Behind the Scenes with GailLA

Gail Allinson,

01 February 2004

Modern Wonders

It is Saturday evening.  I am lying in bed propped up on a pile of pillows with a laptop (or as they are called these days "notebook") computer on my knees.  Since it is an excellent, but older machine with a NiMH battery, I don't rely on that for anything but the short term. So I am attached by a power cord to a wall socket. I am not otherwise attached, and if I wanted to I wouldn't need to be attached to anything at all. And the world is at my fingertips.

For those of you who have experienced the joys of wireless computing this is old hat; but for me, this is a new and wondrous experience. I feel like the poor country cousin who has come to the big city. While I'm not so much of a rube as to not know what a flush commode is, I've certainly never before had one of my very own, even if only temporarily.

I'm visiting my sons and they live in suburban Chicago. The population density here is sufficient that SBC (the "new" ATT-like phone conglomerate) has deemed this neighborhood worthy of ADSL residential service.  I knew, as I prepared for the trip that there would be DSL at my destination so I had packed a PCMCIA Ethernet adapter and a 10 ft hank of Cat5 cable. I had packed wrong.

Tuesday was an interlude of exhilarating and at the some time exhausting air travel.  I arrived at my destination. After the usual felicitations, I asked about the home LAN and router. I was greeted with these discouraging words, "What's a router?".

 "Oh no," I thought. "There is one computer hooked up directly to the DSL modem. I'm so near but yet so far."  I uncoiled my phone cord, plugged in my computer, and resigned myself to using the emotional and Internet equivalent of an outhouse -- a dial-up connection.

After a good night's sleep I faced the new day with a resolve to reach the freeway of my desire via a boulevard instead of a dirt road.  So I asked, " Is only one computer connected to the DSL or are both connected?"

 My son said, "They both are."

My heart sank -- not only did they not have a LAN and a router, but they were paying for 2 accounts for 2 computers. But a sinking feeling is only that and I was not about to give up that easily.

"How many DSL connections do you have, one or two. Do you pay a separate bill?" I inquired.

"No only one -- it's all one." my son firmly responded.

My heart jumped and filled with hope. "How is your computer in the bedroom connected to it?"

"Well I went out and bought this little wireless USB thing and that's how it is connected to the SBC Portal," he offered. With that he dove into a pile of papers and produced a quick start guide. "It's all in the instructions," he said.

While I looked at the guide, he brought up a Web page that explained that the portal was (hum a few bars of the Hallelujah Chorus here) a 802.11b wireless access point and router.

It only took a few hours before I was able to hitch a ride to the store to buy a wireless adapter for my laptop computer.  I came home and within 5 minutes I had the driver installed, found the SSID and WEP information I needed to connect. Voila! I had entered the winsome world of indoor plumbing in fine houses along broad and green parkways.

After a few hours of delight and discovery, I found that no one here realized that they had a wireless LAN, as well as a WAP.  So I did my part and demonstrated the possibilities.  Even a "country mouse" is looked upon with respect when a document on one computer is spit out of a printer attached to a computer across the room. No wires, no hands, nothing up my sleeve.

So we came carrying some pieces of the needed knowledge and working together created a more capable and useful tool. There must be a moral to this story.  Is it something about city mice and country mice? Or maybe "it takes a village to merit a flush potty?" How about "in union there is strength?"  Oh I give up.  I have wireless broadband at least for a little while here and it is a wonderful and wondrous thing.


2004 Gail Allinson

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