Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Have a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Unless you like travelogues (or enjoy snickering at the clueless), you technically advanced readers may skip the following blog entry: You probably already know that a Linksys router turns a home into a Wi-Fi hotspot. I (being somewhat technically slow-witted) just figured that out this morning.

I got a Linksys router more than a year ago so that my husband could use the laptop computer downstairs while I'm on the aging desktop up here under the eaves. Our first stab at the problem of connecting both computers at once was a 100-foot Ethernet cable to connect his laptop to the wireless Internet antenna that's just outside my office window. That, of course, didn't work so well. Lots of plugging and unplugging, not to mention the unsightliness of stringing a long black Ethernet cable along the upstairs hall, over the balcony, and down to the kitchen desk. After seeing the wireless router a friend had installed in her house, I realized that was the solution to our situation.

We quite easily linked the laptop to our new, at-home wireless connection. And when we traveled with the laptop, I had no trouble connecting to hotels' Wi-Fi services. But even with a year's experience with wireless routers, I still didn't grasp that our home router created a Wi-Fi hotspot.

It was only this month, during a week of vacation, that I began, dimly, to see the truth. We went to Palo Duro Canyon and the Alibates Flint Quarries in the Texas Panhandle, then across to Red Rock Canyon and Turner Falls (pictured above) in Oklahoma. While staying in Amarillo, we drove past the Barnes & Noble bookstore repeatedly. Each time, I thought about taking my Nook e-reader into the store so I could download an e-book that kept insisting it required a Wi-Fi connection to download. I don't know why that should be the case -- I've successfully downloaded other books with the Nook's built-in 3G wireless connection.

But we never made it into the Amarillo B&N, and it was only after we got home that I began to wonder whether I could have connected my Nook to our hotel's Wi-Fi hotspot instead. And eventually, that train of thought led me to try out my own Wi-Fi hotspot this morning.

It connected, of course. I downloaded the book that had to have a Wi-Fi connection. And I became just a little less ignorant about Wi-Fi and routers and wireless communications in general.

Honestly, why don't the makers of these gizmos take into consideration the limited technical know-how of a big chunk of their potential audience? I'm a writer, reader, and editor, not a tech guru. I do all right with the technology, most of the time. At least, I figure out what I need to know about it. But experiences like this make me realize just how much is taken for granted by the people who build the hardware and write the software.

Don't just tell us that a Nook 3G + Wi-Fi exists. Tell us that it will download books out of the air the same way a cell phone receives a text message. (That's 3G, right?) AND that it will recognize and use the same wireless router that connects my husband's laptop to the Internet at home, in the same way that the laptop recognizes and uses a hotel's Wi-Fi hotspot.

Well, live and learn. Now I'm going hunting on the 'Net for Alibates flint jewelry. The rock is so beautiful.

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