Wireless Broadbad – The essential part of our lives

In a little over a decade, the Internet has grown from an interesting distraction into an essential part of our lives.

We can’t go more than an hour without checking e-mail. When we have a question or need more information (about anything), we pop open a Web browser and start Googling. At work, it’s all about videoconferencing, the corporate Intranet and online CRM tools. At home, it’s all about Limewire, YouTube and updating our Facebook page.

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How to set up your home wireless network

Laptops are popular because of their being handy. A number of technologies have been developed to accommodate this feature. One of these is the use of wireless connections. These transmit pieces of data via signals, instead of using data cables. Some wireless networks can span large areas comparable to those of Local Access Networks (LAN).

Materials Needed:

- Wireless router (if needed)
- computer
- wireless Internet modem
- payment for Wi-Fi access (if needed)
- Internet Service Provider (ISP) subscription

Step 1

To be able to access the Internet on the wireless laptop, there needs to be an accessible wireless network connection. Some computers can be configured so that they can automatically detect and connect to an available wireless connection. In some cases, users may need to manually search for available networks.

Step 2

Check if there is a wireless network button on the interface of the laptop. It is often included in a panel of small buttons placed above or below the keyboard. Other buttons in the panel may include functions for automatically searching the system, opening an email account, and launching a Web browser. The icon for the wireless network button is often shaped like a satellite. Users can click on this button to check for wireless networks in the area.

Step 3

The wireless computer can also manually check for available wireless networks. This can be done by going to the Network Connections window and clicking on the ‘Wireless Network Connection’ icon. Windows users may also use the ‘Connect to’ link included in the ‘Start’ Menu. Select this link and choose ‘Wireless Network Connection’.

Step 4

The ‘Wireless Network Connection’ window will open with a list of available networks. If there is none, try clicking on the ‘Refresh network list’ link located at the left side. If there are no wireless networks available, users can either set one up or go to an area that offers one for free.

Step 5

Some establishments offer free wireless Internet connections to patrons. These can include malls, coffee shops, and others. Users can go to these locations and connect to their wireless network. Go again to the ‘Wireless Network Connection’ window, select their available network and connect to it. If the desired network cannot be found, and refreshing the list doesn’t work, ask the establishment’s employees for assistance.

Step 6

Other establishments will offer a wireless Internet connection in exchange of a purchase or fee. Users may need to inform a cashier or waiter that they want to use the wireless network. The cashier may then give them a username and password to log on to the network. Go back to the ‘Wireless Network Connection’ window and select the desired connection. Log in using the data given and connect to the network.

Step 7

A wireless network can also be created for the home or office. A subscription to an ISP is needed. Simply connect the ISP cable to a wireless router and set up the network using the instructions from the router manufacturer. Make sure to change the device’s default password for added protection. A firewall also needs to be installed on the router and the laptop to prevent malware infections and hacker interference. Go back to the ‘Wireless Network Connection’, select your network and connect.

Step 8

Some ISPs offer straight wireless connections for laptop computers. These commonly come in the form of a device plugged into the laptop, often via the USB port. These allow users to connect directly to a larger wireless network generated by the ISP itself. Users can subscribe to the service, connect, and install the device. The computer can then be configured to use it as the default Internet connection.
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Different types of Internet Access Options

Public access computers

The simplest form of access for the broadest range of users are computers made available to the public, usually for a fee or included as a service for patrons of a hotel, restaurant, or cafe. These are often available even the most remote regions of the world, often driven by local demand for access to the Internet. In fact, they are oftenmost common in areas where private, individual access to the Internet is least common. However, there can be difficulties:

  • The only application you can generally count on being fully functional is a web browser but there are times that some plug-ins in them may be disabled. You will want to make sure you can use a web interface to read your email. They may lack support to connect your camera, to use Skype or MSN, or to read IMAP/POP based email.
  • In many places, language is an issue. Even if you know Windows well, using an Arabic or Chinese version will probably pose problems. Usually you can get a web browser to work, but not much else. Also, it is worth it to be familiar with the keyboard layout of the country you are in as the position of some punctuation keys differ, even if their language is the same as in your home country.
  • Security is also an issue, as a cafe computers could potentially deploy a keyloggers and other nasty forms of spyware to capture passwords. If particularly concerned about using public computers, changing passwords frequently can help provide some security: especially if passwords can be changed without using public computers. Public libraries are a good source of public access computers that should be generally trustworthy. Avoid using important passwords on a public computer. If you are saving or downloading a file, transfer it to your memory stick/thumb drive and delete the file on the computer’s hard drive after use; while some computers automatically do this others do not.

