The road Warrior’s Guide to the Wi-Fi Galaxy

Business is a value for value relationship.  By offering free Wi-Fi, these establishments made the first step in helping you stay in touch with your business, or complete your transactions for the day.

By Justine P. Castellon 

Need Web access right here, right now?  Each day, professionals and entrepreneurs get online to correspond, to check their investments, or to meet with clients, located miles away.  What’s interesting is that these modern-day road warriors are now able to do so while enjoying their latte, having breakfast or even while getting a haircut.  Thanks to wireless fidelity or Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is a technology that allows local area networks (LAN) to be set up without cabling.  Spaces where cables cannot be installed can host wireless networks. Devices, which are indispensable to the modern professional such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones are increasingly becoming Wi-Fi enabled.  This wireless connectivity, previously used only in homes and offices, is now going public, with hundreds of so-called hot spots throughout the Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas. Whether you subscribe to a commercial service such as Airborneaccess (AA), GlobeQUEST WiZ, or go it alone with a free connection, chances are there’s a hot spot right around the corner. “All you need is a laptop or a mobile phone with Wi-Fi, and you can get high-speed access at cafes, restaurant, salon & barbers, airports, hotels, you name it,” says Rey Sulit, a manager for Corporate Solutions Group of Infocom Technologies, Inc.

We checked out some establishments where road warrior entrepreneurs can find the most hospitable Wi-fi hotspots. Here’s where you can log on and what to consider when you’re on the go.

Check your Wi-Fi essentials.
Make sure that you have an appropriate laptop and Wi-Fi adapter. “Most laptop sold now comes with Wi-Fi built-in (Windows and Macs)” explains Sulit. But if you’re not sure, check out for a Centrino logo on the case (a Wi-Fi chipset from Intel), or a reference to Wi-Fi  in your laptop specifications. “Most Wi-Fi capable laptops will automatically detect if a Wi-Fi connection is available,” added Sulit. You can also check to see if you have built-in Wi-Fi by opening the Network Connections Control Panel, and looking for a “Wireless Network Connection” under the LAN. The Control Panel will tell you the name of your adapter (such as Intel PRO/Wireless), and whether the adapter is presently enabled or disabled. If it’s disabled, double click on it to enable it. On Mac laptops, check for an AirPort heading on the Network Preferences panel, or the AirPort icon. Make sure AirPort is “turned on” from this menu. If you see AirPort in Networks, but not in the menu bar, click Configure in Networks, and then check the box to show AirPort in the menu bar. “If your laptop isn’t a Wi-Fi built-in, you will need to buy either a PCMCIA card or USB Wi-Fi dongle,” advices Sulit.

Find hotspots that offers FREE Wi-Fi
Now that you’ve got a Wi-Fi- equipped laptop at the ready, it’s time to venture out to your nearest hotspot. While there are more and more WiFi spots, not all wireless internet connection is free. “Most establishments would display something on their door or on their counters if they support Wi-Fi.  However, you would still need an account to be able to log in such as AA or Globe WiZ,” says Sulit.  Since we are spending our hard-earned pesos on expensive coffee or cookies, a freebie like Wi-Fi would definitely attract us to return. There are several spots like Baang Café in Tomas Morato, Robinsons’ Tech Lounge (all Robinson’s malls), The Podium near Cafe Breton, Starbucks, and Shangri-La Hotel in Makati. For the price of coffee, you get fast internet connection.  Wherever possible, select venues that charges nothing for Wi-Fi.

Make the Wi-Fi Connection
When you get there, find a nice table near a power outlet if you need one, and as close to the back as possible (Bo’s Coffee often accommodates customers to plug-in their laptops).  Now open your laptop and turn it on. In Windows XP (unless you are using a third-party adapter card, in which case follow their directions), there is a system tray icon that looks like a little computer with three waves coming out of it. Right click on this, and choose “View Available Wireless Networks.” This will bring up a list of Wi-Fi access points in the area, look for the service set identifier (SSID) that corresponds to the hotspot provider at that location (usually, there will be a sign on the door or window of a establishment with provider information, otherwise, ask the service personnel for details)  that will help you choose the right SSID. After you’ve selected the hotspot SSID, click the Connect button, and the word “Connected” should appear next to the SSID in the above window.

Secure your WI-FI Connection
Every time you log on to a public Wi-Fi access point, you are transmitting your login name and password over open airwaves, this offers the opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to capture mountains of data from you.  So what can you do to protect yourself at public hotspots? While no network is 100 percent secure, you can make your wireless net just as safe as a wired one, and prevent all but the most dedicated and resourceful crackers from getting in. First, connect to a legitimate access point –- this step is probably the least obvious, but one of the most important. “Encrypt your files before transferring or emailing them,” advices Sulit. Use a virtual private network (VPN), this is one of the best ways to protect your data when using a public wireless network. To further protect your computer you should run a personal firewall program. There are many excellent choice (such as Zone Labs ZoneAlarm, Kerio’s Personal Firewall), and the built-in Windows Vista firewall are available for free for home or personal use.  Use Web-based email that employs secure http (https), instead of Outlook or Apple Mail. These web-based email let you send and receive email via a Web interface as well as downloading it into your email program, and generally they use secure sockets layer (SSL) or other security protocols, which protect your data while it’s being transmitted. For Sulit, one of the most important is to turn off file sharing and password-protect your computer and important files.

Give value for value.
Businesses find that offering wireless Internet connection entices customers to stay a little longer and hopefully, pay a little more.  Read: more revenue. “We’re not charging anyone. All we’re asking from you is to support us. If you’re sitting here for more than an hour, buy an extra latte or a sandwich for a friend, “ says Jun Fuentebella, Marketing Manager of Planet Infinity and Energy Lounge located at Crossroad 77 in Mother Ignacia, Quezon City.  Business owners hoped it would encourage regulars and infrequent patrons to buy more food and drinks. But there are some who would sit for six to eight hours after purchasing only a single drink — while enjoying FREE Wi-Fi.  Worse, there are some who don’t even purchase anything at all.  Business is a value for value relationship.  By offering free Wi-Fi, these establishments made the first step in helping you stay in touch with your associates, or complete your transactions for the day.  You can return the favor by continuously patronizing their products or services, during the rest of your stay.  If you don’t want to, there are others who simply want their cup of coffee, and can surely use your table.

Businesses prosper because of faster transactions. Technology plays a vital role.  In today’s fast-paced global business environment, swift, enterprise-wide access to information is essential to continuing success. The portability and adaptability made possible by businesses offering free wireless is a bonus, which road warrior entrepreneurs can take advantage of.  Perhaps what’s more notable with this new enterprise is the potential to multiply fast and to adapt to current trends.  Wi-Fi hotspots are located almost everywhere in the mall and already, we’re seeing people in cafes and restaurants, using them as meeting places. Aside from leading malls, most major hotels and airports in the country have already installed Wi-Fi access. These are strategically located to give you maximum usability and genuine mobility. No matter where you are or where you’re going, the growing number of hotspots will allow you to keep in touch and always be connected.

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