldn't be any extra protection?

I believe there is one actual hardware firewall available for traveling with laptops, but as I recall it's pretty spendy and not as small and convenient as a USB jump drive either. Sorry, I don't remember the name, but maybe someone else will.

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Unsecured environment
by kcwester / April 14, 2006 2:31 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

Something I do is bring a portable router with me. I shopped and bought it on sale for $20 after rebates. This way I can plug into the ethernet wire and set up my own wireless network with security. Keep in mind this only works if they have a ethernet cable in your room--Starbucks it won't work at as you don't have access to cables. My husband and I both enjoy wireless at the same location using this method.

Cheryl

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Cool idea!!
by Cadillac84 / April 14, 2006 3:18 AM PDT
In reply to: Unsecured environment

Now, go to the setup page and change the SSID to not broadcast. That way, people in the hotel won't ''see'' your router and try to hack into it.

Remember, even WEP can be cracked in less than three minutes by an expert.

My son taught me a few tricks when I visited his ''wireless'' home recently. He does not broadcast the SSID, so you have to KNOW the name of the network and know that it is present in order to connect. He also does not use the default host IP of 192.168.0.1 so in order to connect, one must visit the properties tab and set up the host IP etc. You have to do this only once for your computer and once for your husband's and then you two will be just about invisible and very few systems will look for a host IP that doesn't end with ''1''

I think I'll start packing a router with my gear. Last time I visited a hotel that had wireless, the guy had set the thing up himself and he had two wireless routers and two wireless access points all using the same host IP. You couldn't tell which one you were connecting to and he had the WEP keys all fouled up because he couldn't change them since when he accessed one of the access points to change the WEP key, he had no way of knowing which access point he was addressing.

I finally got an Ethernet cable out and connected to the hardwired connection he had graciously provided in each room. But that meant I had to sit on a hard chair on the wrong side of the room from where I wanted to be. Next time, I'll follow your advice and use my own wireless network.

LOL

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SSID not broadcasted
by slam5 / April 20, 2006 10:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Cool idea!!

Hmmm.. Not broadcasting you SSID isn't much of a security at all. A hacker with software like Kismet or Snort will sniff your SSID in 30 sec. What you need is to enable the wpa-tkip encryption on both your router and wireless card and then you will not likely be hacked. Of course, if NSA wants to hack you, there is nothing you can do.

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Great Idea, but I have a question ...
by EmiLee69 / April 14, 2006 3:51 AM PDT
In reply to: Unsecured environment

I've thought of doing this, as well. However, I was wondering how accessible others have found a direct ethernet connection to be in their travels? I'm assuming that's rarely, if ever, an option at the many free WiFi locations popping up in various coffee shops, etc.

A client has made available to our family his beach house several times a year. The problem is that I need to be able to send files to clients and receive files from them. The house has no internet connection and is fairly isolated. I did locate a coffee shop about 20-25 miles away which advertises free WiFi. I'd love to be able to go there once a day, enjoy a cup of coffee, and send and receive email in order to exchange the files I was talking about. These files do contain personal information (i.e., SSN, etc.), so I'm concerned about transmitting this information via an unsecured WiFi. Thus, my question about whether others have found that coffee shops and other locations typically have ethernet connections available, as well as the wireless? (I'm guessing not.)

Also, does anyone have any suggestions how best to secure the information using the WiFi connection? (My clients are not very receptive to the idea of using any kind of encryption which requires tham to install software, purchase or install a key, etc. I don't mind doing some work on my end, but it's hard/impossible to get them to do anything themselves.)

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probably not
by Cadillac84 / April 24, 2006 12:26 AM PDT

You can't use any kind of encryption just because YOU want to. The wireless router has to understand the encryption, so it would have to be agreed upon in advance and set up to work for you and for it.

The coffee shop is not going to do that because their whole purpose is to make the system open -- un-secure, if you will.

Even a hard-wired connection at a hotel or similar place COULD be snooped.

I'm not sure what I'd do in your situation. Maybe just enjoy the vacation and handle as much as possible by telephone. Dialup connections are still possible.

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Always encrypt sensitive e-mail
by barbiemr / June 24, 2006 12:58 AM PDT

Wireless encryption WEP or otherwise only applies to the wireless link; the traffic is usually not encrypted on the wired link unless you are using SSL or a VPN connection. E-mail is usually completely unsecured so anyone with access to the mailservers that the message passes through can read it. My advice would be to always encrypt sensitive email and require your clients to install the necessary decryption software. It is after all their info we are talking about. PGP (pretty good privacy) is secure (almost - anything can be cracked with enough effort!) and free.

