This week I tried a nifty new gadget from Netgear — the Wireless Travel Router WGR101. It's an 802.11g wireless router that's about the size of an iPod; add it to the power adapter and ethernet cable inside a slim black case, and the whole package comes to about the size of 2 iPods side by side. The idea is you can slip it in your bag and easily create instant wireless networks wherever you go — at client meetings when you discover you need to call up files or presentations from your own server, in hotel rooms in order to make working more comfortable, even at friends' or family's homes when you're visiting.
The catch is this: most of these networks are password-protected and it's more complicated than you'd think to actually get set up. If you're in a hotel, logging in is easy, just agree to pay for access with a charge to your room and you're all set. But this week, for example, I tried plugging the WGR101 into my sister's DSL connection so that I could send files that were on my own laptop. Her DSL account requires a password and she wasn't around, so I couldn't connect using the router and it was useless to me.
You'll find the same problem trying to create ad hoc networks in any company worth its salt — they should all have secured networks that will prompt you for a password before allowing the wireless connection to be established. It'll waste more time to try and call the IT folks to come and set you up, and your meeting time will be over before it's done.
The WGR101 is still a cool gadget, though for perhaps a different purpose than its makers intended: use it to replace your current wireless box, especially if you're still using a slower 802.11b router. It's easily one-quarter of the size of my current Linksys box, so why not get rid of some extra clutter and save space? Priced at $99.99 (you can find it for $70 if you hunt online), it's definitely worth the switch.