Wi-Fi Is Out There and Spreading Fast
by Anton Komarov
As this new wireless technology spreads to every corner of the world, it's time that someone ask the burning questions that are surely on everyone's mind: "How does Wi-Fi work, and can it mess up the molecular structure of my brain?" Experts say not to break out the aluminum hats quite yet. But I would keep them handy because no one's 100 percent sure the low-intensity microwave radio waves aren't zapping our brains.
The chalkboard at the local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Woodland Hills has sported a cryptic message in recent weeks. Under all the usual promos for double no-foam strawberry-mint Ice Blendeds was this: "Wi-Fi coming March 7."
Wilfred Finnegan, live in performance?
No. For those of you still clacking away on a Commodore 64, "Wi-Fi" stands for wireless Latest News about wireless fidelity. It's the technology that allows people to surf the Internet with no annoying plug-in phone lines - at much faster speeds.
There's a quiet Wi-Fi Latest News about Wi-Fi revolution going on in Los Angeles, and across the country. The only indication for those not in the know are these small signs popping up at coffeehouses, public libraries, universities, airports and hotel rooms and even open public spaces advertising "Wi-Fi available." You may even live in a private Wi-Fi zone, as I do, thanks to an unknowingly generous neighbor who hasn't secured his or her Wi-Fi network.
Even the city is getting into the game with a six-month trial of a free Wi-Fi zone at the Van Nuys Civic Center around the Marvin Braude San Fernando Valley Constituent Services Center, or the MBSFVCSC, in conjunction with Woodland Hills company Aiirmesh Communications. More city-sponsoredhot spots Latest News about hot spot are planned downtown at Pershing Square and Little Tokyo.
Los Angeles itself may become one big hot spot one day soon. A panel of telecommunications experts is expected to report this spring on the feasibility of the city leading the creation of a citywide Wi-Fi community network that every citizen in the city could use for cheap or free.
It's already happening in Philadelphia, which is launching the largest municipal hot spot in a few weeks, and Chicago is toying with the Wi-Fi network idea as well.
As this new wireless technology spreads to every corner of the world, it's time that someone ask the burning questions that are surely on everyone's mind: "How does Wi-Fi work, and can it mess up the molecular structure of my brain?"
Experts say not to break out the aluminum hats quite yet. But I would keep them handy because no one's 100 percent sure the low-intensity microwave radio waves used by Wi-Fi networks aren't zapping our brains. If the Wi-Fi technology does turn out to scramble our memories or make us stupid, then we are already doomed. Most of us are surrounded every day by things that use the same technology, most notablycell phones Latest News about cell phones, cordless phones and medical devices.
As an Angeleno who lives with real threats like smog, gang warfare, earthquakes, wildfires, landslides and rush-hour traffic, I decided to fully embrace the Wi-Fi movement. I wanted to be one of those happy people plucking away on laptops at Starbucks Latest News about Starbucks or Borders in between sips of cafe Americanos. So I called up Terry Halberg, telecommunications planner for the city of Los Angeles, to get me started with a personal tour of the Van Nuys community Wi-Fi zone. To prepare, I bought the cheapest wireless modem card I could find for mylaptop Latest News about laptop - $20 at Fry's.
The city's free Wi-Fi network itself is not much to look at. It's as visual as radio. There's not much to see other than the Wi-Fi routers placed strategically inside meeting rooms and out on utility polls on the streets surrounding the MBSFVCSC. The routers are no bigger than a hardback Jackie Collins novel, with two antennas on top and two on the bottom.
"It looks like a little robot guy," Halberg said. They beam the signal all around the area and into the computers of anyone who wants to access it.
Anyone with a laptop or PDA Latest News about PDAs with wireless capability (such as my $20 card) can plop down anywhere around the Van Nuys Civic Center/ Courthouse complex and log on for free to the community network. Because the city is providing the service, users must start at a registration page and agree not to use the network to do illegal things such as download child porn or sell unregistered firearms to Third World countries, and not to sue if you get hacked while online.
Logging into the Wi-Fi Community Network hooks users up not just to the network but with anyone else using it. This brings up more disturbing questions such as, if my computer can pick up data from these Wi-Fi waves, can data be sucked out of it the same way?
Yes, it can.
According to the nonprofit Wi-Fi Alliance's Web site: "If your transmissions are not secure, you take the risk of others intercepting your business e-mails, examining your corporate files and records, and using your network and Internet connection to distribute their own messages and communications."
In other words, people can peek on what you're looking at online as if they were looking over your shoulder. That might not bother Net surfers who limit their online travels to sites such as Howtoknit.com or Allaboutmarsupials.net, but most people want their Internet experiences to be private. If that's the case, dial-up may still be the way to go until there's improved security Latest News about Security for Wi-Fi networks. That probably won't be too long. This revolution is spreading in months, not years. And though it may not be televised, it is definitely coming to a screen near you.
About the Author
A cisco certified engineer. Working in Wi-Fi area in Russia. Chief master of http://www.greezle.com wi-fi resourse.