By Naomi Graychase
December 12, 2005
When on the road, Wi-Fi is your friend… if you can find it. This collection of goodies will help road warriors find it, use it — and, best of all, enjoy it.
Shopping for road warriors is a cinch, just so long as each gift passes three simple tests: will it make life on the road easier? Will it make life on the road more fun? And will it save time or money — or both — when traveling? To make sure the traveler in your life is smiling on their next flight out of town, we’ve pulled together this list of our favorite gifts for serious business travelers.
If someone on your list frequently finds herself at the mercy of hotels that have not yet gotten on the Wi-Fi bandwagon—or if they (gasp!) still have dial-up at home—the WiFlyer travel router from Always On Wireless ($129.95) can make life a little easier.This lightweight (6.5 ounce) travel router includes a 56K v.92 modem and two Ethernet connections so that both broadband and dial-up users can have a portable, shareable 802.11b connection. This is good news for traveler warriors with access to landlines or wired broadband on the road, or home users with dial-up who want a Wi-Fi network. The WiFlyer can accommodate up to five computers on a single dial-up connection. There is no software to install; it’s compatible with Mac, Windows, or Linux; comes with the phone numbers for many major ISPs built right in; and will work with any 802.11b/g wireless-ready laptop or PDA.
For those who wouldn’t touch dial-up with a ten-foot pole, opt for the Belkin Wireless G Travel Router ($69.99). In hotels or conference rooms, it enables users to turn a wired connection into shareable Wi-Fi. It supports both Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and 64-/128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption, and boasts a working range of up to 300 feet.
Connect from (Nearly) Anywhere
A remote access hotspot subscription is always helpful for the road warriors in your life, so they don’t have to seek out just the free service. If your employer doesn’t supply you with this kind of service, try Toshiba MyConnect. Prices range from pay-as-you-go ($3.95/hour) to a $39.95/month unlimited access plan. Subscribers install the MyConnect software on their laptops, which gives them access to Wi-Fi hotspots, broadband locations, and dial-up access across the globe.
Another option is to take the hotspot with you. The Junxion Box ($599) might provide the solution, at least in big cities that have EV-DO service from providers like Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel. EV-DO is like a high-speed cellular data service for your laptop. But you can take the PC Card out of the laptop, stick it in the Junxion Box, and use that EV-DO as your backhaul connection. The Junxion Box itself is a Wi-Fi router, so everyone in range can go online (just don’t expect cable modem-like speeds).
Locate a Signal
To save the trouble of booting up a PC just to find out if there’s a Wi-Fi access point nearby, wrap up a top-of-the-line Wi-Fi signal finder and pop a bow on top. The latest generation includes the TrendNet TEW-509UB and the ZyXEL AG-225H. Both are small—about the size of a stick of gum—and can detect not just 802.11b/g networks, but also 802.11a networks. Both can also work as wireless network adapters when plugged into a laptop’s USB port. Since the only real difference between the TEW-509UB and the AG-225 is aesthetics, buy whichever you can find at the cheapest price.
The Wi-Fi in Your Hand
There’s a lot to admire about the Palm TX ($299) — for the price, it’s the best PDA money can buy. The easiest to use of the Wi-Fi Palm OS PDAs, it’s also smaller than most Wi-Fi-using Pocket PCs. But it still offers a big color screen. It comes with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in, can carry Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and works well with most Web sites. The screen rotates from landscape to portrait mode, making viewing videos or reading eBooks more enjoyable.
Public hotspots are both a blessing and a potential curse — you never know who’s looking over your shoulder. If you only worry about that problem figuratively, JiWire’s SpotLock ($39.95/year) helps ensure that users are safe and anonymous when working over Wi-Fi. The software blocks hackers, finds public hotspots using its Worldwide Hotspot Finder, and allows you to send e-mail via your normal e-mail client — even at hotspots that normally block outbound e-mail.
Watch Your Programs
It turns out you can take it with you—your TV, we mean. Thanks to Sling Media’s Slingbox ($249.99), no matter where you might be in the world, you’ll never have to miss an episode of Survivor (or Monday Night Football, or… Oprah). Although it’s not technically a Wi-Fi device, it can work on wireless networks, so we’ve included it on our wish list, because whenever we travel, we wish we had one.
To use it, you must have a TV source (it can be cable, satellite, DVD, or other things); an Ethernet connection from your Slingbox to your router (wired or wireless); a Windows 2000 or XP laptop or desktop system; and a broadband Internet connection. Once everything is in place, Slingbox shifts your television signal to your PC via the Internet. So, even if you’re stuck in an airport in Ohio, you can still watch your very own TV. It even supports TiVo (and thousands of other devices), so you can watch the shows you’ve saved.