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A Hot New Way to Get Online in Sandpoint

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Area hotspots

Hotspots. If you ask your veterinarian about this topic, they'll likely give you ointment for an infection on your dog's leg. But if you ask your Internet Service Provider, they should give you the physical location of places where you can access the Internet using a wireless card and a laptop. This service has not been readily available in rural areas to date, but things are changing.

A good source for understanding the meaning of technical jargon and its history is the free, online encyclopedia, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). There are already public places to access the Internet. Various terms for this type of access include "public Internet kiosk," "public access terminal," and "web phone." Typically, these types of settings are "wired" to specific terminals for public use.

"Wi-Fi" is the term to describe wireless access to the Internet that's accessible using your personal equipment. The term for this is "hotspots," and they're provided throughout the United States as a service for people on the go to check their email or surf the Internet. A hotspot can be limited to the walls of a café, can cover an entire campus or park, or may encompass an entire community. The June 7 issue of Newsweek brought national attention to the community of Hermiston, Ore. as a community-wide hotspot (the country's largest, described as a "600-square mile Wi-Fi blanket"), while Spokane, Wash. announced last week that a hotspot area of over 100 blocks is now "open to the public." And hotspots are making their mark in Sandpoint, as well.

Motel 6, The Coit House, the K2 Motel and Monarch Mountain Coffee are all local businesses who have invested in having equipment installed in order to provide "hotspot" service. The Internet connection is provided by Satcom Systems. In the first three locations, the proprietor is investing in a service that provides a differentiating attribute, making their accommodation business traveler-friendly. Monarch Mountain Coffee, already well-known for quality java, food and good company, is now adding to its offerings in order to support the online business presentation, the student doing research, or the traveler who needs to send some quick email.

To participate in the world of wireless you need a few tools. You need a laptop computer and the laptop needs a card called a PCMCIA or PC card. Visually, this is a card that looks like a credit card and slides into a port on the side of your laptop, an accessory many laptops currently include. If purchasing a card separately, be sure you read the packaging as an Ethernet or network card, serial, or GPS card all look very similar. Some people can access the Internet using a PDA (a personal data assistant like a Palm Pilot) but often this requires the ability to connect to a specific provider. In most wireless instances, you also need a credit card in order to pay for access to the Internet.

To experience wireless locally, bring your laptop to Monarch Mountain Coffee, or even relax as far away as Farmin Park. Click on the Internet browser software you use (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape).

Regardless of what your home page is set to, the default within the hotspot is Satcom System's Wireless Welcome and Log In Screen. You establish a user name and password, and provide a credit card number. You can purchase time by the hour, or by the month. Once you have an authenticated log-ion, you can go in anytime and access the Internet. Your account tracks your usage. After you have successfully logged in, the Internet connection jumps from the log in page to your default home page and you are in familiar territory. Written instructions will assist you should you have any problems connecting.

Once connected, your worries are reduced to two questions, both of which fall into the realm of personal responsibility. The first is, did you remember to charge your laptop's battery? The second is, do you have an adequate firewall to protect your system? Problems associated with the first can be disappointing; with the second, devastating. So be prepared to avoid unappealing surprises.

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Author info

Carol Curtis

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Sandpoint, internet, technology, hotspots, wi-fi, Motel 6, The Coit House, K2 Motel, Monarch Mountain Coffee

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