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Other advice from our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 13, 2006 4:52 AM PDT
Answer:

All that you need to do in order to access the internet wireless access at your hotel is:

1. Be sure that the wireless antenna switch is in the ON position at your PC.
2. Check that your PC has enabled the wireless capability (My Network Places/View Network Connections/Wireless Network Connection must be enabled). If it disabled, click your mouse right button on the icon and choose Enable.
3. Then, click again your mouse right button on the Wireles Network Connection icon and choose View Available Wireless Networks.
4. A small window will be displayed showing you all the available wireless networks in the range of your PC, simply choose any Unsecured wireless network available with a good signal strength.
5. If any unsecured wireless network is available, you must ask for assistance to the frontdesk, in order to get a an user and password to access their secured wireless network (it's possible that you have to pay in order to access that service).

Regards.

Submitted by: Jorge A.

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Your notebook should detect the hotels wireless network automatically. Once you connect, the same rules apply for any internet connection. This is to make sure your computer has updated and appropriate software for protection. Check with your IT support group to answer the particulars about security and your ability to connect at the hotel. Needing to obtain information and staying in touch is key on the road but company security is then your responsibility. Your IT department would normally be administering this process but they can't be effective without the staff they support being knowledgeable and aware. Some companies also have a policy that does not allow the computer user to use their laptop in an open environment and most hotels have this type of open wireless service. This means the hotel network is much less secure than a wireless network in your office. So, protecting company information and computers is really everyone's responsibility. Working together with those in your company who's job it is to maintain and secure company information will allow you to do your job and minimize exposure on the road.

Submitted by: Anonymous

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According to what I have heard and read, the major pitfall to be aware of seems to be that wireless is like having an open line to the world, in the sense that it is easier for others to "eavesdrop."

Also be very careful about leaving tracks behind. Just as in a library or Internet cafe or you need to erase your tracks, after using your laptop in a hotel or any other public place, clear your browser cache and all temporary files right away [IE, Tools/internet Options/ Delete Cookies/ Delete Temporary Files].

And perhaps avoid accessing your bank account or other really sensitive sites away from home in insecure circumstances.

Happy surfing!

Submitted by: Riversong33

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Using a hotel's wireless (WiFi) connection is easy. BEFORE you start your trip, go to My Computer, right click on the hard drive and choose "Properties". Select the tab "Sharing." Unshare this drive.

At the check-in desk, inquire if there is a password required to access the Internet. If there is, the clerk will give you a piece of paper with instructions.

In your room. The little icon at the lower right corner of your screen will flash, informing you that there is a connection available. Click on it, choose the available network, and click on it to connect. If the hotel has printed instructions, follow them.

Submitted by: R. F. S. of Naples, FL

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Depending on the hotel a Cat5e cable may or may not be provided in the room.

This is the cable that connects you to high speed access. If not you can buy one at about 10 dollars for 6 feet, although prices largely vary. That is all the hardware you will need. The rest is just software and options on your computer. You will probably need to enable your high speed port, which you can do by going to Network and Internet Connections and then Network Connections, and just right click on the Local Area Connection and it should come up in your options. That may or may not be necessary, sometimes computers will do all of this entirely automatically, especially if you have XP. Secondly I recommend you have a good firewall/spamware/adware kind of program on your computer, if you want bare essentials just make sure you have a firewall. Granted there probably won't be too many people trying to hack into your computer over the network, but you can never be too safe since almost all hotel networks are open source networks and as such people have access to about anything on anyone who has an open non firewalled computer. Believe me I've done it before. That should do it for you, after all those little options are complete all you should need to do is double click on your IE icon and begin browsing.

Submitted by: Phil S.

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Do's: first of all make sure you have a firewall installed. If not then turn windows firewall setting on or download zone alarm. It's free for the basic.

Do check for a fee. Most hotels offer free wireless access to the internet; but, there are some hotel chains that charge a fee up to us $10.00 dollars per day.

Don'ts: don't snoop into other laptops. Don't download illegally (programs, video or music). Don't accept connections to people you don't know. Last turnoff your laptop when not in use.

Submitted by: Pete M.

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That one is very simple as I have used the wireless net many times at different hotels. When you check in tell them you have a wireless capable laptop and they will give you the password and a very short and easy setup. I assure it is simple. One thing though, if you stay longer than a week you will have to ask for the password weekly as they change it every week sometimes sooner. Again, I assure you it is a simple process.

