Recipe 14.10. Connecting to a Hotspot
You want to connect to a public hotspot, such as one run by T-Mobile or Boingo.
Connecting to a hotspot is often a two-step process. First you need to make a connection to the wireless network, and then, in some instances, you need to enter login information. For-pay hotspots such as T-Mobile require you to log in, but at many free hotspots, you won't need to log in.
To make the wireless connection, turn on your PC; it will search for any nearby hotspots and connect to the strongest one. When it makes the connection, you'll see the familiar wireless connection icon in the Notification Area.
However, you won't automatically connect to the hotspot in all instances. Sometimes, XP may not find the connection, or it may attempt to connect to a hotspot that you've previously visited. If you can't make the connection, click the wireless icon, and then click View Wireless Networks. If you see the hotspot on the screen that appears, as shown in Figure 14-12, highlight it and click Connect. If you don't see the hotspot, click Refresh Network list, and it will search for any nearby hotspots.
In some instances, the hotspot may have turned off SSID broadcast. In that case, you'll have to ask at the hotspot for the SSID and use that information to connect.
Figure 14-12. The first step in connecting to a hotspot
If you're visiting a free hotspot, you may not need to do anything else; you'll be connected. But even some free hotspots require login information; if so, get it from the hotspot owner. If you're visiting a for-pay hotspot, or a free one that requires that you log in, launch your web browser. You'll see a login screen. The one pictured in Figure 14-13 is typical. If it's the first time you've logged in, you'll have to enter payment information, and get a user name and password, so click on the applicable link. If you're previously logged in to the hotspot, use your existing user name and password. Once you do that, you'll be able to use the hotspot.
Figure 14-13. The login screen of a for-pay hotspot
Hotspots are becoming nearly ubiquitous, with wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) like T-Mobile providing thousands of hotspots across the country. Any major metropolitan area typically has dozens or more hotspots.
For-pay hotspots are typically available on a per- hour , per-day, and per-month basis. In some cases, you can get them at a reduced rate, if you use other services from the WISP. For example, if you're a T-Mobile phone subscriber, you'll be able to sign up for monthly hotspot access at a reduced rate.
Free hotspots have been springing up as well, with some metropolitan areas building entire hotspot zones, where you can connect for free anywhere within a several-block area. In fact, in some areas, you have a choice of connecting to several different hotspots from a single location.
If you're planning on accessing hotspots when you travel, it's a good idea to search for them ahead of time. Several web sites let you do this, including http://www.wi-fihotspotlist.com, http://www.wifinder.com, http://www.wifimaps.com, or http://www.jiwire.com. They'll help you find free as well as for-pay hotspots. If you're looking for only free hotspots, head to http://www.wififreespot.com.
Recipe 14.11. Sending Email from a Hotspot
You want to send email while you're connected to a hotspot, but whenever you try to send email, it's rejected by your SMTP server, so the messages can't get sent.
Your mail gets rejected because some ISPs won't let you send email using their SMTP servers unless you're on their network. When you're using a hotspot, you're not on their network, so they refuse to let you send mail. ISPs do this as a way to combat spam: Spammers commonly try to use ISPs other than their own to send spam.
Large, for-pay hotspot providers have their own SMTP servers you can use to send mail. So when you're at a hotspot, change your email account settings to use their SMTP servers to send mail. You'll still be able to use your normal POP3 or IMAP servers to receive mail.
SMTP server settings for the major hotspot providers are:
You can also pay to use an SMTP relay service so that you'll be able to send mail from any hotspot, even if the hotspot provider doesn't have an SMTP server. The site http://www.smtp.com charges .99 per year for its service, unless you send more than 50 emails a day using it, in which case the price goes up, according to how many you send. And the site http://www.authsmtp.com lets you send up to 1,000 emails a month, for a fee of a year. If you send more email than that, you can pay for higher-priced, and higher-volume, plans.
To take advantage of the SMTP services, you'll need to configure your email software to use the hotspot's SMTP server. To do it in Outlook 2003:
Figure 14-14. Configuring Outlook to use a hotspot SMTP server
To do it in Outlook Express:
The spam scourge has gotten so bad that most ISPs don't allow you to send mail using their SMTP server unless you're connected to their network. That means that frequently, you won't be able to use your ISP's SMTP server when you're at a hotspot.
If you have email provided by a web site provider, rather than an ISP, you may run into similar problems. For example, if you own your own domain, or have a web site, you may have the web site provider handle your email as well. Some of these providers will not let you send mail unless you've recently used their POP3 servers to receive mail. The idea behind this is that if you're receiving mail, you're not an outside spammer. But as a practical matter, this service doesn't always work -one of the authors of this book frequently cannot send mail from a hotspot using his normal SMTP server, so he has to use either the hotspot's SMTP server or a for-pay SMTP service.
Another solution to the problem is to check whether your mail provider has web-based access to email. In that case, you'll be able to send email from the web interface, but you won't be able to use your email client to do it.