I was amazed at how many wi-fi Internet network connections were available at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Genealogy Jamboree. Whenever I opened my computer’s wi-fi connection screen, one or two dozen wi-fi networks were listed. Most of them were closed networks, and attendees were unable to connect to those; but, a number of free and open connections were also on the list.
I brought my wi-fi networking hardware and offered free wi-fi connections to attendees all day long in the exhibit hall. The "EOGN-free-wi-fi" signal was strong in the hall and even provided a useable signal in the "relaxation area" with tables and chairs outside the hall. Anyone with a laptop or a handheld computer with wi-fi capabilities could sit and check e-mail at no charge. Similar free wi-fi networks were also available in the adjacent Marriott hotel's lobby and in restaurants across the street.
The last time I took all my wireless networking hardware to a genealogy conference was at the National Genealogical Society's annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, held a few weeks ago. At that conference, I struggled to maintain a useable connection. The incoming signal from Verizon was weak in the underground exhibit hall in Raleigh. This weekend the hardware worked flawlessly with no extra effort on my part. Signals were very strong in the Burbank exhibit hall.
Several times this weekend I connected to the administrator's menu on my wi-fi network and I always saw five to fifteen open simultaneous connections. That is, five to fifteen people were connected and were all accessing the Internet.
If you attend a major genealogy conference in the future, I'd suggest you take your laptop or handheld computer along. You can check e-mail or surf the web, as needed. You no longer have to be isolated simply because you are at a genealogy conference.
NOTE: The free wi-fi connections I provide at genealogy conferences does not use the conference center's networks at all. I first make a 3G wireless connection to a local cell tower that is within a few miles, using a Verizon “air card” that I will soon be writing about. I then use other hardware to rebroadcast that signal as a local wi-fi connection with a range of 100 feet or so. That typically covers the exhibit hall and often “spills out” in local hallways or adjacent rooms. Anyone with a laptop or handheld computer can connect via wi-fi networking to my hardware and then obtain access to the Internet.
The process is simple and also is very effective IF the local cell tower provides a strong signal. This past weekend in Burbank, California, everything worked perfectly. A few weeks ago, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the exhibit hall was in the basement of the conference center and signals from all the cell phone companies were weak or non-existent. I can never predict in advance how well the wireless connection will work but, if it is online, please feel free to use it to check your e-mail.
I provide the free wi-fi networking for personal use only. I invite you to check your e-mail, read the news “back home” and do similar tasks. Please do not download large files or play any of the video-intensive online games as there isn't all that much bandwidth to be shared. I also ask the vendors to not use the EOGN-free-wi-fi network to demonstrate their products in their booths as that would be a violation of the Verizon user's agreement that I signed.