Have a great trip and happy computing

Submitted by: Alan R.

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If your hotel is as good as it should be they will have a techie on the staff......ring the hotel to book the techie. Watch the techie he/she will tell you all about it and teach you. Enjoy your stay.

Submitted by: Allan D. of Basingstoke, UK

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I'm sure other more technical replies will include this. Make sure you fully understand what the hotel charges for your connection. If you don't, at the end of your stay you may be unpleasantly surprised by a very large bill.

Submitted by: MeN2Kittys
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Wireless internet
by Jude526 / April 14, 2006 2:48 AM PDT

I got rid of my dial-up. Have Verizon's PC card and I can access ANYWHERE and not have to pay for WIFI connections. I love it. Would not be without it.

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PC Modem Card
by KailuaKona / April 17, 2006 12:30 PM PDT
In reply to: Wireless internet

I have read all the postings regarding WIFI secured and unsecured etc. So what is the bottom line on these PC Modem cards by Verizon and Cingular? Are they safer than WiFi? I need wireless internet to access my virtural terminal for Merchant charge cards. I do trade shows outdoors and there is no electricity much of the time; also no way to access phone lines. When a client wants to purchase something I have to be able to access the Internet. I planned to buy a PC modem card and subscribe to the Cingular or Verizon service. They both claim this is safe. I would also be checking email using an AOL account, Is this encrypted or is my password subject to hacking easily. All the above assuming I have Firewall and Virus protection up to date using Win XP.

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secure yourself for free with these programs
by mamouthweb / April 17, 2006 3:33 AM PDT

my computer hasnt been hacked over public wireless, but it is extremely easy for it to happen, you can simply make it tougher by having a whole bundle of security software on a laptop, and not doing taxes and banking on the road.

all the security programs i use are free and they are very effective.

Zone Alarm Free-its great, but its annoying until you get the program control working

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition-great, the interface needs some tweaks but it is great at what it is advertised to do. l

Spybot-Search & Destroy-I think it is the best anti-spyware program, because it updates frequently and immunizes your computer from threats.

CCleaner-this is what i use to get rid of the crap left behind after using the internet, it works great on the temp files and cookies carrying your personal info, the only bad thing about this free program is that its not a shredder, and the registry cleaner isnt that great either, but its the best you can get for free

all of these programs i got free off of Download.com, just search for them.

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WI-FI SECURITY FIREWALLS
by joshpeary / April 13, 2006 7:12 PM PDT

GENTLEMEN: RECENTLY PURCHASED A DELL INSPIRON 600M, INTEL PENTIUM M PROCESSOR LAPTOP.THE MACHINE HAS MICROSFOFT WINDOWS XP HOME LOADED ON IT WITH SERVICE PACK 2. THE MACHINE ALSO HAS MCAFEE 6.0 ALSO. AT THIS POINT IN TIME, THE MACHINE HAS NEVER BEEN TURNED ON AND I PLAN TO TAKE THE LAPTOP WHEN I TRAVEL FROM ONE HOME TO THE OTHER. HOWEVER, CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT SOFTWARE OPTIONS I HAVE TO ENSURE SECURIT USING THE WI-FI IN PUBLIC PLACES? IS THERE SOME TESTING PROCEDURE THAT I NEED TO DO TO ENSURE THE WI-FI IS WORKING AND SECURE? THANK YOU.

TO THIS END, DOES THE MCAFEE 6.0 OFFER SUFFICIENT PROTECTION OR ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS TO CONSIDER FOR PC SECURITY. THANK YOU.

REV. RICHARD ANDRESKI
410-551-5253
P.O. BOX 1344
MILLERSVILLE, MD 21108.

P.S. CAN YOU TELL ME WHO TO WRITE TO AT DELL TO GET MY SO-CALLED REBATE BACK? THEY NEVER SENT ME THE REBATE.

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dell laptop answer
by kodiak314 / April 13, 2006 10:36 PM PDT

dude, read the directions. they will tell you how to turn the WI-FI on and off. the quick way is located on the keyboard. Usualy you hold down the FN key and hit F2. if there is Wifi around it will usualy pick right up. No Mcaffffrie sucks (in my humble opinion), norton is tops. its expensive, but the option under Norton are vastly better than mac.afffrie

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WI-FI SECURITY FIREWALLS...Dell Rebate info
by HeartzX2 / April 13, 2006 10:50 PM PDT
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Help with Dell rebate
by codonnell / April 14, 2006 1:26 AM PDT

Gee, I'd love to help you with this one, but you addressed it to "gentlemen." Thereby eliminating the possibility of help from the many skilled and knowledgeable women who visit this Q & A section.

