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Internet access on the road

Have you ever found yourself staring at your computer when there is no available Internet access?

"What is this thing for?" you wonder aloud.

[Oh the programming junkies of the world lament at that comment!].

That's me. Sure, I keep plenty of "work" on my box - customer quotations, account information, pdf's to keep up on. But my computer is primarily used for Internet. That is where all of my data is kept and where my work takes place.

When I am at the office or at home, no problems. I hook into the network and work away. In both cases, I have wired and wireless access available.

However, when I am away from home is where I run into trouble.

Here are my work arounds for Internet access.

T-Mobile Hotspot - T-Mobile came up with this idea years ago and from what I understand, it has become a cash cow for the company.
Using your 802.x wireless card in your laptop or PDA, one can surf the web unlimited from any location which has T-Mobile HotSpot service. The most popular locations are Starbucks and airports.

I live and die by my HotSpot account. Just yesterday at John Wayne in Orange County, I popped up my laptop to confirm an appointment, log a sale and check my next flight - five minutes after I stepped off the plane.

Since I have T-Mobile phone service, a HotSpot account only costs $19.95 a month on my cellular bill. The only drawback is only one computer login can use it at a time.

FreedomLink - FL is part of the new ATT monolith which seems to be everywhere these days. Like HotSpot from T-Mobile, FL is WiFi 802.x Internet access using your WiFi enabled laptop or PDA.

The cost is enticing as well; only $1.99 a month if you have an ATT account. Unbeatable.

The locations for service are interesting too. Most McDonalds have FreedomLink as do UPS stores.
Now, Mickey D's does not have the hipness of Starbucks, but one can find a McD's about everywhere. Great for the "pull in the parking lot" Internet access fix without having to purchase the four dollar cup a'joe.

DialUp - Since I have DSL through ATT, I poked around and found I had a dialup account with my service. That means x2 dialup speeds (if you have to ask what x2 is, please Google US Robotics and get back to me) wherever I can find a landline.
Now that means a willing accomplice like my Mom's house for that sort of access. But it works (albeit slowly) when Internet is needed in a pinch.

Mr Frugal asks, "What about free Internet access?".

Good question MF. I am sure you know about library access, but that usually is not convenient when one is on a business trip.

I find that most conventions usually have some sort of Internet kiosk available - but remember good convention etiquette says limit Internet station usage to five minutes at one sitting if others are waiting.

Also, some conventions also often have WiFi available for attendees in certain parts of the show floor.

Many times WiFi networks are left open by unconscious companies. And many of my compatriots swear by 802 finger Internet access discounts.

Use this option sparingly and with a word of extreme caution.

First, you are trespassing on some one's network. This is thievery and if caught can get you in all sorts of legal hooha.
Secondly, you are exposing your private data over someone else's network. If that network is being sniffed or monitored by the owner or another sneaky surfer, your passwords and accounts could be jeopardized.

Avoid the free surfing as much as possible.

Bear in mind that free WiFi networks are often only a question away.

For instance, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, NV has free WiFi access in the baggage terminal. I make it a point to stop off and check my mail before catching a shuttle to the strip.

Also, I have found free access at San Jose International Airport in the Valley. Worth looking for (if you don't have your T-Mobile hotspot account).

Finally, I found this great link for Internet access at different airports around the country. I cannot vouch for the reliability, (networks come and go!), but it is a good list to have on the old hard drive when road warrioring.

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