New subscriber Kathryn wrote to ask about a wireless networking problem when she was away from home:
I have a Gateway and can’t find the settings to enable access to the library’s internet. It worked fine last week, but since I’m on a ship, I only get to port once a week….so it is very frustrating to get to a "hotspot" and be unable to sign on. Can you help, please???
It’s: Gateway ML6720; Intel, 1.00 GB
Thanks so much, Terry!!
I wrote back to Kathryn to ask a couple questions and to provide the help I could give based on the input so far.
First, she had not specified which operating system she was using? That’s a basic debugging question — it’s obvious when you’ve got your hands on the computer, but not to the person at the other end of an email.
Second, I asked which firewall program she was using. Her firewall program may be blocking the outbound or inbound connection, either by port number or by blocking the specific program she was trying to use.
When you’ve got wireless capabiliites, you should have a wireless icon or two in the Windows Status Bar in the right-hand corner of your Desktop’s taskbar.
If those icons include a red X in the icon image, you’ll have to enable your radio.
In my case, the wireless adapter’s icon looks like "signal strength bars" (they don’t really indicate the strength, it’s just an image). I can double-click on this icon to open the wireless radio wizard.
Your wireless adapter’s icon may be different — this icon comes from the software provided by the wireless hardware manufacturer.
I can double-click on the icon to open it. I can also right-click on the signal strength bars and select Enable Radio, if it’s turned off. If that doesn’t work, check your manual for instructions on turning on the wireless adapter in your computer. Your computer should have a key-combination to do that or a hardware switch.
The other icon is a computer with a couple parentheses to the right, symbolizing the radio waves. This is the icon for Windows’s wireless configuration utility. You’re probably using the wireless configuration utility that Gateway provided for the wireless adapter (I use the one Dell provided instead of the Windows utility). If you’re using the Gateway utility, the Windows one will tell you that it’s not available since the adapter is being controlled by other software.
You use one of those two to see what wireless networks are available, to select the one to which you wish to connect, and to connect to that network.
You should realize that not all hotspots make their connections free or even available to any computers other than their computers. The last time I checked, my local library had wireless but only for their systems. They did not have an open wireless connection. They carefully controlled and restricted access to the ‘net, presumably so that they could restrict access to users with library cards.
You should also make sure, when using a wireless hotspot, that you have a good firewall set to protect you — and not set to trust the computers on that network. That’s one good reason to change your home wireless network to use something other than your wireless router’s default IP address range.