Too bad!

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Cute!
by Cadillac84 / April 14, 2006 2:11 AM PDT
In reply to: Help with Dell rebate

I guess your study of the English Language in high school was deficient.

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Apparently you were in HS some tome ago, Caddillac.
by Dave Konkel [Moderator] / April 14, 2006 12:52 PM PDT
In reply to: Cute!

The masculine has not been the accepted form for all people for a couple of decades now, at least. "Gentlepeople" is a nice substitute, don't you think?
-- Dave K.

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Some tome ago?
by Schneiderdriver / April 15, 2006 3:27 AM PDT

I was wondering how long ago that was, but I guess it depends on how thick it is and how hard/easy of a read it is.

Happy

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OK....enough!
by JMiguel / April 17, 2006 6:12 AM PDT

To COdonell....lighten up!...take time to respond to questions posted ONLY if you are willing to share your knowledge...otherwise...spare the feminist remarks!

To Dave Konkel...you mention that the masculine has not been accepted for all people for a couple of decades ago...right? Well..perhaps the person who posted his inquiry is a person who learned to use it in such way..meaning perhaps he's an older person (usually, my granmother uses words that to me make no sense, or for that matter have a different meaning).

However...if you think of yourself as an educated person...and even that as of today the use of "Gentlemen" does not apply to both genders in general..you should know that once it was proper to use it in such way, and cut some slack to people who decide to use it as such.

NOW PLEASE...STICK TO TECH ANSWERS AND DO NOT WASTE OUR TIME WITH THIS KIND OF GARBAGE. I for one, find this "blogs" very helpful, as long as no one diverts the conversation from it's original subject.

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Yes it was, but grammar has not changed since then
by Cadillac84 / April 24, 2006 12:09 AM PDT

What has changed is that people refuse to acknowledge proper grammar. "Gentlepersons" is hogwash!

"he" is the impersonal 2nd person singular pronoun.

Perhaps I did attend HS when English was still taught. By your "Gentleperson" reasoning (or lack thereof), it shouldn't be called "English," should it? After all, the HS is in America and it should teach "American." Except in Canada where the HS should teach "Canadian."

Get a life!

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Don't beat yourself up, codonnell.....
by Schneiderdriver / April 15, 2006 3:45 AM PDT
In reply to: Help with Dell rebate

I can sense the agony that you must have been going through... Your desire to help really came through in the few words in your post. I just wanted to ease your mind, since he got help with the rebate question 2 1/2 hours before your post.

Wait a minute... He got help with the rebate question 2 1/2 hours before your post! Maybe that wasn't the purpose of your post at all! Maybe you were upset that he (whether inadvertently or not) excluded you from his request for help, and you just had to throw it back in his face! No, that wouldn't be very nice of you... Yes, I choose to believe that you simply overlooked the fact that he already got his answer, and that you were truly hurting over the fact that you couldn't help him since the question wasn't addressed to you.

Now the world is perfect again..... What's that I hear, birds singing? Or maybe I just need to replace the batteries in a few smoke detectors.

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LOCATE CAPS LOCK KEY (NEXT TO THE ''A''). That's better!
by Cadillac84 / April 14, 2006 2:09 AM PDT

My Dear Rev. Andreski,

I have a number of suggestions for you which I hope you will take as seriously as I'm sure you hope your congregants take your homilies.

First, do not write email or messages in public forums with your caps lock on. THIS IS CONSIDERED TO BE SHOUTING. Most people think that is rude. if you do not wish to capitalize various letters at the beginnings of sentences people will understand and accept that, but don't shout because you will get very few responses and some of them will be insulting.

Second, though this should probably have been ''first'' never give out such personal information as telephone numbers and addresses and real names in a public forum. If you don't know better than to do that, how would anyone believe you know what you're talking about when you preach? Puh-leeeze. Protect yourself and your family from predators. This forum can be read by anyone at any place in the world -- including Afghanistan, if you know what I mean!

Third, you probably got the rebate at the time of purchase (that's what Dell usually does), but call Dell customer support and talk to someone. It's free and it's easy. Before you call, look at the bottom of your computer and write down the Express Service Code (a ten digit number that identifies your computer). When you call Dell, the automatic attendant will ask you to say the ten numbers and will then read what you said back to you. There is also a Service Tag (SvcTag) which has letters and numbers. Those two are related, so you don't really need both. [If you care to know, the SvcTag is the real ID number of your computer, but it has letters which doesn't work as well as numbers for telephone keys and voice recognition. So, the SvcTag is used to generate a numerical equivalent.]

