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WiFi for Beginners

By doina — last modified Dec 13, 2007 12:14 PM

Published: 2007-12-13 12:14:08
Topics: Communications

Question: I’ve just bought a laptop with built in wi fi capablities. I want to use it at various hot spots around the world. What is the best & cheapest (smartest) way to go about acquiring a wi fi ISP? I do not have any current ISP. I'm confused as to how at a hot spot- say in a hotel, you connect for the 1st time to an wi fi ISP that is available in that hotel? If I sign up with 1 wi fi ISP, will it work at ANY hot spot anywhere in the world? or do you have to use the wi fi ISP available at that hot spot? Do you need to know which wi fi ISP's are available at the hot spot you want to use?

Answer: First of all "Google" WIFI. It will tell you how to set up your computer and activate it for WIFI connections. There is no need for an ISP server. The hot spot IS the ISP and has the connection to the internet. It's like going to an internet cafe with your computer and using their service. There are two kinds of WIFI hot spots. One is free. So, if you go into a Starbucks type of place they will allow you to connect to the internet for free. And then you are up and running. In Rome, one of our friends was able to hijack a local restaurant that had WIFI and he didn't have to pay. The downside was that at night the restaurant turned off their WIFI!!

The second type, is a pay service. Here in Gouvia Marina in Greece, you don't need an IPS address, but you have to sign up with the office for an access number and then they charge you $4E per hour. This is very expensive.

Another thing. You can search on your "options" page on WIFI for stations that are operating near your computer. Some of them can be hijacked, and you can use them for free!! Others will ask you for account information and they charge.

I used WIFI in Barcelona Spain at the Port Vell Marina. They charged $30E per month. We are currently using a PCMI card on a standard called GPRS-3G. This uses cell phone technology, but you need to establish an account and get a SIM card for this product. We use Vodafone here in Europe and it works at 144kb per second, which is very fast. The benefit is that we are able to travel in any country in Europe, and use it automatically. We had 98% coverage this year, and the great thing is that it provides weather and emails directly to the boat.

Doug Decker, s/v Limerence.

I am using a device called air bridge total that costs about $400, presently sitting in the harbour "spi-fiing" on various unsecured hot spots in the town in Arrecife Canaries. I have logged into hotel hot spots as I sail past that are up to 3NM away, the Antenna/computer is waterproof and directional mounts on a mast like a existing sat c mast and plugs into laptop via normal LAN runs of 12 volts, just super!

Philip Ewen, Aljunina

Currently at Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canaries

John Macrae writes: I was reading your page on WiFi and thought you should be aware that, in the UK at least, this can be a criminal offence. For a discussion, see

Personally, I can see both sides but until the utopia of free networking comes to pass in ports around the world I suspect we will all be tempted.