Cellular phones

For GSM phones, the worldwide standard pretty much everywhere except Japan and South Korea, GPRS (packet data) is common. The successor to GSM, UMTS is also widely available. While GPRS offers basic modem speeds suitable for email and some browsing (particularly text-heavy rather than graphics-heavy sites), UMTS offers speeds comparable to DSL broadband. Most modern GSM phones, even very cheap models, are GPRS enabled. Using it may require activation with the provider.

There are two basic ways of getting online with your phone:

  • Use GPRS/UMTS to download mail directly to your phone and surf the web. While this can be done on most any modern phone, you will want a iPhone/Blackberry/Communicator-type device with a large screen to make this practical.
  • Use GPRS/UMTS to connect another device, typically a laptop, to the Internet.

Note that international GPRS/UMTS roaming can be ludicrously expensive, so check with your operator at home before you start downloading those multi-megabyte attachments.

In the USA and Canada, CDMA (the system used by Verizon and TELUS) is widespread, and arguably the most available service outside of metropolitan areas. CDMA phones can frequently be used as a computer modem with the purchase of an adapter cable, or increasingly they can provide Internet access to your laptop via their built-in Bluetooth. While not part of their basic cell phone service package, Verizon’s “Quick 2 Connect” service provides 14.4 kbps Internet access at no additional charge to their customers using the phone and cable combination, and their BroadbandAccess and NationalAccess packages with additional laptop tethering add-on can be used to provide Internet access through many of their current phones.

Prepaid mobile internet

If you’re travelling, prepaid internet plans on mobile devices are increasingly becoming more affordable. For best results, purchase a prepaid 3G sim in the country you are visiting. Make sure your phone is not locked to your carrier back home otherwise there are plenty of mobile phone shops that can unlock it for you at a reasonable price (the warranty may become void though). These plans come in the form of purchasing data bundles for a fixed price good for a certain number of days. An example of a plan is 200 MB for 3 days available for $4. You usually need to key-in something on your mobile phone (via the dialling keypad) or send an SMS. The cost is immediately deducted from your prepaid credits and service becomes active instantly. Check with the mobile provider if one day is equivalent to 24 hours or is good until midnight. If the provider says one day is defined to last until midnight regardless of when activation happened, it’s best to purchase the plan first thing in the morning. Having bundled prepaid mobile internet will come in handy if you have a smart phone with apps that helps you navigate around the city or check social messaging sites.

Most plans that feature more than 30 MB for at least one day is more than enough for mobile internet surfing, just make sure you go easy on the graphics. If you however wish to use a mobile tablet computer like an iPad, you may want to go with a heavier data plan; getting a micro-SIM (as opposed to a regular-sized SIM) card is also required.

Once a plan is purchased, the only thing you will have to worry about is to ensure your device has sufficient battery life. As you know some smart phones can run out of battery very quickly especially if 3G functionality is on. Finding a place to charge your mobile device can be very difficult outside your hotel and most restaurants/snack shops are not very open to the idea of patrons charging their device. Coffeeshops like Starbucks are an exception and won’t mind as long as you buy some food or a beverage from them. If free Wifi is available and your device is capable of Wifi, you can save battery by switching-off the 3G capabilities of your phone and turning-on Wifi.

Wired Ethernet

Virtually all laptops manufactured in the past decade have provisions for wired ethernet. Otherwise USB ethernet sticks can be purchased from leading computer stores.

Some hotel rooms and some other locations will provide standard RJ-45 Ethernet jacks which you can plug your computer into. With a dynamically-assigned IP address, you can be online in seconds. In case this is not possible, you can purchase one at a computer shop back home.

Internet cafes, libraries, etc. may not allow this kind of access, instead offering public access computers or Wi-Fi (see the next session).

Ironically however, high-class business hotels are more likely to charge for wired internet and at really high rates. Choose at least a 24-hour or 1-day rate as hotels charge less than 2-3x the per hour rate (e.g. the hotel may offer internet of $15 good for 1 hour but also $25 good for 24 hours, in this case choose the latter). If you’re staying for 3 days or more, then it can be cost-effective to choose a higher-denominated plan as there are savings compared to purchasing several 24-hour rates individually.

