With so many computers in each family, it is time we carried our networks with us. Earlier this year I went on a business trip to a small but quite beautiful European country. I am not going to tell you which country. I don’t want to brag and, besides, this is a tech column and not a travel piece. So why go into these unnecessary specifics.
So yes, I was staying in a five-star hotel on an all-expenses paid trip when I realized that the hotel room’s Internet connection was going to be a problem. There was just one free wired connection in each room. While the hotel had Wi-Fi, you had to pay for this separately on a daily basis.
Travel basics: Next time don’t forget to pack a wireless router.
Also Read Sidin Vadukut’s earlier articles
Five, or maybe even three, years ago this wouldn’t have been such a big problem. How many devices on the average business traveller’s person would require an Internet connection? One laptop at best. Even large families, on the road, seldom had, or would want, more than one device to connect to the Web.
I suspect things are different nowadays. In my case there was the laptop, my BlackBerry and an iPod Touch. The laptop I used to browse, check email, transfer work documents and photos. The BlackBerry needed the Wi-Fi so that I could keep my office email inbox up-to-date.
Yes I could possibly use international data roaming on the BlackBerry. But you forget that I am not a Tata, Birla or Pakistani cricketer. International data roaming is fiendishly expensive. However, if the BlackBerry is hooked up to a Wi-Fi network it will periodically update emails, also when you come back home you don’t have to cower with fear in a corner while the BlackBerry vibrates away for hours downloading millions of emails.
And finally the iPod Touch. It might not seem like the most critical device. But I use the Touch to carry a backup of all email and my Google calendars. When you have tons of meetings the Touch’s calendar app is remarkably easy to use. Much better than frantically thumbing through a BlackBerry.
Thankfully there are a bunch of easy ways to use one Internet connection and then share it with multiple devices.
Now this might seem like a simple enough thing to do. Not so. In fact most methods can be quite infuriating.
The traditional way is to create a Wi-Fi network for all your devices, hook all of them up, and then share the Internet connection among all of them. Provided all your devices have Wi-Fi, and at least one laptop will connect to the wired Internet, this is simple if erratic. You can google up ways of doing this.
However, this never really works for me. One or the other device will always defiantly refuse to conform. Especially Macs.
The other option is to carry an extra piece of hardware: a wireless router. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Routers can be bought for less than Rs 2,000 and configured to work with all your devices. Once you set the network up at home you never have to fiddle with it again. Just plug in the hotel room’s LAN wire into the router and then beam it out into all your devices. Most new routers and access points are slim, portable devices.
My favourite way to do this is to use an app like Connectify (www.connectify.me). Connectify sits on your computer and instantly turns it into a Wi-Fi hot spot. You don’t need a PhD to set it up. Connectify is a joy to use and free, but only works on a Windows 7 device, though I would recommend you use sites such as AlternativeTo (www.alternativeto.net) to find similar apps for other operating systems.
Finally some new mobile phones also work as handy Wi-Fi hot spots. The Samsung Wave, for instance, does this with just a few clicks and swipes and touches.
The next time you travel with many devices or people, don’t let the one hotel room Internet connection cramp your style. Carry the e-network in your bag.