WLAN in the Most Unlikely Places
Kirt's Cogitations™ #203

These original Kirt's Cogitations™ may be reproduced (no more than 5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt Blattenberger.

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   Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or reflection; meditation; contemplation.
   Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.

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WLAN in the Most Unlikely Places

If you have any remaining doubt about the adoption rate of WLAN, this news will remove it. Melanie and I needed to visit her parents in West Virginia earlier this week. As we normally do, we took the notebook computer along and tend to RF Cafe business (answering e-mail, posting headlines, updating Recent Additions, etc.) while there using her parents’ dial-up service. Connection speeds of about 40 kbps are the norm. It is painful, to say the least, but at least we are in-touch.

Click here to view area in West Virginia where WLAN activity was detected.Her parents live about 5 miles outside of Morgantown, which is the second largest city in the state, but are buried in a little depression (an appropriate term for this place, believe me) with two small neighborhoods adjacent to their property. This satellite map shows the area I am describing. Their property is outlined in yellow (click on map thumbnail). I decided to allow the WLAN card in the computer to scan for wireless networks. To my great surprise, I picked up two while inside the house. I next took the computer outside and scanned again. This time, no fewer than seven networks were detected – five secured and two unsecured (click on screenshot thumbnail).

Longing for a high-speed connection, I attempted to log onto the stronger of the two unsecured networks and was able to get a 5 Mbps connection. Sweet! Although the power level was low and the data rate varied, it was still a couple magnitudes better than the telephone line. The closest house is about 100 feet away and the strongest signal fluctuated between the 2-bar and 3-bar level. My guess is that all seven signals must be originating from the homes within about 200 to 300 feet, so surely there are many more wireless networks operating in that same Podunk area of WV.

Knowing that area from having visited there for many years, I can tell you that the ratio of Working vs. Welfare households highly favors Welfare, so that means our tax dollars are subsidizing an awful lot of broadband Internet setups. No doubt we are also paying for the computers that are associated with those networks. I can also tell you that most of the people there also have premium cable TV and cellphones, 4WD trucks, multiple dogs, chain-smoke cigarettes, and buy better cuts of meat than I do (using food stamps, of course). But I digress.

So, although one RF Cafe Forum poster who lives in San Diego wrote of his ability to connect for free from just about anywhere in that dense environment, I have discovered that there is a good chance you can connect wirelessly in even some of the most unlikely places. You might try scanning your neighborhood for connections. My house in North Carolina is in a fairly rural area with not many neighbors; the closest is about 300-400 feet away. Even so, my notebook computer sees his unsecured LinkSys WLAN. If I was not an honest person, I could cancel my $42/month broadband plan with EarthLink and operate for free off of his.

Your comments are welcome here.