Wi-Fi

Virtually all laptops and PDAs manufactured in the mid-2000s, as well as most smart phones launched in the late 2000s have Wi-Fi provisions. The downside of Wi-Fi is that even if it is wireless in nature, the coverage of a Wi-Fi access point or hotspot is limited compared to that of 3G or GPRS. Once you leave the building, you also lose the Wi-Fi signal provided to you. Wi-Fi Wireless access come in different types:

  • Free and open public access points, permit any device to access the Internet via Wi-Fi. These are sometimes provided by hotels, airports, restaurants, malls, libraries, transportation networks, or even sometimes across entire city centres such as Bristol, Cadiz, and Marseille. Often these require you to start up a browser to accept some terms and conditions before you can access the Internet. They may impose limits on the amount of hours you can connect or the amount you can download in a day. They may restrict access to browsing and email. They may also require registration. Ironically, budget accommodations, including many hostels are more likely to provide this service to guests than their 4- or 5-star luxury counterparts.
  • Free but secured public access points also work in the same way as free and open access points but will require a password (like a WEP or WPA-PSK key) to connect to the network. The passwords are in place to discourage non-patrons of the establishment from using it. These are more likely to be found in restaurants and many budget accommodations.
  • Commercial public access points. They usually charge per hour or day — and fees can vary widely even within the same locale and often can occur right alongside completely free service. In fact a provider may provide free and fee-based Wi-fi access at the same access point at the same time with the latter’s advantage being that they can provide faster speeds. Such commercial access points are growing increasingly common, especially in areas where travellers are ‘trapped’ (airports for example). Payment can be by credit card at the time of use, or by prepaid card/voucher, or through an arrangement with your mobile/cell phone carrier.
  • Community access points. You become a member of a Wi-Fi community (usually by donating your own access point) and use the community’s access points for free.
  • Private open access points left open by their owners sometimes inadvertently and other times as a friendly gesture to the community. Theoretically though permission needs to be obtained from your internet service provider as the terms and conditions state that only users in your property can enjoy internet access provided to you.
  • Roaming gives you guest access to private or commercial access points on the basis of some contract or relationship that you have with an institution or company at home. An example is eduroam , a service that gives members of universities access to the wireless networks of other universities.
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Integrated broadband fiber, wireless, and satellite networks

With the increasing technical maturity in fiber, wireless and satellite communication technologies, new horizons are becoming feasible for future broadband networks, providing economical data rates well in excess of Gbps for stationary and mobile users as well as novel applications these advanced network services will permit. This talk explores the future architecture possibilities of such a network using new and radical technology building blocks such as: free space laser communications, multiple access multi-beam data satellite communications, novel all-optical network transport/switching and analog transmission and processing over optical carriers that support coherent distributed platform sensing and communications. We will articulate why we have to design this new network across layers from the Physical Layer to the Network and Transport Layers (even the Application Layer). Not only can future network performance and cost undergo quantum-leap improvements; such a network can have profound transforming effects on space and terrestrial system architectures for sensing, healthcare, early warning systems, disaster relief, research collaborations and other new commercial applications

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How Wireless Broadband Services Work

The ideal way to access all of these tools and resources is with a broadband (high-speed) Internet connection, something we’ve come to expect at home and at the office. According to 2007 statistics, 70 percent of adult Internet users have broadband at home

What about when we’re on the move? Surveys show that we still have the same hunger for Internet-based information, communication and entertainment. According to a 2008 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 58 percent of all Americans have used a cell phone or PDA for “non-voice data activities” like sending an e-mail or or recording a video. And 41 percent of all Americans have used a WiFi-enabled laptop computer or other mobile device to access the Internet away from the home or office.

Until recently, there have only been a few options for mobile access to the Internet:

  • If you have a WiFi-enabled laptop computer or handheld device, you could check e-mail or surf the Web at free WiFi hotspots in places like airports, coffee shops, bookstores and some downtown areas.
  • You could use a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)-enabled cell phone. WAP is the universal standard for applications using wireless communications.
  • You could buy a BlackBerry, iPhone or other smartphone to surf special WAP Web sites. But surfing speeds are slow and the Web sites are simple (no video, audio or cool graphics) to access e-mail and the Internet at higher speeds.

Now several major national cell-phone carriers have introduced technology that brings DSL-quality speed to any mobile device within range of a cellular signal, including laptop computers.

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