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Unplug and Stay Connected

This sample chapter looks at the best ways to get your work done, wirelessly, in different situations in which you might find yourself. Wireless technology is, of course, a natural for road trips. Whether you're roaming for profit or fun, there are a lot of decisions to make about which devices can best fit your needs and budget.

This sample chapter is excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wireless Computing and Networking.

This chapter is from the book

In This Chapter

  • Your mobile options

  • Mobile add-ons

  • Checking out wireless networking

  • Staying put and going wireless

In this chapter we'll look at the best ways to get your work done, wirelessly, in different situations in which you might find yourself. Later in the book we'll check out each technology individually and provide more hands-on tips and how-to advice. Consider this dipping your foot into the pool of wireless computing.

Wireless technology is, of course, a natural for road trips. Whether you're roaming for profit or fun, there are a lot of decisions to make about which devices can best fit your needs and budget. We'll examine the best bets for staying in touch with the office, or just keeping up with the folks back home. In the process, we'll try and help you avoid getting lost, because wireless technology is pretty handy at both locating you and giving out directions.

Because, as we've talked about, wireless is good for travel and for the office (or home office), we'll consider connecting your computers to a local area network without drilling holes in the wall.

Taking the Net on the Road: Mobile Options

Ah, the joys of the open road. Flight delays. Rubberized chicken. Hotel phone rates. Thank-fully, wireless computing can help you with all of these (well, you might be on your own with the chicken, unless you quietly e-mail a pizza place that delivers to a hotel ballroom).

In addition, if you travel for any length of time for business, you probably need to stay in touch back at the office by phone and e-mail and perhaps get some work done on a flight. Depending on your budget, you might find one device or a handful to take care of your work-related needs.

Synch Up

Catching up on your favorite Web sites with a PDA is a great way to kill some time. Enter AvantGo (www.avantgo.com), a free service that enables you to view sites like The Wall Street Journal and the Weather Chan-nel among many others. Is your PDA still modemless? You can download sites using AvantGo to a PDA and read them later.

If You Need E-Mail Only

Your needs are simple. Hey, no problem. We can deal with that. You want e-mail on the go, and there are plenty of hardware and software providers that want to help you get connected (see Figure 3.1 for an example).

Figure 3.1 A wireless BlackBerry handheld lets you send and receive e-mail on the road. (Photo courtesy of Research in Motion Limited

Two-way pagers are both hip and functional. You can fit one in your pocket, and they have the range of, well, pagers, a mature technology that won't leave you hanging.

Mobile phones can be a good option as well, because the prices keep dropping and because they offer good value for the money. Of course, smart phones as well as PDAs (see Figure 3.2) with wireless modems have more to offer than just e-mail, and we cover those in a bit.

Figure 3.2 A typical PDA.

If You Need E-Mail and Web Surfing

You're on the run a lot, and your business requires Web research. Some two-way pagers offer text-based Web access, but if you use the Web every day, you're likely to need something a little more sophisticated.

Laptops enable you to surf the Web and download important files. You have the desktop applications you need and you're portable (as long as you don't forget to charge your batteries the night before you take off).

If a laptop is too bulky for your needs, and you use Microsoft Windows and want to be able to work on Microsoft Word and Excel files, you might want to consider a Pocket PC, such as the Jornada from Hewlett Packard or the iPaq from Compaq.

Synch Up

Pocket PC is Microsoft's name for handheld computers that run the Pocket PC operating system (or the OS formerly known as Windows CE, version 3.0). The devices typically come with a stylus and compete with the Palm OS handhelds. Color screens are the norm for Pocket PCs these days, but you won't likely find a keyboard on the devices (although you might be able to connect one separately). Microsoft considers Windows CE devices with mini-keyboards, sometimes called clamshell devices, "handheld PCs."

Anyone who travels for business should have a mobile phone. To browse the Web, you need one that's WAP capable. WAP stands for the Wireless Appli-cation Protocol; it's a standard, like HTML, that allows Internet devices to view the Web on small screens.

Most of the advertising you love on the Web is missing (what a shame!) when you use a mobile phone to surf the Web. Instead of full Web pages, typically you'll see minimal graphics, which will let you access more quickly the information you want, such as your bank balance or a stock quote.

Using the keypad, you can punch in usernames and passwords, and Web-ready mobile phones usually have up and down buttons for scrolling and highlighting items as you browse. Most of the WAP-capable Web sites make your browsing easier by adding their most common features to a menu that you can click, instead of mangling your fingers trying to type.

That said, you can actually type with a phone. Click the 2 key twice, for instance, and you'll get a "b" (once for "a," three times for "c").

Most phones offer their own systems for making it easier to input characters. Incorporating the cursor helps, so that you can choose the letter or number you want from a menu. Symbols are also placed on menus, so you can peck in an @ symbol or a hyphen-any key from the keyboard.

Of course, it's a bit of a hassle to use a phone to send e-mails, so you probably won't be writing about how your vacation is going by phone. Instead, consider purchasing a serial cable for your cell phone that enables you to connect it to your laptop. You're sure to appreciate the little keys on your notebook after suffering through the keys on your phone.

If You Need E-Mail, Web, and Voice

Just about every digital mobile phone sold today offers some sort of Internet access. You won't have a hard time finding a phone that can also pick up your e-mail. The following is a list of common e-mail addresses for Internet-_capable mobile phones.

Phone Type

E-Mail Address









Sprint PCS



yourphonenumber@messaging.nextel.com (two-way)



And despite being less-feature filled than a laptop or PDA, a mobile phone can be a pretty handy way to stay in touch. You might not want to peck at your number keys to send a message. Yet picking up an important e-mail, followed by a return phone call is a reliable way to communicate on the road-and your boss and colleagues will respect your take charge attitude and quick responses.

If you need voice as well as Web and e-mail communications and you want a good organizer, you might consider a phone that includes a full-featured PDA, such as the Palm OS smart phones from Kyocera and Samsung, and the Nokia Communicator, which runs the highly regarded Symbian operating system.

Users give high marks to the phones for their portability and ease of use. These phones cost, as you might expect, more than a typical Internet-capable phone, and since fewer models are available, you'll have less choice when you shop for a wireless service provider.

You can also purchase expansion cards for the Handspring Visor PDA, which turns this organizer into a mobile phone, and provide Internet access and capability for short text messaging. The cards slide into the back of the Handspring and include an antenna for making calls. The whole thing is a bit bulky, but it makes for interesting conversations on the train to work.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft offers a mini version of its Internet Explorer browser, called Mobile Internet Explorer, on some mobile phones, including Mitsubishi's Trium Mondo (which is, unfortunately, not yet sold in the United States but might be in the future). Microsoft has an ambitious plan to bring mobile versions of its Windows operating system to consumers through phone makers and wireless service providers.

Synch Up

A recent study suggests that you might be carrying more than one handheld device in the future. The study (conducted by marketing research and consulting firm Yankelovich) says 53 percent of respondents would carry more than one handheld device if cost were of no concern. Most people (82 percent) wanted a wireless phone, while 35 percent desired a wireless e-mail device, and 30 percent wanted a PDA.

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