Fourth, turn the computer on and NOT when you are at a public Wi-Fi place. (Did you notice that I ''shouted'' the word ''not''?) There's a good reason for having caps lock off, huh?

When you first turn that computer on, you are going to be directed to Microsoft's website for a large number of security updates. I strongly recommend you do that while connected to the Internet by high-speed. I assume you do not have high-speed access at home or at your office. Ask one of your congregation who is perhaps a lawyer, an accountant, or maybe even a computer geek if you can bring your new computer to his/her place of business and use a high-speed connection. Even though you have SP-2 (Service Pack 2) you will find that Microsoft is releasing security and other fixes and updates almost daily. My guess is that you will spend over an hour getting all that done even on a broadband (high-speed) connection. AND, all that needs to be done BEFORE you use Wi-Fi because many of the security updates apply specifically to wireless security issues.

Fifth, regarding Anti-Virus and Firewall issues! When you bought the Inspiron, the McAfee Security Center software was pre-installed. That is a ''paid service'' which you received free for a term as an inducement for you to purchase the service when the free period expires. The Anti-Virus is out of date, and one of the first things that will happen when you turn on the computer is McAfee AV will ''call home to its mama'' and get all the latest updates. That will be free, won't take very long, and is absolutely essential. Virus signature files change daily (and sometimes more often than that!). Keep in mind that the McAfee is NOT FREE -- it is only free for a while. Be prepared to renew it or get something else when the free term expires. More . . . .

I can't tell you how many times I have dealt with trashed hard drives because people bought the computer which had ''xyz'' anti-virus and they assumed that meant they never had to do anything. Once the free term expires, no more updates, some jerk sends an infected email and you are in computer hell. Whatever you do about anti-virus, be sure to keep it up to date.

You have been advised that McAfee ''expletive'' and you should do such and so. I don't really care what you do about that, but I'll tell you this: I hate both McAfee and Norton and wouldn't use either of them. When I buy a computer from Dell that has a choice of McAfee or Norton, I choose McAfee because I think it is easier to get rid of. Regardless, I uninstall and then I install e-Trust EZ Antivirus from Computer Associates. I renew it yearly and I have about ten licenses so each of my children and grandchildren has a fully licensed version which I renew for them each year. All of my business clients use it and most also use it on their home systems; it is THAT GOOD!

Why do I like e-Trust and not the others? Well, for starters, the program is the only one I know of that will install on a machine that has an infection and will remove the infection during the install process. McAfee and Norton will NOT do that. If you fail to renew McAfee and get a virus and then attempt to update your McAfee, you will very likely end up dead in the water (personal experience on a customer machine!). Also, I have used e-Trust EZ AV and it's predecessors on several ''fleets'' of computers and for almost ten years and I've NEVER had a virus at all -- EVER! Also, e-Trust EZ AV is very much less intrusive than the others (especially Norton). If you are interested, go to www.my-etrust.com and once the page settles down, look down the left edge for the heading ''Trial Software'' and click that link. Follow the prompts to download a fully functional trial version which will work for thirty days. All you have to supply is a valid email address, and you can decide if you want to purchase during that thirty days. If you want, you can use up the free McAfee and try the e-Trust EZ AV later -- though that is not what I'd do.

Computer Associates (e-Trust) also offers a Firewall product which I use on my laptop. It is called EZ Firewall (oddly enough! Happy ) and can be purchased as a separate item or in a package called EZ Armor (I think) which may also include another ''anti'' something.

My laptop, also a Dell Inspiron, is MS Windows XP Pro SP-2 and is protected by e-Trust EZ AV and EZ FW and I am a happy camper.

Good luck to you --

Oh, here's another tip for you. You said you plan to take the laptop when you travel from one home to the other. You probably did not buy an extra a.c. adapter to charge your battery at different places. You should know that a.c. adapters are peculiar to the computer, so don't use one that seems to fit; if you need another one, get it from Dell.

When you operate on battery and are NOT using a wireless Internet connection, use the Fn key and the F2 function key as follows to turn your wireless system off. Look just below the screen on the right side of the computer (I think) and observe if a blue light is present. The Fn key is at the lower left of the keyboard. Hold the Fn key and touch the F2 key one time. The blue light should go off (or come on if it was already off). Practice doing that a couple times so you are familiar with it. Keep the wireless OFF when not in use and especially if you are on battery power because the power drain of the wireless equipment is significant and you'll get much longer use when it is off.

