Rick Claus and Joey deVilla in chef hats

My coworker Rick Claus (that’s him and me at a recent team get-together) is a great guy and knows his way around a Microsoft IT setup, but the guy is cursed. He has a reverse “Midas Touch”, and can render just about any technological device by touching it or even being around it. He’s managed to do it so many times that the Developer and Platform Evangelism team uses the word “Claused” for broken or non-functional (example: “My TV fell out of the moving truck while it was on the highway. It’s totally Claused.”)

The wifi on my Dell Latitude XT2 worked just fine until the last TechDays conference. While in the “Ask the Experts” lounge, I was looking for a place to set my laptop down, and the only spot was on a tiny table where Rick’s closed-up laptop was sitting. I put my laptop down on his for a couple of minutes while I had a conversation with some local attendees. I then opened my laptop, and after not being able to connect and after trying every troubleshooting trick (even the obvious ones, like checking to see if the wifi switch was on) and even showing it to a couple of IT pros, it became obvious to me that my wifi card was Claused.

Cisco Linksys AE1000 dongle, with its cap off, placed beside a US quarterThe Cisco Linksys AE1000.

Between the holidays and having an extra two weeks off when I wound up in the hospital in January, I haven’t had a chance to get Dell tech support to drop in and fix my wifi (which I assume is a matter of them plunking in a new wifi card). I’ve been dragging around my 17” “Dellasaurus”, but while it’s great for full-on programming and doing demos, it’s not the easiest thing to drag around. So before I left for my 11-day trip to Seattle for Microsoft’s employees-only TechReady conference, I picked up a Cisco Linksys AE1000 USB 802.11n dongle.

I bought the AE1000 right before my flight to Seattle, so I simply emptied the contents of its box into my knapsack and headed out the door. I had a stopover in Vancouver, whose airport has free wifi and decided to install the software and take it for a test run while waiting for my puddle-jumper to Seattle.

The Cisco Linksys AE1000 beside a Samsung Focus phone, US quarter and Microsoft Presenter MouseThe Cisco Linksys AE1000, placed beside a number of items for size comparison.

Installation was a breeze. Cisco put together a very nice, layperson-friendly setup program with a clear and pretty user interface with comprehensible, straightforward instructions and clean, unambiguous icons. Once that was done, the little blue LED on the dongle came to life and for the first time in many weeks, I was getting wifi on my little touchscreen laptop again!

I’ve had the AE1000 for only four days, but I’ve used it without any trouble in a number of places with varying levels of wifi: Vancouver airport, my hotel in Seattle, Starbucks, the Microsoft offices in Bellvue, Top Pot Doughnuts, and it’s worked so well that I forget that I’m using it instead of my laptop’s own built-in wifi. I think that’s the mark of a good product.

If you find yourself in a situation like mine and have a Windows laptop with dead wifi, or perhaps if you’ve got a Windows desktop machine without a wifi card, the Cisco Linksys AE1000 is easy to install and works well (Note: it won’t work on a Mac; no idea if someone’s written Linux drivers for it). I picked mine up at Best Buy for CAD$70; you might be able to find it for less at other places. I recommend it.

Full disclosure: Cisco is not one of my sponsors; I don’t even know anyone at Cisco. I’m just a satisfied customer who needed an interim wifi solution since my small laptop’s wifi was Claused.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.