Free WiFi with Your Big Mac
McDonalds has announced the availability of free use of WiFi access at 11,500 of their 14,000 locations in the United States. I didn’t know there was an average of 280 McDonalds in each state, and assuming that Montana and North Dakota have fewer than that average, there are way more in some states.
The McDonald’s website has a handy locater to tell you whether your favorite is Internet equipped before you lug your laptop there, expecting to spend the day at work or play. I found the web page (McDonalds.com/wireless.html), entered my zip code in Big Oak Flat, and found that yes indeed the “local” McDonalds off Mono Way in Sonora is one with free WiFi.
With so many McDonald’s spread across our fair land, one ought to be able to make a road trip and never lack for free WiFi wherever you might be. If, however, you land up in one of those towns whose McDonald’s isn’t WiFi equipped, you’ll want resources to search for other free access.
There are a number of websites that catalogue places you can go for either pay per use or free WiFi when you’re traveling. Let’s begin with JiWire, a directory that covers the world and lists nearly 290,000 hotspots at tinyurl.com/cqsek5. If you’re an iPhone user, you can put JiWire’s lists on your phone with one of their two apps, one of which finds free hotspots, the other pay per use hotspots. Next is Hotspotr, who lists nearly 17,000 hotspots in the U.S. and Canada at HotSpotr.com/wifi.
Another website is WiFiFreeSpot.com which lists sites in Europe and other regions as well as state by state listings and others such as airports with free WiFi. If you’re a Windows laptop user, you can use an application called NetStumbler to detect any nearby WiFi network. Of course, you’d never use it to connect to someone’s network that isn’t locked down, would you?
If you’re a Mac user, you’ll want to get iStumbler on your laptop, so that you too can identify the location of open WiFi networks.
Do remember to turn off file and printer sharing before using a public network. You don’t want to share all your files with everyone out there, now do you?
Mailbag: A reader who identifies himself as “Dave” writes from somewhere “Could you provide some information on the value/lack of value on whether one should turn off their computers when done for the day? What is the downside to leaving them on 24/7? Thanks.”
I’ve heard some pretty good arguments about this question, Dave. One engineer I spoke with waxed eloquent over the wear and tear on any item that is heated up and then cooled down, such as parts in a computer might be when turned on then off. He thought it possible to shorten the life of a computer by turning it on and off every day, given the wear and tear on the components.
Some computers just can’t be turned off and left off for the evening every day. For example, there is one desktop computer at my office that we’ve crammed full of hard drives and it acts as a “filing cabinet” for storing electronic files that for whatever reason we just can’t bear to part with. That file server is hooked into a local area network that all the other computers at the shop hook into as well, either wirelessly or with a network cable.
Each night, all the computers are incrementally backed up to the file server, so that any work saved that day on a work station computer is backed up. Those backups are in turn backed up onto a portable drive that can be carried out of the building in a big hurry if appropriate, for example if it doesn’t quit raining and the creek behind the shop does rise.
You can see that none of the computers can be just shut off and left off at my shop because of the backup procedure. If you’re willing to incorporate a daily backup into the time you’re actually using the computer, you won’t have to leave it on but whatever you’re working on during the backup probably won’t be backed up, so there’s a problem. You’d also need to allow updates for both virus protection and software to load, which often require restarting the computer, while you were working on the computer, which would be a pain.
The only reason I could see to turn a computer off and back on is that it’s not a bad way to keep a computer running more smoothly. I don’t think it’s going to cause all the microscopic solder joints to fail. If that were true, computers would be dropping like flies all around the world.
Yes, if you want to reduce your electric bill some, you can turn your computer off. If you have an older CRT, definitely turn it off when you’re not using it, it’s using about as much power as a 100 watt “old fashioned” light bulb. Newer flat screens use about one quarter as much power; you can save a little by shutting them off as well.
Some point to the expense of having companies’ employees shut their computers down each night and then turn them on each morning. That ten minutes per cycle (I’m estimating here; I really don’t know how long each of you take to go for coffee while this goes on) would cost the company $1,200 in lost time per year per employee making about $20 an hour. The savings in electricity just aren’t going to match that.
You can save money and time on shutdown/startup by putting your computer to sleep, in which mode it will use probably about 10 percent of the power it would while you’re playing Solitaire. This is mostly useful for laptops that aren’t left hooked to networks all the time. And remember if it’s sleeping, it isn’t getting updates, etc.
Questions: Got a technology question? Send it along, and we’ll flog it to death right here.
Email questions to Marv at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marv Dealy founded Throckmorten Enterprises in San Francisco in 1988 and moved the company to Big Oak Flat in 1996. Open Monday through Friday, 9-ish to 5-ish (209- 962-7308). The company provides technical support for a large Silicon Valley company’s webinars, as well as providing professional website design, and computer and network maintenance. The company also publishes the Yosemite Gazette.