Need help with Internet access with a laptop.
February 18, 2008 2:48 PM   Subscribe

I have a couple of questions about accessing the internet when travelling with a laptop for the first time.

Questions about travelling with a laptop which I've been given for work:

1) I assume wi-fi is available in most airports? I also assume it is not free. (Feel free to correct my assumptions!) How much will I typically pay for internet access? How does it work? Have laptop search for available networks, select one, follow the instructions, feed in credit card number? I assume this is relatively safe?

(I'll be in Toronto Pearson, Heathrow, Dhaka, various airports in India.)

2) In Bangladesh and India, if I don't get internet where I'm staying, can I take the laptop to an internet cafe and connect, or is it necessary to use their PCs? I'll have a power adaptor and network cable with me. Any security concerns? I've read about various means to thwart keyloggers if I'm using cafe computers, but enough to know that they're not perfect. What about if I'm using my own laptop ... any network concerns?

Any other advice? (Dell laptop running XP)
posted by valleys to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here's a listing of airports, whether or not they offer Wifi, and how much it would cost:

It's mainly US-orientated, but it should help.

Regarding Internet cafes, presumably, what you can hook up would depend on the cafe's policies. I would prefer to hook up my own machine rather than rely on the ones they have, mainly because I trust my own machine more than I trust theirs.

You should be running some sort of personal firewall on the laptop, and your network connections should be SSL for anything that might matter.
posted by chengjih at 3:03 PM on February 18, 2008

Best answer: As to security at hotspots, paranoia probably pays and there are several things to consider, assuming you're using Windows:
1. Use the Firefox browser which is generally considered more secure than Internet Explorer.
2. Use the Firefox add-on NoScript, available from the Mozilla Firefox add-on site:
3. Set your Windows Explorer folders to private. To do this search for "sharing" on your computer's Help and Support section accessed thru the start menu.
4. Run your computer under a limited user account rather than an administrator account, which keeps "drive by downloads" from being installed on your computer. Do this by searching the Help and Support section for "To add a new user to the computer" A second option is to use the program Drop My Rights, recommended by the Washington Post's security reporter.
5. Use an "virtual private network" or VPN which will encrypt your communications between your computer and the VPN company servers, skipping past hotspot lizards with sniffer software. The VPN I use is from and costs ~25 bucks per year. It works pretty transparently (which could mean it's working very well or not at all!) It also includes a list of free and pay wifi outlets around the world, but I find it to be accurate about only 75% of the time. is another choice.

Here is some guidance on picking your subscription VPN from an earlier Metafilter post.

Hopefully I've covered the bases for you and erred on the side of going overboard. If you keep sensitive data on your computer, and you're worried about your laptop being stolen, note that Truecrypt can now do boot partition encryption.

I'd write more but I'm late for a meeting in Dale Gribble's basement.
posted by bbranden1 at 4:02 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

At Heathrow, I believe I paid 5 pounds for 1 hour. I just made sure I didn't get on my banking website.
posted by albolin at 10:07 PM on February 18, 2008

Pop in to your local mobile/cell phone shop and ask about the availability of mobile broadband where you live. This would involve getting a sim card fitted modem which sticks in your USB port and allows you to connect via 3G and 2G networks. You shouldn't need a phone or phone contract. Don't expect the speeds they promise, but can still be usable.
posted by biffa at 3:13 AM on February 19, 2008

Response by poster: bbranden1 - thanks so much for the info. I do use Firefox and had made folders private. It had not occurred to me to use a limited user account. I will do so. I'll also look into VPNs. There's nothing sensitive on the laptop at all so no need to worry there.
posted by valleys at 5:09 AM on February 19, 2008

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