I’m on a train right now (typing this into TextPad) and I’m sort of realizing that the WiFi ubiquity I have been experiencing for the past few weeks was actually an illusion! :-/

It all started last month when I bought a new laptop with built in WiFi. It’s the kind of gadget you just can’t leave unused, even if it’s hidden deep inside the machine. You know it’s there and you just gotta check it out.

I thought the cheapest way to give it a try was to buy an USB WiFi adapter and plug it into my desktop. So I went for a Netgear USB key and quickly set up an ‘ad-hoc’ network between my laptop and my desktop. (For the record, the laptop uses an Intel “centrino family” WiFi chip.)

The other way to go would have been to buy a standalone WiFi access point, maybe even one that’s merged into an ADSL modem. This would be called ‘infrastructure’ mode. I thought ad-hoc and infrastructure were basically the same, except I would not have had to turn on the desktop to act as an internet router everytime I wanted to access the Internet from my laptop. So I decided I’d simply go the cheap way.

Well… I was wrong.First, ad-hoc is pretty much inferior to infrastructure regarding connection monitoring, signal strength optimization and security. For example: in ad-hoc mode you cannot really check how well you receive the other end. In many cases the Wi-Fi layer will just connect to itself!! Also, regarding security, in ad-hoc, you cannot disable broadcasting your network SSID… (At least you can use WEP). I have observed pretty much the same limitations with the Netgear and the Intel Wi-Fi software.

But there’s more: I now realize I sometimes have to boot my desktop for the sole purpose of connecting to the Internet with my laptop. Worse: for some reason I have to log in into W2K on the desktop for the WiFi+ADSL combination to work as expected.

After a couple of weeks I seriously consider the autonomous ADSL+WiFi router alternative. Not to mention this one would run without cooling fans… can’t resist the promise of increased quietness in the home. :P

Anyway, in no time, I got addicted to this new portable connectivity. I started to use the Internet from everywhere in the appartment. Well maybe not everywhere, but the sofa, the rocking chair and the terrace quickly became favorites.

Then, in early december, Microsoft hosted an ASP.NET conference in Montpellier. It was one of those flood days we have a couple of times every year now, but still I manage to attend with my laptop and a rescue boat. Just kidding. It took me less than 3 minutes to connect to the internet, via the MS provided ADSL/WiFi router. Very nice! Especially when comes a time where the speaker talks about something you already know… that’s when you want to check your email… and also the weather forecast for the forthcomming hours… some even checked for hotels since they would not be able to drive home though the waters on that day! No kidding this time! :|

This got me addicted enough to take the USB key with me when I visited my parents for the Xmas hollidays. Within an hour after arrival I had plugged the thing in and set up a new ad-hoc network for my laptop to use. Joy! (sorry, I can be such a geek! :»)

Well, actually I faced a few deceptions during this new experience. First I had to add some new USB ports to my father’s computer because the only two he had were already heavily used: one for the ADSL modem and the other one for the scanner/printer and you have possibily no idea of how often a day and for how many days my father can relentlessly scan and print to get his new years greetings cards done! :P

I also realized that his ISP (free.fr) was a lot worse than mine (tiscali.fr) when it comes to ADSL connection stability. The connection was bad enough for Windows XP’s autodialer not to be able to keep up automatically. Being only half connected that way quickly gets frustrating, believe me…

Finally I could experience the physical radio range limits of WiFi. My parents’ house has some massive walls at some places and there was absolutely no way to stay connected beyond those…

Despite those little problems I really enjoyed it. Not because it’s all geeky and new, but because I could use my usual email environment instead of webmail for the whole time I spent there. Moreover, when my brother and sister were at the house too that single desktop in the house got so popular there almost was a waiting line on it! :> Being able to get my daily internet fix at any time without competition was a relief… ;)

I actually suspect my brother and sister to get themselves WiFi adapters on their laptops before next year! :))

Okay, still locked in that train without a connection! I really oughta get a bluetooth GPRS phone quickly! If only Sendo could hurry up with the X in France! Oh yeah I know, addiction is bad… maybe I should try to quit before it’s too late! :»

Comments from long ago:

Comment from: Graham

Francois, have you found any software that will synchronise your two computers over wifi? I’ve been looking for an opensource program that will sync two network folders in windows, and I’m starting to loose all hope…

2004-02-26 12-09

Comment from: François PLANQUE

Posted right here a few weeks ago: http://fplanque.net/Blog/all/2003/11/27/p435

2004-02-26 12-19