I recently got a new laptop, with built-in Wifi (or should it be Wi-Fi?) This is the first time I've had a laptop with Wifi capability - actually it's the first time I've every used anything with Wifi.
As a Wifi newbie - it occurred to me that it might be worth me taking note of my experiences as I try to find places to connect in the West End of Glasgow. I live in the Hillhead - so I've only been around the Byres road and Gibson street areas so far. However, as I build up my list of Wifi hotspots this page might become a useful resource for other travelers
Glasgow West End Wifi hotspots
Click postcode for map location
131 Byres Road
499 Great Western Road
De Courcy's Arcade
215 Byres Road Hillhead Glasgow G12 8UD
59 Dumbarton Road
Hilton Hotel - Glasgow Grosvenor
1-10 Grosvenor Terace Great Western Road
508 Great Western Road
iCafe Internet Cafe
15 Gibson Street
Movie World Cafe
223 Great Western Road
3-5 Gibson Street
One Devonshire Gardens
1 Devonshire Gardens
124 Byres Rd
191 Byres Road
189 Byres Road Hillhead Glasgow G12 8TR
205 Hyndland Rd
One thing that I will mention in due course is the serious issue of security related to using a computer over a Wifi connection - something I wasn't full aware off the first time I connected to the web via my laptop. I'll get to that shortly - first a little about my experiences of getting on line and where I've found Wifi hotspots so far.
Beanscene in Cresswell lane was the first place I ventured into in search of surfing without wires. As I stood in the queue waiting to order my decaf Cappuccino - I noted the cards advertising Wifi connectivity dotted around the cafe - but I didn't have a clue what the procedure was going to be to get to use it.
It's 2006 and I've been working as a Web developer/designer since 1996 - and Wifi is not a new technology - so it probably seems a bit strange that I'm confessing to being a Wifi newbie. Anyway I asked my friendly Barista how to use their Wifi. I was told just to open a web browser - and I'll be asked to sign up for an account. It was that easy. The sign up process required me to use my credit card and account details - I can't remember how much it was - I think it was - £2.99 for an hour. The connection speed was fairly zippy, and it all felt suitably novel for someone who's been surfing the web for over a decade.
( Note: Unfortunately the next time I visited Beanscene things didn't go so well. I managed to connect, but then the connection was dropped and when I tried to login again it told me my account name and password was invalid. Given that I was copying the details from the web page text they sent me when I signed up, this didn't seem like a good explanation - and because I haven't yet got round to setting up my laptop to collect email, I couldn't use the forgotten password facility. That was the end of my surfing session in Beanscene for that day.)
Next up on my travels was Offshore in Gibson Street. The great advantage of taking the walk around to Offshore is that their Wifi is free. Apart from the free Wifi - the other advantage is the great atmosphere - it is noisy with lots of students and loud music - but I find the noise suits me - I can work better when there is music and chatter. The staff are friendly - they responded to my questions about how to get online without making me feel as if I must be daft. It was extremely easy to connect. I literally opened my laptop lid a dialog box appeared asking me if I wanted to connect to Offshore 2? I said yes and that was me surfing.
The downside is that on a couple of occasions the connection speed was a bit slow - with things grinding to a halt at one point.
Tinderbox was my next port of call. I asked about connecting because I wasn't sure if they actually had wifi as a service, the staff member didn't seem sure either, he thought they had wifi and thought it was - £3 for an hour. It turns out to be £5 for one hour. That seems very expensive to me. A bit too expensive in fact - so the first time I visited I decided to skip the surfing and start writing this article instead.
Initially when I connected to the web using my new laptop security wasn't something that was in the forefront of my mind - I was ignorant of the dangers and just excited by the magic of surfing without being connected to a physical network. However I'll never be so cavalier again - since I've now read a few online articles about the dangers or insecure Wifi surfing.
The bottom line is that unless the connection being provided explicitly advertises itself as being secure - assume that anything you type in a browser form or anything you upload to a server is as good as public knowledge. Any passwords you use to connect to your email, login to a website or upload a file to a server can easily be picked up by anyone sitting in the immediate vicinity - if they have the suitable software (which is easy to obtain).
It was looking like my un-tethered surfing career was going to be over before it began - as the principle reason I got the laptop was so I could work outwith my office. Work to me always involves connecting to servers and downloading and uploading files.
The first few articles I read mentioned that that I should be setting up my own Virtual Private Network in my office, connecting to that network securely from my computer - and then surfing the web via the office web connection. That all sounded beyond my technical capabilities so at that point things were not looking good. I then came across a website called hotspotvpn.com offering a secure surfing experience - for 8$ a month (yes it was an American website).
At first I couldn't figure out exactly how it worked or what I needed to do - as the information on the site was a bit cryptic. But I found other websites that referred to the service describing exactly what it was they offered. Basically all I needed to do was register - pay a yearly subscription and type in an account name and password into the existing 'VPN client' on my laptop. I signed up, and tried connecting the next time I visited Offshore - and hey presto - I had a secure connection. My wifi career was saved.
My recent visits include:
Booly Mardys. I can't complain about Booly Mardys Wifi - easy to get started, fast and free. Thanks to Stephan Garber who mentioned it in his comment below - alerting me to this surfing opportunity.
Hillhead Library on Byres Road. I joined the Library - which meant I could surf via the libraries wifi for free - for an hour at a time. After registering it was easy to get started. About two thirds of the time I've used it it has been reasonably fast, the other third, unusably slow.
The City Inn - which was free, fast and easy to connect (City Inn Glasgow Finnieston Quay Glasgow G3 8HN).
Oran Mor - uses the myCloud network (4.99 per hour) which is the same as Beanscene, but I was unable to connect as the browser timed out twice while I was trying to register for the service. (Top of Byres Road, Glasgow G12 8QX).
Starbucks Byres Road- easy to connect felt fast and stable - another one that involves use of your credit card. From memory - I think it was about £5 per hour (Starbucks Coffee Co (UK) Ltd - 252 Byres Rd, Glasgow, G12 8SH).
Tinderbox Cafe on Byres Road - I signed up and go online, but it was very slow and kept grinding to a halt. Useless on the day, but maybe I was just unlucky. £5 for an hour - not a well spent fiver.
Also - Fotobareesta - Woodlands Road. Nice home baking and coffee also range of digital photo services.
Do you know about a local Wifi hotspot I've missed? Add it as a comment below. Or add information about your own West End Wifi experiences.
More information about HotSpotVPN, for secure surfing.