Consumer Reports: Wi Fi

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The hottest thing in computers these days is wireless Internet access. It's called Wi Fi, which stands for Wireless Fidelity. Five million people are expected to be using Wi Fi in the next year or so. Consumer Reports takes a look.

Andrew Schmertz is in his third year of law school. He uses his laptop to research online and to check his e-mail — anywhere on campus.
That's because his campus is a hotspot. It's equipped with Wi Fi, so he doesn't have to plug in to access the Internet.

Consumer Reports Dean Gallea (PRON: GAL-ee) has tested Wi Fi, or Wireless Fidelity — the wireless technology that lets you surf the web without having to hook up to a phone line or cable.

Wi Fi works like a cordless phone. There's a base station with an antenna that carries the two-way radio signal to any laptop within its range.

A base station will cost you about $100 and comes with the software you'll need for your computer.

Many newer laptops come equipped for wireless access. You can adapt older ones with a plug-in card that costs about $50.
Then you're ready to take advantage of a growing number of "hotspots."
"Hotspots are being set up by businesses like Starbucks, McDonalds, in airports, in campuses, in public parks, even in phone booths. Some of them are free, and some of them you have to pay for."
Free or not, Consumer Reports has a Wi Fi caution.

"If you're using Wi Fi in a public place, it's probably not secure and somebody could hack into it using free software they can just download. So you should be careful about not entering private information."

But Andrew says going wireless with Wi Fi still has a lot of benefits — and not just for school work.

View more Consumer Reports stories here.

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