Hotspots have revolutionised the way we work and play. Instead of flicking through yesterday's newspaper at your local coffee shop, you can now exchange e-mails with your friends, surf your favourite websites or even get on with some work. A hotspot is simply a public Wi-Fi network that you can log on to using a Wi-Fi compatible device. Hotspots give convenient, high speed access to the internet at very reasonable hourly rates - or sometimes even for free.
Here's a step-by-step guide to logging on:
Go wireless. You won't get far at a hotspot without a portable computer. Take a look at our wireless laptop buyers guide.
Where's that hotspot? There are thousands of hotspots in the country (and tens of thousands globally) but it's best to have an idea where to go before you leave the house. Try this Hotspot Locator to pinpoint the closest ones to you. It even tells you which hotspots are free and which incur a charge.
Tuning in! When you think you might be in a hotspot, turn on your notebook. Your computer may automatically notify you that you're in a Wi-Fi zone or you can look in the Taskbar in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen for a connection icon.
Launch pad Now launch your internet browser. It should go straight to the hotspot's own sign-in page. For free sites, you often have to enter your e-mail address to get access to the internet. For paying sites, you'll normally have to input a password. You might get this from someone behind the counter at a coffee shop or bar, on-line with a credit card, or even using a pre-pay system like a phonecard. Write down the details in case you get cut off.
That's it! Now you're connected and should be able to browse the web as usual. Don't forget to turn on your firewall or security software for maximum protection. As per usual, system performance, battery life, wireless performance and functionality will vary depending on your specific operating system, hardware and software configurations.
Find out about Hotspot Security here.