Connecting Wireless Devices to Networks

It’s hard to believe how widespread the use of wireless devices is these days. In fact, not so long ago (try as few as five years ago), you were pretty limited in options. At the time, your options were basically limited to a Pocket PC or Palm personal digital assistant (PDA). If you we’re in luck, the device may have had Wireless access but likely few places to actually use it.

Fast-forward a few years to the present and, my, has the world changed! First, the former market leaders barely have a seat at the table anymore. Technology moved quickly and combined the best of both products to create a new series of smartphones. Of course, wireless devices aren’t limited to souped-up mobile phones; Apple offers the iTouch, which is basically a smartphone without an actual phone. The current kings are Windows Mobile and Google’s new Android operating systems.

Any device that is Internet-driven offers wireless capability. If it doesn’t, it’s not worth discussing. After all, even printers offer wireless capability these days! Wireless devices offer widespread Wi-Fi connectivity, so that you can connect to your network or a wireless hotspot while at home or on the road. These devices let you truly organize and manage your life, which may be a troubling sign for our future, if you think about it.

In this topic I talk about connecting both a handheld computer and a functioning router to a wireless network. After you’re on the network, you can do just about anything you can on your desktop computer:

♦ Check your e-mail.

♦ Surf the Internet (albeit on a much smaller screen).

♦ Access PC files located on your network. This includes documents, as well as video and music files.

You also can skip the cradle you normally use to synchronize information between your handheld computer and desktop computer. Instead, you can do it over your wireless network.

Want to check your mail but the ballgame is in the ninth inning? No problem, as now you can connect to your network and access your messages (and the scores of other games) while lying on your couch. It’s a rough life, and I feel your pain.

Reaching Out to the Wireless World

Connecting your wireless device to a wireless network is very easy. In fact, the wireless connectivity aspect is so important to wireless devices that it’s been that device makers minimize your role in connecting to a network. For more devices, connecting to the Internet isn’t much different from how you do it with your personal computer.

Here’s how you connect your wireless device to a network:

1. Turn on wireless networking if it’s not already enabled.

This step is different for each device. Some devices may require you to call up a connectivity-related settings page or perform some sort of key manipulation to turn on your wireless connection. For example, in Figure 2-1, an HTC mobile device simply offers a switch-type button.

2. Select an available hotspot that is detected by your wireless device and validate it.

3. Select Internet Explorer or any other Web browser of your choice that is supported and available on your wireless device.

4. Browse to a Web page to confirm your wireless connection is working. That’s all there is to it.

When traveling, your mobile device can connect to a Wi-Fi network as easily as Windows Vista can since Windows Mobile and Vista share similar zero-configuration technology. This makes it simple for them to detect and connect to nearby Wi-Fi networks.

This saves you the hassle of configuring your device every time you’re in range of a wireless network. Of course, as with Windows Vista, once you connect to a wireless network with your wireless device, most devices will remember the security key (WEP/WPA) so that you can quickly recall a frequently used network. If you connect to a new network, you’ll still need to know the security key to connect the first time.

The connectivity option.

Figure 2-1:

The connectivity option.

Using other devices

The first section of this topic was designed for those of you using Windows Mobile devices. However, accessing your network is just as easy, or sometimes even easier, using other platforms.

For example, if you are using an iPhone, simply access the Settings button on the touch screen and select Wi-Fi. From this page, you can opt whether or not to turn it off. When Wi-Fi is enabled and connected to a network, the standard Wi-Fi connection icon appears on the phone. What’s particularly cool about the iPhone is that it always tries to connect to the last connected network. If it can’t find it, it will go through its list of known networks until it finds one that works. Otherwise, you can always select the desired network and enter its password (if necessary).

If you’re using Android, things can be even easier. If you use Android’s Wi-Fi Toggle widget, it’s as simple as clicking a button on the phone’s toolbar. Otherwise, you have to go through the Settings menu, which is accessible from HomeOMenuOSettingsOWireless controls. The Wireless controls page lets you turn on or off your wireless connection.

Manually configuring your network

You can manually configure the wireless network settings if you are using Windows Mobile, which is helpful if the automatic network connection feature is not working or you have some special situation. Here’s how you access the configuration settings:

1. Click the selectivity icon, shown in Figure 2-2, at the top of the screen.

The selectivity icon.

Figure 2-2:

The selectivity icon.

A connectivity window appears, as shown in Figure 2-3.

2. Click Wi-Fi to bring up the wireless network settings.

3. Click Settings.

The Wi-Fi screen appears, as shown in Figure 2-4.

4. Click the name of the wireless network to configure. Enter the network key.

The current strength of your connection is also indicated, as shown in Figure 2-5.

The connectivity window.

Figure 2-3:

The connectivity window.

The Wi-Fi screen displays the list of available networks.

Figure 2-4:

The Wi-Fi screen displays the list of available networks.

You can click Wireless Networks to perform advanced configurations. However, these configurations should only be performed by advanced Windows Mobile and networking users. Most readers of this topic will likely not need to use these configurations.

The strength of your network connection.

Figure 2-5:

The strength of your network connection.

Using Advanced Configuration

If you want to manually add a new wireless network from a Windows Mobile device, you can do so by choosing from the list of wireless networks and selecting Advanced. If you can do this, you are either very patient, have nimble fingers, or surgeon-like accuracy with a stylus.

Go back to of the list of wireless networks, which is accessible from the Wi-Fi settings page. Click Advanced to open the Wireless LAN window, as shown in Figure 2-6.

The Wireless LAN screen.

Figure 2-6:

The Wireless LAN screen.

Select LEAP from the tabs that appear across the bottom of the window, as shown in Figure 2-7. The Wireless LAN window appears, as in Figure 2-8. Then do the following:

Let's add our own wireless network manually in this next procedure.

Figure 2-7:

Let’s add our own wireless network manually in this next procedure.

The Wireless LAN window is your starting point.

Figure 2-8:

The Wireless LAN window is your starting point.

1. Click New.

The Wireless LAN Settings page appears with empty fields.

2. Add a SSID, domain, username, and password as shown in Figure 2-9.

3. Select whether or not the new wireless network should be open (no key) or require authentication.

If you want to encrypt (a good idea), select EAP.

4. Click OK.

If necessary, refer to your device’s manual for troubleshooting tips or contact the manufacturer for help.

Enter a SSID and username at the very least.

Figure 2-9:

Enter a SSID and username at the very least.

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