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Get the most from a mobile access point

It's not a toy to play with, oh dear me no...

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We asked readers: "Do you travel with an access point?" Vendors have compressed multi-purpose Wi-Fi devices into smaller packages (see Pocket-sized Marvell does it in all-in-one). APC's Mobile Wireless Router creates an access point, yet is small enough to pack in a suitcase or laptop bag; Netgear's WGR101 Wireless Travel Router includes 802.11g wireless connectivity; and SMC's Wireless Traveller's Kit includes the device, a USB cable, Ethernet cable and carrying case.

The question was whether mobile professionals wanted to lug around an extra wireless access point and use it in hotels and other high-speed Internet access locations to become even more mobile:

The answer we got from readers was a resounding "Yes!"

Flexibility
A lot of readers said that the simple matter of the location of the Internet connection was worth bringing an access point along.

Ed M.: "I was staying at a Fairfield Inn recently in Montgomery, Ala., that had a high-speed Internet connection but it was placed in a very inaccessible spot that would have required gymnastics and use of a chair or the bed as a desk, an extension cord, and a severe backache... you get the picture. A WLAN would have enabled me to use the desk on the other side of the room."

Gene C.: "The reason I travel with an access point is that sometimes the network connection is not located in the best place for work. The first time I used an access point in my room, I had an access point for a demo. However, the network connection was in a dark spot. The access point allowed me to work next to the window, a view and nice natural light. These days it is easy to secure the access point so there is no need to violate the terms and conditions of service."

Avraham S.: "I personally think the ability to take my laptop anywhere in the hotel room to work vs. having to sit at the edge of my bed with a laptop balanced on my lap makes these devices well worth the effort."

Some even suggest leaving the room.

Paul N.: "Just get a room near the pool or beach. Pound down a few brews and enjoy the scenery, all while connected to your corporate VPN! Life has never been this good for the road warrior."

Saving money
Others are using the access points to save money from more expensive connections.

Steven S.: "I used it to set up a wireless network between two hotel rooms, so that both of us would have Internet access while only paying one time for the $9.95/day access charge - it worked beautifully. I did the same thing in a meeting room in the same hotel in Las Vegas. I used it last week in San Francisco so I could carry my laptop around the hotel room so I could work while I watched TV. I was traveling by car, so the size wasn’t critical, but I’m taking one of the little ones to France this fall. Setting it up (Linksys) is trivial; it takes seconds. I just plug the Ethernet cable in the hotel into the wireless router, log on to it from the laptop, and the Internet is there."

Hank W.: "I am planning to purchase one of these to allow me the freedom to use the hardwired hotel conference room Ethernet connection from anywhere in the conference room. Often the computer that does the main LCD show is in the middle of the room and may be quite distant from the Ethernet port. This way I can do presentations that use the Internet from the middle or back of the room, independent of cable connections and lengths (you wouldn’t believe what hotels charge for using a longer cable, not to mention the tripping hazard). I can control the computer with a wireless pointing device from anywhere as well.

Second, I am using my laptop to record meetings for broadcasting and archiving using the Elluminate live Web collaboration tool. As long as I have a wireless connection, I can broadcast live and record a presentation from wherever in the room it makes sense. Freedom from the single port to a shared wireless device also means others can join in these virtual meetings from their seat and interact en masse, not just through a moderator. The possibilities are really quite exciting."

Frank W.: "The best reason for the travel access points is it's much easier to wirelessly share the connection with your roommate than the alternatives (taking turns plugged in or deciding who gets to take the hit of running Internet Connection Sharing)."

Making money
Many readers had that entrepreneurial spirit, and suggested
trying to make money from the access points (though the hotel might not approve).

Alex D.: "Bring them on your next road trip, set up a Web server on your notebook, allow remote users access to your access point and create your own Internet Portal, then charge for it, (at a lower price than the hotel charges), to help subsidise your room rate, and maybe turn a profit. Business trips and lodging can become a profit centre if you use this business model."

Jim C.: "[Set up a] temporary Cyber-café. Set a time, have people show up, pay the person with the access point and all share. Many contribute, lowering the cost of all. Then have money left over for a latte."

Getting even cleverer?
And finally, some really innovative uses

  • "You're locked out of your room because that electronic key thingy doesn't work and you can sit in the hall and do your e-mail."
  • "You have a husband and two kids with you and want to hook up two laptops so they'll stay off yours while they play games."
  • "There's nothing you want to watch on cable movies so you can hitch up your own and watch on your bed."
  • "You are traveling for business and need to share documents quickly, finish the [PowerPoint] presentation, share it and check e-mail before an important meeting. Get to the closest Kinko's and connect the wireless access point to their free Ethernet connection for your associates to log in, check e-mail, exchange files and avoid any T-mobile Wi-Fi charges. This is definitely a winner!"
  • "We have employees who travel to customers or supplier sites with laptops that expect DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) addressing, and our laptops are locked down. If the site they are visiting does not support DHCP and only uses static IP addressing, our users cannot make the network changes to the laptop. The router always provides them with the appropriate IP address for that network without need to have Admin privileges on their laptop. We stumbled onto this need while an employee of ours was visiting a Korean plant that did not use DHCP. They could plug the appropriate static IP address in the router and then have the router give the laptop the correct DHCP address and no one needs Admin privileges for the laptop."
  • All of the responses show there's a real need for travelling access points. This should
    make all the vendors of these devices very happy.


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