Last Updated: 2008-06-27 02:10:45 UTC
by Daniel Wesemann (Version: 2)
Normally, I'm annoyed when I can't get a wireless connection to the Internet. But recently, while riding the commuter train and working on my laptop, I was surprised by a "connected to..." pop up that was immediately followed by a disconnect. Huh? Time for some checking. Turns out the problem was relatively benign. First of all, I had not turned off wireless like I normally do when it is not in use (I really like the mechanical "radio off" switch at the front of my Thinkpad). Secondly, I had recently stayed at an unnamed motel chain whose WLAN access points were using "Super8" as SSID. Even though I'm usually paying attention to this sort of thing, the SSID ended up staying behind as a "preferred network" with automatic connection in my Windows wireless profiles. I doubt that there is a motel of this chain next to the MTA Harlem line, but at least a matching SSID was present, and my PC eagerly latched on to it.
I don't mind automatic connection to a wireless network that uses a WPA key, there I know at least with some certainty what I am connecting to. But automatic connection to an "open" wireless network only because it happens to be called "Super8" or "Linksys" or whatever .... I really think those days should be over, the sooner the better. Goes without saying that the list of "preferred networks" on my laptop is now empty again, or at least devoid of any non-WPA networks.
Update: Fellow ISC handler Raul Siles pointed out that there is a MS patch http://support.microsoft.com/kb/917021 available that apparently is not being pushed via Auto-Update. If you are still on XPSP2, scroll down to where it reads "Changes for nonbroadcast networks" for plenty good reasons why you might want to have this patch. SP3 already includes this.