RealTime IT News

Ask the Wi-Fi Guru About Wireless Gadgets and Wireless on Old Laptops

Our monthly Q&A series offers advice to those seeking help with home or small business WLANs. This month, the Wi-Fi Guru suggests some wireless holiday goodies, helps someone with an iPod touch, provides some tips on connecting to a Wi-Fi network from an outbuilding, and suggests ways to restore an aging laptop to wireless health.

Would you like to ask the guru a question? Write the editor.

These days it seems like just about mobile device has Wi-Fi built in -- just try to find a laptop, netbook, smart phone or tablet without wireless networking. You can even find Wi-Fi showing up in a wider range of electronics, like gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, and network storage devices. Also, some newer TV's. And a fridge. Wait ... a fridge?

This being holiday time and all, unusual Wi-Fi devices could make a great gift for your geekiest friends and family. How about a Wi-Fi pen? (It detects wireless networks.) Or a Wi-Fi t-shirt (another detector). A Wi-Fi remote control can download device codes. A Wi-Fi picture frame can display photos from Flickr or network storage. The Eye-Fi is a memory card with built-in Wi-Fi, so your camera photos can be downloaded without a USB cable or card reader. With a Wi-Fi radio you can enjoy early morning wake-up calls and stream your favorite Internet radio stations. Let's not forget adding Wi-Fi to your ride. If only Santa's reindeer could go wireless!

How do I make Wi-Fi work on my iPod touch?

Q: I recently purchased a 4th generation iPod touch. I hadn't realized it could only communicate with a desktop computer via Wi-Fi. I have no Internet at home. How can I "Wi-Fi" my desktop so that it can communicate with my iPod touch? -- Tom

A: Although I don't own an iPod touch, my understanding is that this device is basically an iPhone but without a cellular radio. In other words, it runs basically the same platform as the iPhone and can run many of the same apps (except those which use the phone capability), in addition to being an iPod media player.

I am also not sure that the premise here is accurate--the iPod Touch, like the iPod and iPhone--has a USB dock connector. You can plug this into your Mac or PC and then launch iTunes, which will see the device and let you sync media.

Regardless, what if you want to use the the iPod Touch (or any other device) with another computer through Wi-Fi and, like Tom, do not have an Internet connection? You don't actually need an Internet connection to use a wireless router; it's just that most people obtain a wireless router when they get their Internet connection.

Leaving the Internet out of the discussion entirely, a wireless router creates a LAN (Local Area Network) between any devices linked to it, either via Ethernet cable or wireless. So Tom, all you really need is a wireless router -- any basic model will do and you can find one for about $20 these days -- no Internet connection or monthly fees required.

You would plug your desktop computer into one of the router's "LAN" ports using a standard Ethernet cable, and then set up the wireless connection on the router with whatever network name and security settings you want. Setup the iPod touch (or any other wireless device) to connect to the wireless network (with password if using security) and you're done.