Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why Wireless internet is not where it should be...

One of the newest ammenties that is listed more often on Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline and others when one books a hotel space is the availablity of wireless internet or not. No longer does one have to pack with their laptop computer that ethernet or phone cable to plug into the phone outlet to connect to the web, just plug in either your PC card [us geeks know it as being a PCMCIA card] or your little USB connector and away you go. Or are you?

That question at the end of the last paragraph is what some folks feel or notice when they try to connect and it seems that there is no signal. No connection or it is so slow that one can read a chapter from 'War and Peace' while waiting for the opening page on their browser to display. Dear readers, there is a small technical explanation for this and it is rooted in old-style radio technology. Yes, an old fashioned FM signal...

Back when commecrial radio was king of media in the US, there were those two commercial bands known as AM and FM. AM was great in that dep on the power, the signal could be heard not just in the hometown of the radio station but several states over [and there were some cases where a signal could be heard nationwide, due to the station broadcasting at 50,000 watts of power and also being designated by the government as a 'clear channel' station which would remain on the air in the event of a national emergency. There are 12 such stations that to this day still exist, such as WABC in New York, WBBM in Chicago, WHO in Des Moines, KABC in Los Angeles, KMOX in St. Louis, WCCO in Minneapolis] but the sound quality was less than exciting, which is ok for listening to late night ballgames but not for music. FM which is more geared toward music was great for that purpose, but had one major drawback. That was the fact it was more of a 'line of sight' signal, meaning it travelled as far as ones line of sight went [think of someone who is nearsighted and you get the idea about how things in the distance look fuzzy] and degrades depending on how many miles one is away from the originating tower. And by way of explanation and history, this is how wireless internet signals work [albeit, a simplistic one but you get the idea]

So what can be done for the road worrier, I mean warrior so he or she can get the internet in their room and not have to go down to the lobby? Yes an ethernet cable can be plugged in and that can work, but is not convenient if one wants to work on their bed due to the fact that those cables are rather short. But a better solution would be a cheap new USB card or PC card that works on the latest wireless protocol known as wireless N. Those cards can be found cheap...every now and then some of the local electronics or computer shops will sell those for about $10 or less. These will work with no matter what network one is on and if the hotel has not upgraded, these cards are backwards compatable with the routers being used.

Now if there is still a problem with the wireless not being there but being advertised on those aforementioned websites, comment here and post which ones do are not being honest in their offerings. Plus if they see their name here, perhaps someone in management will make the change and correct the situation.

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