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Wireless Hacks by Rob Flickenger

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Establishing Connectivity

What to do first when you just can’t get your wireless connection working.

As ethereal as wireless networks seem to be, they work surprisingly well. Once you are within range of a properly configured wireless network, there is usually very little work required on the part of the end user. Typically, you simply open your laptop and it all “just works.”

Except, of course, when it doesn’t. If you are having trouble getting online, it’s time to practice your troubleshooting skills. Here are some simple steps that should help you to quickly pinpoint the source of the trouble.

  • Is your wireless card installed and turned on? Many laptops have the ability to disable the wireless card, either through software or a physical switch. Is your card plugged in (all the way!), is it turned on, and does it have all of the proper drivers installed? This is the troubleshooting equivalent of “is it plugged in,” but is certainly worth checking first.

  • Are you in range of an AP? When in doubt, always check your signal meter. Do you have enough signal strength to talk to the AP? You could simply be out of range. If your client software shows noise levels, check them as well to be sure that you have a high signal-to-noise ratio. It is always possible that a neighbor has just started microwaving a burrito, or maybe they just answered their 2.4 GHz phone.

  • Are you associated with the proper network? This step sounds silly, but is becoming more important to check every day. For example, ...

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