Testing, 1-2-3

Wondering if you can really get any work done at a Wi-Fi hot spot? We've got the answer.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the September 2003 issue of . Subscribe »

Showing up everywhere from gas stations to coffeehouses, Wi-Fi hot spots promise fast and easy Internet connections for on-the-go entrepreneurs. We tried three very different hot-spot locations to see how easy it really was.

Location: Blue Dragon Coffeehouse, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Wi-Fi system:WorkingWild
Cost: $2.95 per hour, $4.95 per day
Rating: out of 4 stars

Two out of three PCs ain't bad. I hauled in one Windows 98 laptop and two Windows XP tablet PCs during lunchtime. Even with a concerted effort from tech support, the 98 computer never made it online. Both XP machines were hooked up and enjoying the fast Internet connection immediately. The comfortable surroundings and low-key atmosphere were a huge plus, making it easy to focus on work.

Location: Doubletree Hotel, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Wi-Fi system:WayPort / Boingo
Cost: From $7.95 for two days to $49.95 per month of unlimited access
Rating: out of 4 stars

This took a little upfront preparation at Boingo.com, downloading the Wi-Fi software and signing up for the two-day plan. Access was available in the lobby, where I was swallowed up by a giant leather chair. Logging in for the first time was a little confusing but worked itself out on the Windows 98 laptop. However, I wasn't able to connect with the Windows XP laptop that didn't have the Boingo software installed. The space was boomy, with other's people's conversations echoing, but all in all, a pleasant experience.

Location: McDonald's, Midtown Manhattan
Wi-Fi System:Cometa Networks
Cost: 1 hour free with Extra Value Meal purchase
Rating: out of 4 stars

After I ordered my Chicken McNuggets and requested access, a friendly manager handed me a plastic card that explained the process and listed a toll-free technical assistance number. I pulled out my Fujitsu Stylistic ST4000 tablet PC with built-in wireless LAN capability. At first, my browser wouldn't open, so I called the 800 number. The technical rep helped me log on to check my e-mail, but I couldn't open my browser. When I walked to a busier section of the restaurant and tried again, I connected immediately. Overall, convenient and relatively easy to use.

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