Accessing Wi-Fi

Accessing a Wi-Fi hotspot with your handheld is pretty much like accessing a Wi-Fi hotspot with a laptop (which was explained in Chapter 3). You'll need to supply a network identification, or SSID. If you don't know this in advance, your Wi-Fi software will scan for available Wi-Fi broadcasts. The details of each device's Wi-Fi software may be slightly different, but for the most part, to connect, all you need to do is activate the Wi-Fi software, generally by clicking on it, and following directions. Some Wi-Fi networks do also require an encryption code for access, as I'll explain in more detail in Part V, "Securing Your Wi-Fi Computer and Network."

It's worth saying that using Wi-Fi to access the Internet with a handheld device is not for everyone. Sure, we've all seen people using a handheld to type email at 100 words a minute, and surfing the Web with aplomb using the most miniature of Web browsing screens. But if you are like me (I sometimes think I must have all ten thumbs), I really prefer to work with a larger keyboard. (Even laptop keyboards are often awkward for me to use!) I also like to see Web sites in a large size.

Sometimes, particularly when I'm traveling, this is just not possible, and I'm glad to have any kind of device that I can use to connect. The tradeoff is that a handheld is small enough that carrying it with you is no big deal, whereas if you had to lug a bigger computer, you might not have it along when you want it.

This comes down to a personal choice. How do you like to work? Some people are probably naturally handheld people, and others are just not.

The Absolute Minimum

Here are the key points to remember from this chapter:

  • Handheld computers can do many things, but they are not a substitute for laptop or desktop computers.

  • Personal organization is what handhelds do best.

  • Handhelds come in two principal flavors: Pocket PCs running a Windows mobile operating system and Palm PDAs, running a Palm operating system. Which you prefer is very much a matter of personal taste.

  • It's best to buy a handheld with integrated Wi-Fi if you plan to use Wi-Fi, but in some cases you can connect by adding a Wi-Fi Compact Flash card to the handheld's Compact Flash expansion slot.

  • Connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot with a handheld is pretty much like connecting to Wi-Fi with a laptop.