Internet on laptop help!

  Verchi 21:45 20 Aug 2006

I am just about to buy a Sony Vaio FS515H, to use for the internet. I need a real dummy's guide on how I do this, please!!! Can someone explain how internet on a laptop actually works? How will the internet know my house is not a hot spot? Do you get places where the reception is bad? I don't know yet what phone lines/other computers there'll be as I am looking for a new house. Is there anything particular that I need to consider or buy or look for or avoid?

  ade.h 22:27 20 Aug 2006

"How will the internet know my house is not a hot spot?"

Um, well, that's one of the more unusual questions that I have seen in a while!

Sorry, it sounds like I had better start from the top:

Having a laptop PC is no different to having a desktop PC, apart from finding it easier to carry around! You will achieve access to the internet in exactly the same ways that everyone uses with desktops. These are:

1) Plugging a modem cable from a phone socket to the modem socket (RJ11) on a desktop or laptop PC, then signing up to a dial-up ISP (Internet Service Provider)

2) Using an ADSL or Cable broadband modem (normally external with a desktop; always external with a laptop) to access a Cable or ADSL broadband ISP, paid for on a monthly basis. This is connected in basically the same way.

3) Replacing number 2 with a modem/router (ADSL) or router (Cable) to provide internet access - optionally via wireless signal - to more than one PC.

That's the basic stuff; there is way more beyond that which you will need to know/learn.

  Verchi 10:54 21 Aug 2006

Thank you ade - yep as you've rightly guessed, I know absolutely nothing about this stuff!

I am planning to get broadband, and will just be using it myself, so I need option 2, right? But I also want the wireless option for when I am out of the house, so do I need option 3 as well? What is the difference between cable and ADSL, do you recommend one over the other?

Thank you for your help!

  ade.h 11:12 21 Aug 2006

Okay, right: Option 2 is certainly an, er, option! But is not really practical for laptop owners as it defeats the object to a large degree. Being tied to a desk/table near to the phone line would not be very flexible.

Option 3 is what one would normally use with laptops in the home, but I must dissappoint you about the range; it is for indoor use and - with careful placement - use in the garden. Nothing more.

I would always recommend ADSL over Cable services without hesitation; I would not wish to be tied to the Telewest/NTL group for my phone line and internet provision when ADSL has a wide open market. Please click here and use it to choose your supplier very carefully. Then click here and read my (work-in-progress) guide to networking, which may help you. It is best to go into this with eyes wide open.

  Verchi 15:07 21 Aug 2006

Ah, ok, thank you! I just started looking at internet deals, I rang tiscali about their 8mb broadband package, they said that using it on a laptop is ok and that they provide all the equipment, but to use it outside the house I needed a wireless connection. But, is that as well as this package or instead of??

I've also read about wireless adaptors, do I need one of those too? Do I need a wireless connection or can I just go to a hot spot and pay for it there? With a wireless connection can I still use it in the house or only outside!!?

I'm starting to get a bit frustrated with myself now, because I am researching hard into this but just get more and more confused, my stupidity is getting annoying, haha, I really do need help with the basics!

  ade.h 15:53 21 Aug 2006


Firstly, take anything that you hear from a major ISP with a small does of reality - a case in point is AOL's ad campaign that says:

"Now you can have wireless broadband for the same price as ordinary broadband."

This is confusing to newbies and utter twaddle; what it actually means is that AOL will throw in a cheap wireless router in lieu of a modem for no extra cost.

To recover what I said earlier, a wireless router simply allows you to connect to your Local Area Network and to the internet itself from the comfort of your armchair or - if you have placed the router well - while sunning yourself on the patio.

You won't be using your LAN while visiting someone up the street nor while slurping a latte in Starbucks! Speaking of Starbucks, most such establishments provide secure hotpsots (just another router, but it belongs to them) for their paying customers. I have always been bemused by the encouragement to mix laptops with lattes, but that's another story!

You'll also find hotspots around in leisure centres, gyms, hotels, colleges and so on. Strangely, there isn't one in the middle of Dartmoor though - remiss, I think! ;-)

Wireless adapters are unnecessary unless you have:
a) a desktop PC that is not close to the router
b) an old laptop you're fine with your new Vaio.

Do take the time to read that first link that I gave you. The second one - my own site - is just work in progress and may be pitched slgihtly above where you are right now, but it will come into its own very shortly.

Before you even think about actually buying a router, please read my sections on router setup and hardware advice, or ask for my suggestions in this thread.

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