Tales From Wireless Users Anonymous

By Rob Fixmer  |  Posted 2002-03-11

Hi, Im Rob, and Im a wireless junkie.

IT professionals everywhere should be wary of me and my ilk because the biggest problem with wireless is that it cuts the connectivity leash, and like all flavors of liberty, its highly addictive. I know this from firsthand experience, and I also know the numbers of wireless junkies are snowballing.

The first time I linked up with an 802.11b system, at a conference in California, I was hooked. I quickly graduated to an unauthorized access point at the office. The ability to keep my laptop connected to Internet, WAN and LAN whether at my desk or anywhere else on my floor, in a conference room, a lounge, the mens room—wherever—gave me the kind of giddy rush I recall feeling at 16 when I got my drivers license.

OK, so I never actually used my computer in the mens room, but the point is I could have. To anyone with even mild geek tendencies, thats empowerment!

To an IT department, its a security nightmare—fortunately, a relatively small nightmare in my case—since no access point was able to spread a signal beyond the walls of the building. Still, there was always the remote possibility a savvy visitor could run a quick hack, and technology publications do tend to attract savvy visitors.

But security is a relative concept. Within weeks, I had set up an access point at home. A month later, I added a wireless router and second access point, just to be sure there was no single inch of my home or yard inaccessible to 11M bps of unchained connectivity. The router included a respectable firewall, so while the industry was buzzing with concerns about 802.11b security vulnerabilities—and the renegade office system was surreptitiously and permanently unplugged by agents unknown—I was feeling more secure than ever.

And freer than ever—a sensation that only grew when Linksys offered me a chance to evaluate its new wireless print server, a crucial link in the invisible chain of a wireless network. I had tested Bluetooth solutions and liked them, but the sheer speed, distance and flexibility of 802.11b easily trumped Bluetooth. Likewise, while I was impressed with the broadband functionality of Metricoms Ricochet wireless modem, I never believed in the economic viability of the infrastructure behind it—a skepticism reinforced by the collapse of Metricom last year.

The junkie in me salivates at the prospect of my next fix—the even faster and more secure 802.11a technologies that will hit the market this year, coupled with the prospect of wireless broadband services in airports, hotels and conference centers. Give me more! IT pros should be worried. Indeed.

Are you like me? Let me know at rob_fixmer@ziffdavis.com.

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