A long time ago in a college campus not far from here, I sat and built out a notebook computer that I wanted on Dell’s website. As I went down the list of options, I picked most of the standard options until I got to one that stumped me, the network card.

I had a choice between an ethernet/modem combo card (which I later went with) and a wireless card. In that day, notebook computers often had only one mini-PCI slot for interfaces as wireless LANs weren’t nearly as widespread in 2002 as they are today in 2010. I picked the combo card because I didn’t have a WLAN at home at that point, nor did I come across too many until a while later. I also knew that I could use the PC Card slot for a wireless card without adding too much bulk to the machine.

So in April 2002, I decided to go for wifi at the house and picked up a Linksys WAP11 and an ORiNOCO Silver card for my laptop. While I still was unable to locate wireless at school, I was wireless at the house, and soon afterwards we set up a WLAN on 56k at work. While the work WLAN was ludicrously slow thanks to 56k’s lack of speed, it worked. But, I still didn’t have access at all places I hung around as the school still didn’t have wireless.

The biggest boon to my connectedness was porting my cell number to T-Mobile from Sprint in early 2004. Moving to a GSM network enabled me to use GPRS, later EDGE, and even later HSDPA, via Bluetooth tethering. While this was significantly slower than my home connection, it allowed me to have access wherever I went. As I got better and better phones, I started leaving the laptop behind as regular phones became more and more “smart.” Furthermore, I started seeing fewer and fewer reasons to bring the laptop along as I had gotten most of my personal projects done and was done with classes.

Today in 2010, however, society in general is almost too connected. I and many other people carry Blackberries, the iPhone is probably the best selling phone of all time, Windows Mobile still has a strong market, and the Droid and other Android-based devices are gaining market share rapidly. Additionally, many people who have the aforementioned smartphones also carry aircards with them so they can use the phone at the same time as their laptops.

All of this has lead to more random research on my part. While I mentioned before that OpenBSD doesn’t have good support for my aircard, the Huawei UMG181, I have discovered that FreeBSD indeed does have support for it in 8-STABLE. The u3g driver has its device ID in the source, so I will very likely load that up on my netbook and build that module from recent source. While I appreciate Linux’s merits and can be made to stand Windows, all in all, I tend to prefer the BSDs (which I’d include Mac OS X in, heh).

In closing, while the proliferation of wireless connections, either WiFi or 3G cellular has created an “always on” society and enabled people to remove the tether from their desk and go out of the office to work, by and large, the old traditional wired network is the best option whenever possible. Reason being that you can have higher throughput, potentially gigabit or faster, and better security as the data is transmitted on a wire instead of “free to air.” For this reason, I still run wired ethernet to my desktop at home. I guess I’ll never get over this prejudice against wireless for something that’s not a laptop, but it will eventually necessitate itself I think.

I still need to find more excuses to use my aircard though. But that’s a subject for another post.