10 January 2008


Wardriving is the act of driving in a car looking for open wireless network. The "war" part of the word comes from the movie "War Game". Back when the movie was new, personal computers "talked" by calling each other over the modem via phone lines. Supposedly one can dial numbers a whole series of numbers, or wardialing, just to see which numbers end up connecting to a computer. In the movie, some kid somehow hooked up to a Pentagon computer and almost started a war.

I never cared about open wireless networks because I didn't have a mobile device. Sure, my laptop is wireless-capable, but it is still too big to carry around. Now that I have the iPod touch, that all changes.

I practice what is better known as warwalking, since I walk around with my iPod touch instead of driving around. It has been a while since my company blocked out access to web mail accounts like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, so the touch comes in handy, if it can sniffs out any wireless networks. Up until last week, on days that I work in the office, I would walk over to the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system to use the free service. I already go to that library almost every week to borrow Shonen Jump magazines anyway so it's not a big deal. However, recently I stumbled upon the MetroTech Public WiFi service, available in the grove of trees known as The Commons, at the center of the MetroTech complex, between buildings #2 and #5 (which is part of Polytechnic University). Nice!

One thing I've discovered in my warwalking experience is that most people have their networks locked. Either people are now more tech-savvy or the default settings on the wireless access points come better protected. In my own neighborhood, I did stumble across a few open networks. Even in my own home, in certain parts of the house by default the device, either the iPod touch or the PowerBook, sometimes automatically connects to one of the neighbors' unrestricted wireless network. The signal is weak and after a minute or two I would notice how slow the web browser is and would switch back to my own network. Whether my neighbor is ignorant of the technology or is a nice person who shares out his 'Net access I wouldn't know.

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