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Unleashing the Wonders of Wi-Fi on your Treo 700w

Mon Jun 12, 2006 - 11:27 AM EDT - By Tim Hillebrand

Getting Connected

SDIO Wireless LAN E300, Socket Communications, [ Info | Buy ]), $89.95

The Socket set comes with a CD containing a driver, but don't bother with it. Make sure you download the latest driver.

While there, you may wish to download .pdf guides and manuals. The installation CD also comes with some nice bonus software called Wi-Fi Companion that normally costs $24.95. This utility makes the connectivity process more user-friendly and lets you manage your connectivity. You can find all networks in range, view their properties in detail, and connect to the one on your choice. You can manage power setting automatically for battery conservation. You can monitor radio status, signal strength, and connection status. With Wi-Fi Companion, you can send out a test ping and trace packet routes.

Once you see the available networks in range, tap on the one you want, and you will connect automatically. A little tower icon will appear in the task bar with a halo at the top to indicate you are connected. If you lose the connection, you lose the halo.

For better Wi-Fi connectivity, it is a good idea to turn off your phone and your Bluetooth radio. Palm sends a popup message to remind you to turn off the phone. I haven't tried it on a 700W yet, but with another Smartphone, I have cruised down the highway connected to GPS via Bluetooth, talk on the phone, get live traffic updates, and hotspots all at the same time. All this activity will take a toll on your battery, so it's a good idea to connect to a car charger.

To save battery life, be sure to remove the Wi-Fi card when you're not using it. Because you'll be swapping your Wi-Fi and storage card in and out, you should have a case with pockets for SD cards. If you do a lot of hotspotting from remote locations, it's a good idea to carry an extra battery.

You may get a pop-up message that says, "Not enough memory to install driver." Before you panic and start removing all your favorite programs from main memory, try two things. The first quick fix is to soft-reset, which will clear the buffers, recognize the Wi-Fi card, and allocate resources to it. In most cases, this is all you have to do. If that doesn't work, try closing all programs running in the background and get rid of unwanted cookies, Internet files, history, email, and other detritus to free up memory. It's quick and easy if you use a memory scrubbing utility. If these solutions don't work, it's time to start eliminating some of the programs and data stored in main memory.

It's a good idea to keep your machine mean and lean anyway, but it's a better idea to have Wi-Fi built-in in the first place, and I hope that will be the case with the next release.

How to find connections

Once you have the hardware in place and any necessary software installed, connection should be automatic, as long as there is an open hotspot available. So, the question is, how do you find hotspots?

I'll assume that you probably have a wireless network set up in your home and office. If not, get a router, and install one at your earliest convenience. You haven't lived until you've experienced the joys of being able to lookup information instantly online on your handheld while watching TV or when you wake up in the middle of the night with some nagging question. I like to read the local paper online in bed at night before I go to sleep.

Out in public, especially when traveling, finding a wireless hotspot can be difficult. First, understand that some public access points are free and some are private, locked, or subscription nodes.

One of my pet peeves is against businesses that charge their customers for Internet access. Instead of bilking a customer, why not reward him as a thank you for his or her business? Some of the bad guys on my list are McDonald's, FedEx Kinko's, The UPS Store, Starbucks, and Barnes and Noble. I wish that they used the Schlotsky's Restaurant model. Schlotsky's found that its restaurants offering free Wi-Fi access to customers consistently profited by over $100,000 more than those stores that charged for the service.

Sometimes you'll spot a sign on a business establishment indicating that it is a Wi-Fi access point, but you still may need a subscription that can cost $10 a day or $30 a month from companies such as T-Mobile, Boingo, Wayport, and Freedomlink.

You can always try asking people if they know of any public access hotspots. They may look at you as if you're crazy though. Often libraries will have a free public access point or know where you can find one. If you can go online, several sites locate hotspots in their databases for you. Two of my favorites are JiWire and Wi-Fi Hotspot List.

JiWire has a free hotspot database you can download and use offline. You can find access points using Google local, and with a quick SMS text message query by addressing it to GOOGL or 4INFO with hotspots and city in the message field.

Most airports have Internet access, but it's usually not free, and you will need a subscription to a particular service. This is where it's nice to have a phone that will get online as an alternative access method. I tend to think of my phone as backup access and use it only when Wi-Fi is not available.

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