Occasionally there are gadgets that come along that really hit the mobile hot spot. One of those is the new Linksys Wireless-G USB Network Adapter and Wi-Fi Finder (WUSBF54G).

I have just got back from a quick 10 day trip to Europe visiting Germany, Spain and the UK and just before I left the office a Linksys WiFi finder that doubles as a network adapter arrived for review so I decided to take it along. The new Linksys Wireless-G USB Network Adapter and Wi-Fi Finder (WUSBF54G) is a pocket-sized device that combines an easy-to-use wireless network scanner with a USB-connected Wireless-G network adapter.

In a nutshell this product is great and I will not travel without one again. Let me tell you why. Firstly Europe is miles ahead of Australia in delivering wireless networks in public places. At every hotel that I stayed at including two in Majorca and two in the UK I was able to use the Linksys WiFi finder to find a free wireless network without having to open up my notebook or pay for the network access.

Where Australian hotels are charging up to $19.00 a day to access broadband European hotels including on in the middle of the Island of Majorca are giving broadband away for free to hotel guests. However when moving between airport and train station getting the laptop fired up just to see if you can find some WiFi hotspot to leech off is a pain in the backside and that’s where the latest gadget from Linksys comes into play as I was able to find several free networks including one while sitting on a UK train.

Some WiFi finders are bulky, some find a signal and don’t tell you if its a secured network or not and others are just WiFi finders and still require you to have a WiFi card for your laptop. Luckily the Linksys WUSBF54G is none of these starting with its small size, the Linksys WiFi finder is a bout the size of your average USB memory stick and still it manages to cram in a useable LCD screen.

To use the Linksys WUSBF54G WiFi finder is simple. Firstly the kit is split into two parts, a scanner and a network adapter. A user takes out the scanner finds a network and then plugs the scanner into the Ethernet port on the notebook to access the network. A big plus is the ease with which one can ascertain the presence of a network with this device. In the past one had to boot a notebook wait for the Microsoft operating system to boot and then go to wireless setting to find a network using the Intel Centrino technology.

In some cases this could take up to 5 minutes only to find that there is no wireless network present.

In-Stat, a market research firm, reports that there will be almost 200,000 wireless hotspots available by the year 2009.

A push of a button on the WUSBF54G initialises a search for 802.11 wireless networks reachable via its 802.11G network adapter. I was able to set the search to include only open networks, all networks, or to search for signal strength in various areas for a specific network name (SSID).

Upon determining the networks in the area, the LCD screen on the WUSBF54G displays each network’s SSID, signal strength, 802.11 mode, and channel along with both the type and status of security. Its advanced search technology filters out 2.4GHz interference given off by microwave ovens, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices, providing only information on 802.11 wireless networks. It then presents the networks in order of signal strength, until a specific network is selected.

Once a network is determined by scrolling through the presented information, the WUSBF54G can be used to establish an 802.11G network connection via the USB port on a notebook that has installed the included client utility software. This I found great as I was easily able to ascertain which wireless network had the strongest signal. The only downside is the price in Australia $A139.00. In the US this product is $A112.00 and in Europe $A118.00.

Linksys WUSBF54G WiFi finder reccomended retail: $139.00

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