Online Over The Air

Published Date
01 - Jun - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Jun - 2006
Online Over The Air
Almost all laptops these days come equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity. And places such as airports have Wi-Fi hotspots where you can connect your laptop to go online. But not everyone knows how to set up Wi-Fi on a laptop! Here, we explain the process of setting up your laptop to be able to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

We assume you have Windows XP Professional installed on your laptop, and that your laptop has inbuilt Wi-Fi. If your laptop does not have Wi-Fi capability, you can always purchase a PCMCIA Wi-Fi card and make it Wi-Fi capable (PCMCIA slots are fairly common in laptops). Some Wi-Fi cards can set themselves up automatically to detect and connect to a wireless network, but we will see how to manually set up a Wi-Fi card to connect to a wireless network.

You'll need to know a few terms, and we explain here:

SSID is an acronym for Service Set Identifier. The SSID is a sequence of up to 32 letters or numbers that is the ID, or name, of a wireless local area network.

WEP is short for Wired Equivalency Privacy. It is a security protocol for Wi-Fi networks.

Wi-Fi Channel: The Wi-Fi signal range is divided into a number of smaller bands or "channels," similar to TV channels. Thus, all Wi-Fi devices on a particular network must use the same channel.

1. Before proceeding further, you need to find out the SSID, Channel, Mode and WEP key of the Wi-Fi network you're planning to connect to. Some Wi-Fi locations do not require a WEP key. The above information can be accessed from the Wi-Fi network provider's Web site, or when you purchase the access rights to the Wi-Fi network. A list of Wi-Fi hotspots in India is available at the following sites: browse/intl/2000044/
www.wi-fihotspotsdirectory .com/Wi-Fi-Hotspots-In-India-100.html

You can find contact details here to be able to access hotspots.

2. You should make sure you have a firewall and a good anti-virus program installed. This is necessary to protect your data.

3. We assume that your laptop came with the Wi-Fi card drivers installed. If it did not come with drivers for the Wi-Fi card, you may need to go to the manufacturer's Web site and download the appropriate drivers according to the model number of your Wi-Fi card or your laptop. Power on the laptop and after Windows is up and running, look for the Wi-Fi network icon in the System Tray.

4. Click on the Wi-Fi network icon, and a window showing the connection strength and session duration will appear. Click on the Properties button in this window.

The Wireless Network Connection Status

5. The Wireless Network Connection Properties window showing the name and type of network card installed will show up. Click on the Wireless Networks tab in this window.

Information about the wireless adapter

Core Duo 
Intel's Core Duo mobile technology is the successor to Centrino. The key components of a Core Duo laptop are an Intel Core Duo Processor, Mobile Intel 945 Express chipset and an Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network connection. The benefits of Intel Core Duo technology are excellent performance due to the dual-core processor, higher battery life due to low power consuming components, a smaller form factor, and expanded wireless connectivity due to the newer Wi-Fi adapter, which supports a higher throughput under adverse conditions. 

6. In the Wireless Network Connection Properties window, you will be able to view the available Wi-Fi networks in your area. Click in the SSID of the network that you wish to connect to and click on Configure button to enter the WEP key.

Available wireless networks
7. If you do not see any networks listed in Preferred or Available networks, you will have to manually add the SSID. To do this, click Add and enter the SSID and WEP key, if necessary. Click OK, and you should be able to see the network you just added, in the Available Networks box. If you see the correct SSID in the Available Networks box, you're required to click on Configure in order to enter the WEP key, if that is required.

Enter the WEP key for your SSID
8. In the next window that appears, enter the SSID. If a network key is required, click on 'Data Encryption (WEP enabled)' and then enter the Network Key you've been provided with. If you enter the key incorrectly, a pop-up message will appear stating 'Incorrect WEP key', and you will have to re-enter the key. While you do this, make sure that the Caps Lock and Num Lock are off all the while. Click OK to close this window. Click OK again to return to the Desktop.

9. Now, click on Start and go to Connect To. You will see some choices pop up. Click on Wireless Network Connection, and your Wi-Fi connection will be ready to work. You can also access this by clicking on Start and opening the Control Panel. Open Network Connections and double-click on Wireless Network Connection.

Start working on the wireless network
Sometimes, the connection may not work. If this happens, disable your firewall and try to connect. If you can connect with the firewall disabled, you need to change the firewall program settings to allow it to connect to the network. If the firewall is not the problem, you'll need to check the SSID and WEP key you entered. Both these are case-sensitive. These are the problems that you are more likely to encounter. If you're still facing difficulties connecting, contact the Wi-Fi hotspot provider's helpdesk.

Prolong The Life Of Lithium-Based Batteries 
Li-ion batteries prefer partial discharges rather than full discharges. Frequent full discharges must therefore be avoided. Charge the battery as often as you can.

Typically, a Li-ion battery lasts for around two to three years, or around 300 to 500 charge and discharge cycles, whichever comes first. Over a period of time, the internal resistance of the battery increases due to oxidation. Eventually, the resistance level reaches a point where the battery can no longer deliver the stored energy, although the battery may still have ample charge. Although this cannot be avoided, the rate at which the battery ages can be slowed down.

Avoid exposing the batteries to high temperatures (higher than those prescribed on the battery pack). This is the case when the laptop is always run on the mains with the battery inside. The laptop's temperature rises, and the battery will not last for more than 12 to 18 months. If you use the laptop primarily in your office, you would use the mains to power the laptop. You can charge the battery and then remove it to store it in a cool place, and continue working. Be sure to periodically charge the batteries, though.

Avoid purchasing spare Lithium-ion batteries for later use, and look at the manufacturing date while purchasing a battery. If you already have a spare battery, charge it to 40 per cent charge and store it in a cool place.

Windows XP also has Power Management features that you can put to good use to lengthen the life of the laptop's battery. Go to the Control Panel and open up Power Options. Under the Power Schemes tab, select the Portable/Laptop scheme. You can tweak this scheme by setting the 'Turn off monitor,' 'Turn off hard disks' and 'System Standby' times to different, lower values. For example, there's no reason to keep hard disks running for longer than five minutes of inactivity.

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