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  1. #1
    Star Lounger
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    Wi-Fi "gatekeepers"

    Public wifi hotspots (airports, hotels, etc.) often use "gatekeeper" sites to regulate access. They're supposed to redirect you to a page for liability waivers or similar. But they often don't work worth a darn. When I connect to wifi at my local airport, I have a good strong wifi signal. But generally the wifi acts like there's no network connection -- I can't connect to anything. Sometimes it will figure out it's supposed to do the redirection, but the redirect page doesn't work either. Eventually (sometimes after 10-15 minutes of trying, sometimes after disconnecting/reconnecting several times, I'm not sure what finally fixes it) it will start working, and from that point it works fine.

    Is there anything I can do to my laptop to make this connection process smoother? Or are these "gatekeepers" just flaky and difficult to work with by nature? My phone seems to have less trouble connecting so I'm suspecting something in my laptop.

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  3. #2
    3 Star Lounger
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    In public hot spots, traffic maybe congested.
    The 'gatekeeper' may allow a set-limit number of log on users. Once it is full, no more entry. (Think of a full parking lot). From time to time, user(s) log out. It is your turn, next in line. So magically, you're in.

  4. #3
    Star Lounger
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    I could believe that if it happened sporadically. But it happens nearly every time I connect at almost every airport and every hotel.

  5. #4
    Super Moderator jwitalka's Avatar
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    I don't have an answer to your problem but I can sympathize. I stayed in a Hilton hotel last week and had a devil of a time getting the "gatekeeper" web page to show to get WIFI access for my Ipad. Had to close and open a secondary browser to get the page to display. Hilton had three levels of WIFI support - loyalty users (Hhonors), paid users, and ordinary registered guests like me that get a lower performance connection but is still usable.

    Jerry

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  7. #5
    Gold Lounger
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    Those systems are generally called "captive portal" and opening your browser and attempting to access any web page should direct you to the local connection page. Sometimes it takes a couple of attempts to connect because your browser is using its cache, but using a web page you don't usually go to should result in immediate connection, e.g. http://123.com

    cheers, Paul

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  9. #6
    New Lounger
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    I have found that these gatekeepers seem to work better with certain browsers. So I open my rarely used IE to get to the gatekeeper. After that has affirmed I'm a nice guy, I load Firefox and go where I wanted to go. I just leave the IE window open and minimized. I can use FF to get to a VPN, etc. Apparently the gatekeeper logs your IP assignment. Sadly, I've found that after a few hours, the hotel requires re-authentication so I refresh the IE window and re-affirm my nice guy status.

  10. #7
    New Lounger
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    Lightbulb SiFi Gatekeepers are definitely flaky

    Quote Originally Posted by garyfritz View Post
    Public WiFi hot-spots (airports, hotels, etc.) often use "gatekeeper" sites to regulate access. They're supposed to redirect you to a page for liability waivers or similar. But they often don't work worth a darn. When I connect to WiFi at my local airport, I have a good strong WiFi signal. But generally the WiFi acts like there's no network connection -- I can't connect to anything. Sometimes it will figure out it's supposed to do the redirection, but the redirect page doesn't work either. Eventually (sometimes after 10-15 minutes of trying, sometimes after disconnecting/reconnecting several times, I'm not sure what finally fixes it) it will start working, and from that point it works fine.

    Is there anything I can do to my laptop to make this connection process smoother? Or are these "gatekeepers" just flaky and difficult to work with by nature? My phone seems to have less trouble connecting so I'm suspecting something in my laptop.
    There are a number of obstacles that a WiFi gatekeeper must overcome and these may not work the same way on every device. Typically, your home page or first page requested will be diverted to the obligatory waiver, etc. Depending on the browser you are using and how that browser's security is configured, diverting may not be possible. After all, diverting you to a page you didn't ask for is exactly the kind of behavior that browser security is trying to stop. As a programmer, I would judge this to be a tough problem to overcome because you would have to anticipate many different browsers and configurations.

    That said, many of the WiFi gatekeepers are not well maintained. The owner of the venue probably thinks of public WiFi as a nice thing to offer but not the end of the world if it is not working for some guests. Maintaining a gatekeeper is also expensive because the configurations that the software has to deal with changes on a daily basis. How many times have you upgraded to a new version of your favorite browser only to find that websites that worked fine on the old version are not happy with the new setup.

    There is a way to avoid this entire issue. You could buy a "hotspot" device from your cellular carrier but the device is about $50 and you have to have a data plan connected to the device. The data plan will have a monthly cost. (Verizon's hotspots are available with a data plan tat can be disabled when you don't need it and re-enabled any time you want. This saves some of the cost. But, you probably have a data plan already. It is connected to your smartphone. As an example, I have Verizon as my carrier and a Samsung S5 smartphone. This phone comes with Mobile Hotspot already installed as part of the Android operating system. Verizon used to charge a $20 per month "tethering fee" but a settlement with the FCC requires them to offer tethering for free. To find it on an Android phone; go to Settings, More networks, and turn on Mobile Hotspot. There should be an equivalent app or setting on any smartphone. The mobile hotspot on Verizon is quite fast and can support 10 devices. TIP: Running your phone as a mobile hotspot really impacts battery life so connect to a charger. Battery life is why I don't leave the mobile hotspot enabled unless I am using it.

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