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EZ Internet Security Suite
by RandyWill / April 14, 2006 6:37 AM PDT

EZ Internet Security Suite includes EZ Antivirus, EZ Firewall, Pest Patrol anti-spyware and EZ ant-spam. All programs are bundled and you need only renew one license for the bundle. It's a little more convenient and cheaper. I agree with the previous post, it is less intrusive on your system and does the job well. I've been using it for years with no problems.
This is a must for a safe wireless or broadband internet connection.

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Agreed, but . . . .
by Cadillac84 / April 24, 2006 12:02 AM PDT

You probably won't see this because the thread is too old, but

I agree the bundle is a bit cheaper and had a lot of nice stuff. I don't use all of those features on all of my systems, because:

1) I have a few setups that are behind well structured Linux firewalls and those clients don't really need the features of the EZ FW. I do, however, install it on any laptops since they often operate outside the Linux firewall.

2) In the early days of InoculateIT, for example, the updated AV product was not compatible with the Armor product. In order to be able to use the (then) newest AV ''engine,'' I uninstalled Armor and installed the new AV and the separate FW product. That is probably an out-of-date reason; I would guess all the parts are compatible now.

3) Oddly enough, some people don't care about firewalling. I would pay for a nice firewall just to keep pop-ups, pop-unders, pop-afters, pop-befores and all the other pops under control, but folks have different ideas (obviously! Happy )

A kind-of interesting thing related to EZ AV that I experienced one time:

A lady called me (employee of one of my business clients) and said her computer was taking forever to boot and she was sure she had virus and had talked to McAffee about it. Her old McAffee had not been kept up and she was having to upgrade more than one version and after buying the upgrade she got ''hung up'' where the new version wouldn't install because it needed to remove the older version first and it couldn't remove the older one because .... (something).

What had happened was the McAffee uninstall programs had become ''infected'' and wouldn't run!

The machine was a Compaq Presario which had been updated to Windows Me and perhaps the Windows update was not ''legal'' -- I think I remember she didn't have the CD.

Anyway, I took the hard drive out of the machine and installed it in a Dell Optiplex as a 2nd (slave) drive. Booted the Dell, ran virus scan on drive D: and the EZ AV removed 124,000 + infected files. I couldn't believe it and I decided I'd print out a list of the files removed. That was not a smart move, by the way, and I quit when the Laserjet 4300-tn ran out of paper in drawers 3 and 2. It occurred to me (duh!) ''Who's going to read this? What difference does it make? Who cares what the file names were?'' Grin

So, after the infected files were removed, I put the Dell back like it was and made sure it hadn't ''caught'' anything.

Then I put the ''cleaned'' drive back into the Compaq and I just KNEW I would see a ''no operating system'' message when I turned it on, but the last chapter had to be written, so I turned it on.

I could NOT BELIEVE MY EYES!!! The machine booted, I installed a 30 day trial of EZ AV and ran a scan. It was clean and I took the computer back to the lady and told her she was blessed!

I had long before become ''sold'' on e-Trust, but that was icing on the cake!

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Public Wi-Fi access with a mission
by bob3160 / April 13, 2006 8:14 PM PDT

Hi Dawn,
We are currently away from home because my wife needs a liver transplant.
http://home.comcast.net/~bob03160/HelpAlice.html
With out Wi-Fi, I'd have no way to communicate and update my family and our many friends.
It may not be as safe as a dedicated ISP and a home computer but when communication is essential, at times it's a lifesaver.
As already mentioned by others, greater caution and more vigilance should be used while utilizing unsecured public Wi-Fi access.
While using public Wi-Fi access, i would not make on line purchases but it's perfectly OK to communicate with your friends. (Depending on what your discussing)
Be safe, stay alert but most of all stay on-line.
( Please do one more thing, Become an Organ Donor:
http://www.organdonor.gov/ )

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The never ending Hotel Wi-Fi Hook-up
by be55 / April 13, 2006 9:38 PM PDT

I used the Wi-Fi at a hotel recently, ever since then I am unable to keep my home page the same. I am constantly re-directed to their web page. I have ran all my protection software and a cleaner to no avail. This is one specific problem no one has ever mentioned to me. This wireless stuff sure does challenge you. Well, good luck.

p.s.
If anyone has an idea on how to get rid of this please let me know.

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