Going Wireless

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

From Computoredge Magazine

Going Wireless

November 7, 2003

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I have just set up a wireless network in my apartment. The irony of this is that never before have I ever been surrounded by quite so many wires. There are wires all over the place, including some that I don't even remember buying. You see, starting this project has forced me to unearth all those computer wires that I had previously hidden so well. I know this is mainly temporary, but tripping over a wire in order to install a wireless network can't be a good omen.

The catalyst for all this is the new laptop with wireless networking that I just bought. Frankly, I'm new to notebook computers. For years, I didn't see why I would need one, but I finally changed my mind when I realized how much more productive I could be with one. For example, I am writing this article in my neighborhood sandwich shop. Granted, my neighborhood sandwich shop is a wireless hotspot, so that I'm also checking my e-mail and closely following a Red Sox-Phillies baseball game via ESPN.com. But, because of my new laptop -- and this is very important -- I could theoretically be more productive.

When I arrived here for lunch, the first thing I did was e-mail my friends to tell them exactly where I was e-mailing from. "Hey, guess what! I'm e-mailing from a sandwich shop." is probably this decade's equivalent to "Hey, guess what! I'm phoning from outside. It's called a cell phone." Mind you, I took care to e-mail only those friends who don't currently own a wireless laptop. It's not that I'm trying to show off, but my friends who already have one might have other gadgets that I don't. Just between you and me, they can be a bit insufferable about their toys.

I didn't tread lightly into the wireless world. I thought seriously about whether I really needed a wireless network in my apartment. And no, I wasn't wondering whether I needed to access the Internet from every corner of my home. I already knew I needed that. There are some days, after all, when you just need to surf from your kitchen. Here's the real reason for my doubts: I can easily pick up the signal from my neighbor's wireless network. Hey, why bother going to all the trouble of setting up a network of my own when -- in the great American tradition -- I can mooch off my neighbors?

Don't worry. I'm no hacker. I stumbled upon this by accident. That's how easy today's laptops make it to go wireless. I didn't even have to do anything, and suddenly I was connected to the Internet via my helpful neighbor. Of course, when I noticed this, I instantly did the honorable thing and -- Well, actually, I started surfing with abandon. Think of all the sites I could visit. Think of the cable modem bill that I could stop paying. And think of all the music that I could download. I could get all sorts of songs, and it would be my neighbor who would get the subpoena instead of me.

"But, your honor, I don't even like The Cure," he would complain to the judge but to no avail.

This, of course, was something of a moral dilemma for me. On the one hand, it's wrong to steal bandwidth from my neighbor, but, on the other hand, it's really cool. After a few minutes, though, I came to my senses and disconnected from his network, mainly because I had already shelled out the money for a wireless router of my own and because the installation seemed a wonderfully geeky way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Oh, yeah, and also because it's wrong to steal bandwidth from a neighbor.

It was actually easy to set everything up, except at first when my laptop continued to prefer my neighbor's network to the one I had just installed. But, after a half-hour, I finally solved that problem. Soon, I had set up a firewall, named my network (Squealer, after the pig in Animal Farm who was in charge of propaganda), and secured my network so that my neighbor could not do unto my network as I had done unto his. It was surprisingly easy to restrict access to only my laptop and my desktop computer, although not many of my neighbors seem to bother with such measures.

In fact, here in the sandwich shop, they haven't actually advertised their wireless service, so it's possible that I might be stealing bandwidth again. And, as I sit here, it occurs to me that I have finally become one of Those People. You know the ones who are sitting in a crowded café for hours feverishly working away at their laptops while everyone else is just waiting for a seat so they can eat their food. But, hey, buddy, wait your turn for a seat. Can't you see? I'm busy doing important work here

By the way, according to my laptop, the Red Sox just won it in the ninth.

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