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Sharing Hotel's Wi-Fi Without Paying Twice

By Steve Alexander, Star Tribune, MinneapolisMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

June 16, 2010 -Question:  My wife and I travel together with our laptops and like to share an Internet connection if there is a charge for it. I have a small pocket wireless router that works fine when we're in a hotel that uses a wired Internet connection.

But sometimes we stay at a hotel that has a Wi-Fi Internet connection that can only be used if you pay for a user name and a password. Is there any way for the two of us to share this Wi-Fi connection so that we don't have to pay twice for a user name and password?

MARC BURTON, MINNEAPOLIS

Answer:  It's possible, but it may not be practical.

When you use your own wireless router with a wired Internet connection, you are creating a Wi-Fi access point, or hot spot, which has no restrictions on the number of users.

But when you use a pre-existing Wi-Fi hot spot that requires a user name and password, you're limited to one PC per user name/password -- unless you're willing to try a fairly technical solution.

How does it work? It's possible to use one PC to receive the Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcast it to other nearby PCs. But you'll need some technical savvy, an Ethernet cable and a wireless router. For details, see tinyurl.com/ydxtfqa.

An easier solution: Buy a cell phone that can create a Wi-Fi hot spot so nearby PCs can share its cellular Internet connection. Phones that can do this include Sprint's HTC Evo 4G and Verizon's Wireless Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus.

There also are Wi-Fi hot spot devices that allow a cell signal to be shared by Wi-Fi devices; models include the Novatel MiFi 2200 from Verizon Wireless or Sprint and the Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot, from Sprint

These cellular phones and gadgets typically aren't as fast as a wired Internet connection and only work where their cellular networks do. See tinyurl.com/245ll87.

Q When I tried to update iTunes to version 9.1.1, the installation failed after I got a message asking where the Apple Bonjour program was stored, because iTunes couldn't find it. I tried removing and reinstalling iTunes and Bonjour but it didn't help. What can I do?

ANDREW STAAB, ST. PAUL

A Bonjour is used by iTunes and other Apple programs to aid in sharing music, photos and files. The cause of Bonjour problems can range from PC software conflicts to the way you are logged on to Windows. For help, see "Bonjour service failed to start" at tinyurl.com/ntqp82, and "Trouble installing iTunes or QuickTime for Windows" at tinyurl.com/2cylb4h. For additional help, go to Windows Start, click "Help and Support," and type in "How do I log on as an administrator?"

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander @gmail.com, or write to Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488-0002. Include name, city and telephone number.

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