Urban Survival 101: Mobile Computing on the Fringe




About: I left home at 14 and hitchhiked cross country for years, but I turned back, started going to school and became that cool guy I always wanted to be.

On the road with little but a laptop an a video camera, you too can maximize your productivity in the field with focus, dedication and a highly adaptive outlook. Today, we're going to learn how to tap into troublesome, external power outlets with a laptop and how to connect to existing wireless networks nearby. Unless we're overtaken by tusken raiders or something, but that's rare.

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Step 1: Quit Carrying That Laptop! Let the R2 Deal With It.

Yeah, it's a full-sized hand truck and it's all done up like it's something. Hey, with everything strapped on, who's going to steal it? I mean, what are they going to do, run down the street with a loaded handtruck? Besides, it can easily be disguised and it may even deflect bullets! That's why I highly recommend it for both home and the office.

Check out the slideshow:

Pimp My Hand Truck

Step 2: Line It Up

When setting up your laptop outdoors or anywhere you want to be able to hide it, run your cables along the grooves of the walls to limit their visibility. In this case, the electrical outlet is in the next (and less comfortable) booth in this study shelter at a certain, unnamed school.

Step 3: Locked Out!

Oh no! They've locked up the outlets! How is the public supposed to use the power at their own schools? Is there no spirit of good left in this accursed land?

Step 4: Not Really

Good thing I checked. All I had to do was use one of the prongs from my adapter as leverage and lift the lid just like a hot stove.

Step 5: Cover It But Don't Smother It

Cover any obvious cables that you can with a backpack or jacket, but remember, these things get hot. Try to block your adapters without covering them. Give things room to breathe and straighten your cables where you can. And no knots.

Step 6: Blunt Sign!

Either a bantha passed by here, or we have blunt sign the likes of which even Tupac has never see.

Step 7: Pull Inward

Clean, organize and otherwise "tighten up" your station and get to drekklatin'.

Step 8: Find a Network and Pray Like a Mother

"Oh hoary hoast of the wireless nether realms, I call on you to do my bidding! Please. Whenever you're ready."

When you're done with that, click on your wireless network adapter icon on the lower right of your taskbar (the little, single computer) If it's not there or it's "X'd" out, I'm not talking to you. You need to become a professor and get your wireless hardware working before you can fly. Traveling through cyberspace ain't like dusting crops, boy!

So, anyway, click on the computer icon in the bottom right of your screen and walk through the steps along with the pictures below.

Step 9: What to Do?

Check out the trailers for my underground, smash-hit movies!

Then rejoice at the joy you've found.

Step 10: Wait! What If I Can't Find a Signal?

Well, go somewhere else. It's called mobile computing for a reason. Coffeeshops have free wireless cellphone stores have networks coming out of their windows, anywhere they make copies, they run wireless networks, schools, dorms, offices... lots of networks to dig through. Your task is to balance battery usage with strategic productivity, proximity to power and to dance around the migratory patterns of tusken raiders. They move single-file, you know. Covers their tracks.

Step 11: There's One Now!

They must have smelled my water. I gotta go.

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    53 Discussions


    I do it a bit aswell, mainly because they don't use their internet much... It's still not a great idea, a business wont reall notice the difference but a home user will see the difference immediately...

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Of course if you are in the UK then you only have to worry about the Misuse of Computers Act or the Telecommunications act - if you are using it without the explict permission of the owner


    Nice instructable, as an addition to the list both Starbucks and McDonalds now offer free wireless, also if you see a certain sideways 8 symbol chalked on someone's gate that usually indicates an open network, try to avoid using residential networks, they're slower and it's rude... Another quick thing is that there are power adapters on trains, usually by the doors and toilets, these are usually used for cleaning purposes but if you aren't a nuisance a conductor usually wont annoy you... An external or homebuilt antenna can also be a big boon to a wireless laptop user, they make it way easier to find networks, also check that your transmission power is up all the way, it barely affects battery usage but makes a big difference to networking... An extra battery pack is also a great idea, it's just nice to know you have a backup in case of emergency or lack of power, use them alternately to make sure the packs stay good...

    9 replies

    Add Burger King, LeeAnn Chin, Cariboo Coffee and Barnes & Noble Books to the list. Wendy's and Taco Bell might be worth a look too.


    granted it varies buck's to buck's

    Hmm, probably. Maybe it's just in the US? I dunno, I only saw it once, so it could definitely vary. But I don't buy coffee (or anything) from Starbuck's anyway. =P


    The funny thing is I get coffee from starbucks alot and have bought it three times... Pick the moment and the right person, nothing illegal, just good old fashioned being nice... But some of them change the code on a weekly rota, one each day, others generate one and keep it, some do change it about alot...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    i wanna know where do y'all live starbucks down here (Albuquerque NM) t-mobile has a contract with all of the starbucks and its 10 bucks a day, oh well at least the city provides free wifi at the libraries.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    hey a good name, you say your dads a Liar. I mean Lawyer!! so do me a favor, Have him find a law that says you HAVE to pay federal income tax. BECAUSE THERE ISNT! seriously, i put a 50,000$ reward in the newspaper for someone to find that law for me, and not one person ended up calling back.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    So what you're actually showing us how to do is steal (power, wireless service) from whichever municipality or property we happen to be squatting in?

    6 replies

    It's illegal to access someone's wireless network. Federally. Sure, you probably won't get arrested since the chances of the cops actually finding you are slim, but the power is even worse, since the people who own the power socket end up paying. This Instructable is illegal.


    Meh, my dad's a lawyer. It's stealing unless it's specified as a "public access network" If it's "Unprotected" It's illegal.

    lukeyj15A good name

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Well you could compare it to someone's house. If it's unlocked, you can still be arrested for entering. But if it's a public place, a coffee shop for example, you can't...


    Actually its not even illegal to use a secured network. As long as they are not using wpa. At that point to get the password for the network you have to send a signal to the router which is illegal.