I was catching up with Joey the @AccordionGuy earlier today – chatting over coffee. He used to work on the same team as me at Microsoft before heading out on his next adventure. His current gig has him living in a luxury furnished bachelor pad here in Ottawa with all the amenities – including Big Screen TV, stereo, private coffee bar and free High-speed internet.
Seriously – what more could you ask for?
How about a better internet service – one with a WIRED connection? You see – his internet is provided by a common travelers ISP who shall remain nameless (starts with Data, ends with Valet). It’s the type of service where you login and you are allowed to use ONE IP at a time. That’s a bit stingy and old school in a world where we all carry multiple WiFi connected devices (iPad, Slates, Tablets, Xbox 360s, smartphones, laptops, desktops). Remember – I did say that he is living here away from his home base for the summer – he’s got lots of requirements for connectivity – AND NO WIRED INTERNET CONNECTION. Normally this would be an easy fix – buy a travel router and plug in – done deal. I remembered that I used to have a hardware travel router that could re-broadcast one WiFi network as your own and therefore share it with multiple devices. Unfortunately as with some things that I touch – this travel router died for some reason and I was left scratching my head for options.
Part of my Traveling kit of technology I use for my day job while presenting on the road is a Cradlepoint CTR350 travel broadband router. It has the ability to very simply plug in to a wired connection and act as an Access Point for wireless devices. Very simple – but requires either a wired connection OR a USB DataStick activated with Bell or Rogers in order to have an internet source. It doesn’t have the re-broadcast capabilities I am looking for in this situation. Plus – I wasn’t about to leave it in Joey’s hands for the summer – you never know what kind of surfing he’d be doing.
A little further research and I discovered that the current product line is called the Cradlepoint CTR35 and has the feature I am looking for – WiFi as WAN. This simply allows you to re-broadcast a visible secure or unsecured WiFi network with your own SSID and settings – for up to 16 wireless clients. I won’t bore you with the details – but here’s the step by step process on how to enable it on their CTR35 device (remind me to go pick one up, would you?). There – one problem solved – Joey just needs to find one and he’s off to the races.
If you are a road warrior – invest some cash and get something like this – especially the updated CTR35 with this re-broadcasting capability – it will pay off in spades. I use my older one with USB stick to offer up Internet connectivity at locations where public WiFi isn’t available and I want to give access to friends around me.
But what if I don’t have one?
Digging further still – there is some free software that builds upon the little known WiFi Access Point hotspot mode of Windows 7. I found out about this from @Oising at TechDays Montreal back in November of 2010. You can take a Wired internet connection and broadcast it out over your supported Wireless card – provided it’s running a supported set of drivers. I mention it Builds upon the solution since it ALSO adds the ability to re-broadcast a public WiFi network. The software called “Connectify” – it’s FREE (ad supported) and is available from http://connectify.me/
After downloading it from the webpage (links to download.com) and running the install – it does recommend you install a specialized browser for Facebook (they make something like that?) which I quickly declined. I authorized it to install a couple of connectify network drivers (required for the magic of simplifying the re-broadcasting) and then launched the program. It runs minimized in your system tray and has an easy to use non-technical Wizard interface to set things up for you.
I don’t quite get the dude with the roman outfit – but whatever turns your crank I guess.
Remember the part where I mentioned “supported drivers”. Well – it turns out that my sample laptop (Dell Latitude XT2 tablet) I was setting this up on does not have a supported wireless card that would support turning my laptop into a Wireless Access Point – only an Ad-Hoc network which doesn’t cut the mustard.
Bummer. To save yourself some time – here is their list of supported cards / wireless chipsets.
All that being said – their interface – once you are past the wizard to do the initial configuration seems simple enough – you bring it up from the task bar icon.
Stuck like me with a laptop that isn’t supported and still want to use it? If you read through to the bottom of their list of supported and unsupported cards – you’ll notice one USB wireless adapter that is supported – Intellinet Wireless-N USB Adapter. You can pick one of these up and be on your way.
A quick check of the other laptops and netbooks across the house revealed that I’m S.O.L. I can’t actually test this puppy out! Looking at the techspecs of Joey’s Dell laptop – he has a 75% chance it will work (he has 4 options of wireless cards – three are on the good list).
This blog post ends with a “to be continued” until I can find hardware in my crib that actually is supported – or if I hear back from any of you about your personal experiences. Please do tell – did it work for you?
What about you Joey? any luck or are you going the Cradlepoint hardware route?