Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tech Column: Know Before You Fly, Is There Wifi?

Satellite phone pay phone in Antarctica:
The world's most remote pay phone.
by Bill Adler

There are some people who like unplug from the world every now and then, leave the Internet behind, kick off their shoes and become unburdened by text messages, emails and Facebook updates.

But there aren't very many of those people in Washington, DC. For the rest of us, I offer a new, free service this week: HasWifi, which tells you whether or not the flight you're going to be on has wifi.

Now when you check to see if the hotel you're staying at has wifi (amazing that some don't and annoying that some hotels still make you pay for an Internet connection), you can also check to see if you're going to spend your flight just watching the moving map, or watching the moving map and texting your friends, "I'm over Iceland now" and "I'll be passing by Paris in about 10 minutes."

Oh, and yes, you can text without a cellular connection. Google Voice lets you send free text messages to anyone in the USA or Canada from a web browser or stand-alone smartphone app.

In a previous tech column I wrote about where to find free wifi in the District of Columbia. Wifi has a long way to go before it's ubiquitous, but every day more and more places --both private and public-- offer free connections. Even Amtrak now has free wifi on its Acela trains, and, surprisingly, it works well.

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