Getting To Grips With Wifi

By: Jon Kelly

Most of us have seen some of the amazing technology which we are supposedly going to be using in the future (as well as the ideas seen in sci-fi films!). But today we are living through the wifi age; however, some of us seem to have got a little left behind. When it was topical it was not available to the average user, and suddenly we are playing technology catch-up. So here is a guide to get you up to date.

Wifi stands for wireless fidelity. This is a technology which allows users to access a network through the transmission and receiving of radio waves. Nearly all laptops and notebooks are now fitted with WiFi technology. If you are considering using an older laptop you can get adapters which will make wifi possible. Bear in mind that as more and more laptops are wifi compatible, the manufacturers will slowly phase out the adapters, so think forward and decide if that really is the sensible way forward.

If you are looking to use your laptop when you are out and about you will need to find some hotspots. These are usually in cafes, airports, hotels and other similar places. Hotspots are basically wifi networks which are open to the public. They are usually strategically placed by companies who are trying to get your business or are hoping that you will spend money with them while you are surfing the net; e.g. cafes and hotels.

So if you are sending information through the airwaves between your computer and the network is there any security or can someone simply catch your message and steal your information? Due to the location of most hotspots and the ulterior motive to get you to spend money with them, your security is not their primary concern. Wired equivalent privacy (WEP) was the original standard; this was a form of encryption. As with many security measures this was quickly and easily broken. Most wireless networks are open and hence have no encryption at all.

There are, however, a few tips which may help you to maintain a level or security. Firstly you must check that your firewall if activated. The firewall monitors information getting into your computer and will try to stop anything which is known to damage or compromise your computer. Secondly, you should disable the file sharing facility which Windows offers. This facility is great on a secure network, but if you are in a public network you do not want to share your files with anyone else using the same network.

Finally you can make the actually files slightly harder to access by marking the folders as private and by password protecting the documents. None of these are guaranteed to protect your data or computer from hackers or viruses, but they are all steps to help.

Hopefully this information will help any new wifi user to go out with confidence and log on to a public network. Once you start, you will suddenly find that you can work from anywhere, and work does not even have to know where you are! Or you can simply stay in touch with your friends and family while enjoying traveling the globe.

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