WiFi... is it worth it?


I am considering getting a wifi card for my lap top. Since we are well into the season, no doubt some of you have used this method for getting data in the field. Is it worth it? How much did you really end up using it versus your cellphone for data? Since the one I am looking at goes for around 90 - 100 bucks I want to be sure before I buy.
With more and more people using wifi and willing to open their connection up to fellow storm chasers. It is almost a must if you take your laptop with you while chasing. It's nice to pull up somewhere and you already have a connection. With the storm season half over just use the free time to learn to use the card and connect with networks. Dan Cook talked about a software thats free and it is great when searching for wifi networks Dan Cook wrote:
Has anyone just taken a drive through your town with a wifi card and Netstumber on? I just did and found at least 50 operating networks, half were unlocked. I was able to surf for at least 15 minutes on the road as if I was at home.
My WiFi has become very valuable this year with the expansion of wireless sites including www.truckstop.net which you only have to pay for the month you will use it so no contracts. I only use my cell connection when im in the boonies and need a quick (relatively speaking) radar picture. There is no comparison of speed of WiFi vs. cell and $30 a month for wifi is less than I would spend on all the minutes i would rack up on my cell. It is one of the best investment you can make this year. Also there are a number of free wireless access locations (Aaron Kennedy's wifi hotlist is a must) http://ww2.convectionconnection.com:8080/wifi/
I am considering getting the Netgear WAG11g card... Does anyone own that one, and have thoughts. I have read all of the reviews on Cnet and other sites and it looks pretty good. The one concern I have is that it doesn't seem to have a port on the card to hook up and external antenna.... since I need a few more of those on the roof of the rental car! :lol:
If you ARE wanting a card with an external antenna jack, go with the Orinoco Gold Card by Lucent Technologies. I just got mine in 2 days ago, and went sniffing around town with netstumbler activated, and found 120 networks within an hour and a half. of course, only probably 60% of those were unlocked, but obviously there's no shortage of connections.

I also got a little 4" tall mag 5.5dbi gain mag mount, it seems to help out a great deal. I think the card was 39$ and the antenna was 14$ both off ebay.

Speaking of WiFi setups I just got an Orinoco Gold card off of ebay for $39 and a 7 dbi magnet mount antenna for $18. I haven't used this on a chase yet but I drove around Norman yesterday using NetStumbler and picked up close to 300 WiFi Networks. I could reasonably use these networks from ~300 yards away.
Orinoco Gold + magnet mount antenna... you'll love it. Don't get the rubber ducky style antenna on eBay, though. Magnet will not hold while driving. Try the 5.5dBi from sharperconcepts. $16.45 shipped, VERY strong magnet.
I'm gonna ditch my Dlink card as it hates my USB card. But driving around with Netstumbler on it pretty fun. I was able to connect to my grocery store's network from the parking lot.
Dont forget to activate your GPS when using netstumbler - and save the logs - this way you can import the open hotspots into basic mapping software such as MS street and trips and keep for a later date :wink:
It is well worth it. And, it only gets better every day. It's amazing how much free internet you can get on the plains now. And, the truckstop.net and flyingJ programs are small fees, but work very well and have a lot of locations. Try it out....
Caution on Orinoco Gold cards -

Be careful not to get the a/b or a/b/g Gold combo card (anything with 'a' band) - these do NOT have the external antenna connection that Orinoco cards are known for. I made this mistake recently and was fortunate to exchange it for the b/g Gold card.
I think there are conflicts with the a/b and a/b/g band cards with Netstumbler as well - - - just got my Gold card/antenna last night ... can't wait to use it now ... my old Linksys card just didn't have the reception -

Also - be careful if you're getting a card on Ebay to buy one for your laptop and not for a desktop - I made that mistake and fortunately there was something wrong with the card and they could send me a laptop card instead - -
used my WiFi setup for the first time the last week or so and have been very happy with it. I can't pick up networks from as far away as I'd expected but still very nice. I seem to be able to find a network in every town I drive through, be it residential or commercial areas.
I'm a little confused - which Orinoco card is the one to get for a laptop ? - they show several on their web page :

I would recommend the Orinoco 11b Gold PC card. It does not support the 11g technology but I have found very few 11g WiFi networks. Although if you want the ability to access the 11g networks aswell I would say the 11 b/g Gold PC card would be the choice. Though I am not sure about the external antenna capabilities of the 11 b/g card. maybe someone else could expand on that.


Aren't most 11g routers backwards compatible to 11b? All the ones I have seen in the store are. B cards will work on a G network, but only at B speeds.
Another thing to keep in mind about B and G cards/routers is that the internet speed will only be as fast as the network's parent internet connection. That is, for all practical purposes, you won't see any difference in download/upload internet speeds between B and G networks.

For instance, if the host network is on a 512Kbps DSL or cable connection, that's the maximum speed you'll get when you connect, both on a B or a G card. So, for now you can stick to the less expensive B adapters with no compromise in wireless internet performance. Even the fastest internet connections available today (and well into the foreseeable future) are far slower than the Wireless-B operating speeds.

For most people, there's no real advantage to having a G adapter over a B. Right now the only way to take advantage of the G networks' speed is for computer-to-computer file transfers on the same network (intranet file transfers).

For instance, if you're frequently moving things like 500MB - 1GB video files from your laptop to your desktop PC via wireless, then G is a big help.
Even the fastest internet connections available today (and well into the foreseeable future) are far slower than the Wireless-B operating speeds.

Assuming that you are not just referring to DSL/Cable access, the above statement is not correct. There are massive amounts of Internet bandwidth available in basically any speed you are willing to pay for. 802.11B will only give you an average throughput of about 6 Meg; ethernet, TCP, and radio overhead suck the rest.

Be well, TR