Spot the hot spot
Testing two new ways to go wireless on the road.
by Matthew Terranova, FSB Magazine

(FORTUNE Small Business Magazine) - If you travel for business as much as I do, you probably spend more time looking for a high-speed Internet connection than you do looking for your hotel.

Two new gadgets from Linksys promise to change that: the All-in-One USB Network Adapter with Wi-Fi Finder, and the Wireless-G Travel Router with SpeedBooster.

I tested them out in private and public hot spots as well as in a few hotels. Here's what I found.

The All-in-One USB Network Adapter with Wi-Fi Finder ($129.99) is a pocket-sized device designed to allow users to look for available hot spots without turning on their laptops.

If its user-friendly wireless network scanner finds one, then you can plug its USB network adapter into your PC and get connected. And it works like a charm.

The first time I used the device in New York City, it found three networks within ten seconds. The LCD display showed all the pertinent information - the networks' names, signal strength, and channels, whether they were password-protected - in an easy-to-read format, in order of signal strength, all while I was ordering my coffee.

The network adapter worked solidly but unremarkably; the connection it provided was weaker and slower than the one that I could get from my laptop's internal adapter.

The Wireless-G Travel Router with SpeedBooster ($99.99) takes a different approach. Rather than finding networks, it lets you create your own from any landline, courtesy of its Wireless-G access point and router.

I found this enormously simple to use: Just plug it in and connect it to a broadband Internet service cable. The speed is comparable to plugging directly into a broadband network.

Still, I prefer the All-in-One USB Network Adapter with Wi-Fi Finder. Turning a land-based Internet connection into a hot spot is pretty cool, but being able to find and tap into other networks - wherever you are - is downright addictive.

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Rhode Island sets out to have the first statewide wireless network. Find out more.

Will San Franciscans pay for Wi-Fi with their privacy? Click hereTop of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

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