by Apple

Airport Express
Cost: $129
Tech: Portable wireless router
Roadworthy? Essential for frugal frequent travelers

I’m part of a wandering tribe of technology activists and wonks who spend our lives shuffling from one conference or treaty organization meeting to the next, and
I require connectivity as much as I require food, shelter and
a sink to rinse my socks in.
But after checking into my umpteenth Geneva-or was
it Brussels?-hotel, where
I was expected to spend
more than 50 bucks a day
for Wi-Fi access, I knew there had to be a better way.

Luckily, I’m a social traveler. Whatever hotel, conference center or departure lounge I end up in, I inevitably find others willing to split the cost of the network if I can just get us all hooked in.

That’s why I bought the AirPort Express, Apple’s $129 palm-size 802.11g wireless router. It has ports for streaming audio from iTunes to your home stereo and for networking a printer. It has a universal power-transformer that will take any of the world’s current supplies with the right plug adapter. Setup in Mac OS X or Windows XP is a simple, fire-and-forget, three-click affair. But my favorite feature is the way it can
reduce the cost of those
extortionate wireless networks while at the same time helping me make friends.

Here’s how: I pay for access to a commercial Wi-Fi network, such as the T-Mobile nets in
the world’s Starbuckses. I discreetly plug my AirPort Express into a nearby outlet, connect it to my PowerBook with a retractable Ethernet cable, and enable OS X’s “connection sharing” option (Windows XP offers a similar feature). The AirPort Express takes that
signal and uses it to create another Wi-Fi network-I name it Rogue WLAN-that’s free and open to anyone with a wireless card. The only thing left to do is pass the hat to
my newly connected coffee-shop mates and ask for a buck or two toward the cost. It’s also a great way to secure allies to guard my stuff while I’m off in the never-close-enough restroom, rinsing
my socks.