Okay, so now you have your Wi-Fi card in your hot, greedy hands and you're ready to get started with wireless networking today either using a commercial hotspot or your own home network.
Whoa! Wait a minute there. Hold on, pardner! You still gotta add that fine new Wi-Fi card to your laptop, and get its software installed and configured to work nicely with a wireless network.
It's a good thing that there is nothing very difficult about any of this. Let's take it one step at a time.
Connections to Mr. Laptop
You probably know perfectly well what all the connections to your laptop do and what they are for. Just in case you don't, I want to show you some of the common connections on Windows laptop computers.
If you just want to add a Wi-Fi card to your computer, you might want to jump to the next section. But you can add Wi-Fi using a variety of connections (USB and Ethernet), so I thought I should show you the possibilities here.
I know that I like everything to be explicitly named. Wouldn't it be great if all the plugs and sockets on your laptop were labeled with what they were for in plain English? Unfortunately, they are not. I'll show you all the common places to plug or connect something into a laptop, so you can be sure that you are doing the right thing.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. (And, who, may I ask, is "they?") Figures 8.1 through 8.3 identify the common plugs and sockets on a laptop.
Figure 8.1. The laptop power socket and plug.
Figure 8.3. Ethernet socket and cable.
Figure 8.1 shows the plug that goes into the power socket.
In Figure 8.2, you'll see the socket and plug for a USB connection.
Figure 8.2. USB socket and plug.
You'll see the socket for an Ethernet (wired network) connection and a Ethernet cable in Figure 8.3.
Putting the Wi-Fi Card in the Slot
Finally, we get to the socket we've been waiting for. Figure 8.4 shows the bay that a Wi-Fi PC Card slides into. (Note that this bay may be covered by a plastic plate of some kind when it is not in use.)
Figure 8.4. PCMCIA expansion slot where the Wi-Fi card goes.
In the preceding section, I showed you pictures of many of the connector sockets found on a typical laptop. Finally, in Figure 8.4, I showed you the rectangular socket, about two inches long and 1/8 of an inch wide, that you'll use for your Wi-Fi card.
It's probably easier to see with a card fitting into the slot. Figure 8.5 shows a Wi-Fi card fitting into the PCMCIA expansion slot on the laptop.
Figure 8.5. Sliding the Wi-Fi card into the laptop.
There's really nothing to this. After you've identified the expansion slot on your computer, take the Wi-Fi card out of its packaging, and slip it in the slot. It's that simple.
If you want to take the card out, sometimes you just grab the card and pull it out. In other systems, there is a catch button you need to push to release the card.
What happens next depends, to some degree, on what operating system you are running. Just as when you add new hardware to a computer, the process is somewhat simpler and more automated when you run a modern operating system (meaning Apple's OS X or Microsoft Windows XP). But I want to make the very important point that you can use Wi-Fi with almost any laptop. You don't need the latest and greatest equipment, software, or operating system to communicate using Wi-Fi for fun and profit.
If you are running an Apple PowerBook and you plug the proprietary Wi-Fi AirPort Extreme card into its slot (remember, this is not a PC Card but rather something designed specially by Apple for Apple computers), your PowerBook will hiccup and automatically install the right software to make the card work. Note that the machine may need to reboot itself at the end of the installation process.
If you are running Windows XP, a few moments after you place the card in position, a message box will appear above the right side of your Windows taskbar saying that new hardware has been added. The system may then open its installation wizard and prompt you to provide the software CD-ROM provided by the Wi-Fi card's manufacturer (or it may just automatically install the software for the Wi-Fi card without requiring anything further from you).
If you are running an older version of Windows Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT, or Windows 2000 it is likely that you will have to install the software for your new Wi-Fi card yourself. This means putting the CD-ROM provided with the Wi-Fi card in your laptop's disk drive, and then following the instructions provided by the installation program.