Monday, July 23, 2007

Wireless Woes

Several times last week I tried to connect to Pittsburgh's free wifi without success. Thinking perhaps it was related to the particular access points I was attempting to connect through (unlikely, but I was running out of good explanations) I pulled my laptop out on the other side of town. Not only could I not get the gateway window to signon, I couldn't even see the wireless AP at all. Kind of sad, I thought, since I could see the antennas on top of the light pole.
I tried again today and couldn't see the half dozen access points that I had seen last week. I began to think something was tragically wrong with my wireless card.

When I got home, I immediately turned on the machine and could not find the AP in my house. I feared my wireless card had gone bad. Thus began the search for answers. I pulled up the System Log and a keyword search found a strange error:

Kill switch must be turned off for wireless networking to work.

Very clearly my cause. Now how to figure out what the Hell a kill switch was and how I had gotten it turned on. I'm pleased to say that it didn't take too long for me to find that the Dell laptop has a wireless antenna symbol on the F2 key. At some point I must have hit the function and this key to kill the wireless. Literally. Fn+F2 turned it back on.

So, what's the kill switch really for? It strikes me as a security feature. If something starts hacking your machine wirelessly, Fn+F2 disabled the wireless and kills the connection. Like yanking the Cat-5 cable out of the port.


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