Free Basic Internet via WiFi

now offers free basic Internet access via 802.11b WiFi to a large segment of Portland. They don't give you NNTP or e-mail, but just plain web access will suit many people perfectly well.

Forex, you can use Google Groups to search the entire history of USENET (sans binary groups), even post to USENET once you establish a free account with Google.

Or, you can download Free Agent, a very useful USENET newsgroup reader/e-mail client, and use that with HotPOP which offers free POP3/SMTP e-mail access, if you're still waiting for your Gmail invite.

A WiFi Cantenna (WiFi primer and antenna review here) on top of a bamboo pole feeding a good* WiFi card could provide basic access for a laptop from many homes and other locations. For field ops with line-of-sight to the KGW tower, this could be very useful.

Also, here's a WiFi HOWTO from Wikipedia, with more here, and more than you ever wanted here.

I will put my card back in my laptop and do some experimenting.

* A 'good' WiFi card is one with an input jack for an external antenna. Most don't have input jacks, and adding an antenna conneciton is non-trivial.

If you already have a card without an antenna jack, you can try using a folded aluminum foil reflector.

If you don't have a WiFi adapter yet, this Kiwi used a USB-connected WiFi adapter and a wok to make a very good antenna/adapter system. USB WiFi adapters are $15-$50 and dead bang simple to install.

For reference WiFi is the trade name for improved 802.11b wireless Ethernet. 802.11g is nicer, and almost all 802.11g adapters will do 802.11b. 802.11a was late to market, shorter range albeit faster, and is not recommended, unless the adapter also does 802.11g & 802.11b. There are even 'Super-G' systems, faster than 802.11g but backwards compatible with b, g and even a. But, for this use, b is Good Enough.