TOY BOX: Hotspotter connects with laptop users

I've grown accustomed to seeing people working away on their laptops in airports. (Or are they playing games? I keep wondering which.)

I've grown accustomed to seeing people working away on their laptops in airports. (Or are they playing games? I keep wondering which.)

But it still fascinates me when I see them answering and sending e-mail. They can do that thanks to the growing presence of wireless networks at places ranging from airports to Starbucks. Any laptop equipped for wireless transmission can likely tell you if there's a network nearby, but that often means walking around with your laptop open looking for the best reception spot - a scene akin to the days of people searching for water with a Y-shaped stick. Canary Wireless has come up with a handy device to make it easier to find a useable network. Its Digital Hotspotter is a hand-held little gray box that almost magically finds networks. My daughter and I tried it out in my house. It quickly found my home wireless network and one at a Starbucks about a block away. We next took it in the car and found networks as we drove. Its screen displays network name, signal strength, and whether encryption is enabled. Cool stuff. Any suggestions for gadgets we should try? Send them to toybox@prweek.com
  • John N. Frank writes Toy Box. He is the Chicago-based Midwest bureau chief for PRWeek. Price $49.95 Available at www.canarywireless.com Specs Runs on two AAA batteries, can find 802.11b and 802.11g networks up to 200 feet away; 12-character display

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