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Ask Max: How does this wifi thing work, anyway?

Asked on 09/22/2008:

Let's say I'm in Kindergarden when it comes to computers.

I have an iBook G4, 3 1/2 years old and am looking to buy a new (or refurbished maybe) iMac. I have a lot of questions. First question is: should I ask one question at a time or is it ok to ask several questions in one email?

Question #2 ~ how does the wifi thing work? I mean, we pay Comcast every month to have internet service here which is cable, not DSL. If we have wifi which I understand comes with a new iMAC, do we still pay Comcast? Please explain so that I can decide whether this is a feature that is advantageous to me or not.


Don’t worry, there is a lot of common confusion as to what Wi-Fi is.

It may be helpful to think of Wi-Fi as a drinking glass. Your Comcast Internet connection is similar to the water connection to your house. If you want to drink it you have to fill your glass with water. You could drink right from the garden hose but it will not reach everywhere you want to go. A glass lets you drink water everywhere in your house without having to install new plumbing throughout your house. So, similar to the glass, Wi-Fi lets you get your Comcast Internet connection any place in your house. You still have to pay Comcast for the Internet connection if you have Wi-Fi, the same as paying the water bill even if you don’t have a drinking glass.

One more consideration is that you need to have a Wi-Fi adapter on both ends of your connection. The iMac has one built-in but not all Comcast modems have Wi-Fi adapters built-in. You need to call Comcast and ask if your Modem has Wi-Fi. If it does not, you can buy one to add to your modem. Apple calls its Wi-Fi connections "Airport" and you can buy an Apple Airport base station to get your Comcast connection turned into a Wi-Fi connection. Think of an Airport Base Station as a special faucet for your drinking glass.

The Airport Express Base Station is a good budget option and it is easy to use with your Mac.

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