Thanks to iPhones, BlackBerrys and mini-laptops, the demand for wireless Internet access is soaring. And if you're like me, you expect Wi-Fi to be free and get upset when it's not.
The free Wi-Fi movement took a big step recently when Barnes & Noble announced that it was offering free Wi-Fi at its more than 700 bookstores. And regardless of where you are, you can usually find a Panera nearby to get your free Wi-Fi fix.
But not everyone looks for the same thing in a Wi-Fi location. I like places that have lots of outlets, big tables so I can spread out my stuff, comfy chairs and couches, and a laid-back atmosphere that encourages lingering. Other people like sports bars with Wi-Fi so they can bring their laptops to keep tabs on their Fantasy football team while watching NFL games.
So here's a sampling of places offering free Wi-Fi in Central Florida, as well as a few places that should. To see maps, photos and descriptions of more Wi-Fi spots in Central Florida and to add your own, visit blogs.orlandosentinel.com/etan_on_tech/wifi.
Leave me aloneIf you really want to focus on work without being bothered by loud conversations or annoying music, try one of these places:
•Stardust Video & Coffee, 1842 E. Winter Park Road, Winter Park: Lots of room to spread out, including several nooks reminiscent of a college library.
• Central Park, Winter Park: Spreading out a blanket on the grass or sitting on a bench by the fountain makes working on your laptop a pleasant experience. But outlets are hard to come by, and unless you're a Bright House customer, you're limited to two hours of free Wi-Fi a day.
•Local library: Both the Seminole County and Orange County library systems offer free Wi-Fi at all locations. In Orange, you need to have a library card to use it.
• Dandelion Communitea Cafe, 618 N. Thornton Ave., Orlando: Several rooms, lots of outlets and a relaxed atmosphere.
Strike up a conversationIf you're in the mood to socialize while you surf:
•903 Mills Market, 903 S. Mills Ave., Orlando: There always seem to be people chatting in the tables and chairs outside in this Lake Davis neighborhood spot. The misting fans make it more pleasant.
•Cup O Soul Cafe, 711-A Orange Ave., Winter Park: Ample outlets and a seating area that feels like you're sitting in someone's living room.
•Seven Sisters Coffeehouse, 911 Mills Ave., Orlando: A friendly owner and a tight seating area make it easy to meet people. There are even board games and an area for kids.
Wings with your Wi-FiIf you'd like to check your Facebook page, respond to e-mail or keep tabs on your Fantasy team while watching sports, there are a lot of options for you. However, outlets can be scarce, so make sure your battery is charged up.
Free Wi-Fi can be found at many Hooters, Smokey Bones, Buffalo Wild Wings and Miller's Ale House locations. Make sure to get some extra napkins so you don't get wing sauce on your MacBook.
While you waitThese days, any place where people have to sit and wait for something is a place that should offer free Wi-Fi. So that includes doctor's offices, hospitals, government offices, carwashes, salons and auto mechanics. Gyms and fitness centers should also offer free Wi-Fi since many people bring Wi-Fi enabled MP3 players and smartphones with them when they work out. Theme parks and malls could offer it so people who don't want to ride roller coasters or shop can have something to keep them occupied. Most of these places don't yet have free Wi-Fi, but there are some exceptions, which include:
•ORMC, Dr. P. Phillips Hospital and all of the Orlando Health hospitals and facilities.
•Metro 24/7 Fitness: Locations in Orlando and Altamonte Springs.
•Coggin Honda of Orlando, 11051 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando.
•Simoniz Car Wash: Several Central Florida locations.
Adding free Wi-Fi certainly isn't cheap, but a business that has it, such as a salon, can use it as a marketing tool to convince customers to choose it over the competition.
Etan Horowitz can be reached at 407-420-5447 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read his technology blog, visit OrlandoSentinel.com/techblog.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun