Need to find a place to connect to the Internet wirelessly, but you're not currently online? Now you don't need to let this Catch-22 leave your laptop digitally dry-docked: JiWire, a site devoted to Wi-Fi hotspot listings and how-to articles, has just released a free offline locator of public hotspot locations. The JiWire Hotspot Locator works under Mac OS X 10.3, Linux (Red Hat 9), and Windows XP, Me, and 2000. (Full disclosure: I'm a senior editor at JiWire. I also link to them and they to me at my independent Wi-Fi Networking News site.)
The locator lets you search all 28,000 worldwide locations in JiWire's directory by city, state, country, connection type, provider, or Zip code (or any combination of those factors). You can also check a box to restrict the search to only free hotspots, an increasingly popular phenomenon across the United States. The locator includes a step-by-step guide to connecting to a Wi-Fi network for each platform, helpful for users of nascent public hotspot.
If you're using the locator while connected to the Internet, you can click a link on each search result to see JiWire's contextual maps, which also display other nearby hotspots. An update feature checks for new hotspots and software updates each time you run the locator.
Use of the JiWire directory is free, but it may display advertising alongside listings in the future, as well as coupons for special offers. The software does require registering for a free My JiWire account on the company's site.
This is one of the first times I can recall that a Wi-Fi-related product was available for Mac and Windows (not to mention Linux) simultaneously. Boingo Wireless's Windows-only software for finding and connecting to free and commercial locations is still expected to appear on the Mac, but no date has been set.