I’m still in California visiting my parents, trying to help them get back on their feet after my Mom’s illness. They’re getting up in age and my brother and I are trying to figure out a better living arrangement for them. Man, getting old really sucks.
One of my challenges while out here is that my parents are completely computer illiterate. I bought them a Compaq desktop ages ago, loaded up with Windows 98. It still works, except now it’s only use is for rousing games of Solitaire. I also bought them an Epson inkjet printer, though my Mom determined that the paper feed in the top was better suited to hold her incoming snail mail and magazines. Oh well.
What this means is that they obviously don’t have any Internet connectivity, a serious shortcoming for me. I am trying to look up healthcare provider information and details on senior communities in their area. I’ve long since bailed out on any kind of dial-up service as a backup and I no longer have a phone that can become a data modem for me so I am at the whims of any WiFi I can get my hands on.
While it's possible to use the AirPort icon to find open WiFi points you constantly have to pull down the menu to see them. Then I came across coconutWiFi 2.0, a simple menu bar utility that displays a counter of all the WiFi spots around you.
Though I was able to get WiFi at my brother's home, I couldn't see any at my parents. Equipped with coconutWiFi I wandered around in the backyard of my parents home and quickly found that several folks were kind enough to leave their Linksys routers wide open.
Of course I looked like a complete idiot walking around with a bright white MacBook held up at shoulder height trying to locate a signal, but at least I was able to get a connection! coconutWiFi is not perfect - it can't actually make the connection - for that you have to switch back to the AirPort menu. It does however make finding a network much easier.