Create your own portable WiFi network

There are lots of programs and apps that have been designed to do something while connecting wirelessly two or more devices. For example just some of them would be: apps that send video from a tablet to a tv or a computer, apps that allow you to control the mouse of a computer using your tablet or smartphone, programs that send files to your tablet or smartphone or any program that sends a document to a wireless printer. If smartphones and tablets are involved these apps need the existence of a WiFi network in order to be fully operative or to use some of its features.

However, in some occasions there is no WiFi where we want to do this. 

As a teacher this has happened to me when I wanted to mirror my iPad wirelessly to my computer connected to the digital whiteboard of the classroom. I do this a lot: open a note taking app on my iPad and with a stylus I write whatever I have planned for the maths lesson that day and using AirPlay the students can see what I’m writing while I walk around the classroom. It’s cool, but far more important than that, it make the lesson more dynamic (apart from being able to use lots of colours, pencils and tools from the note taking app of my iPad). 

The problem

The problem occurs when there is no WiFi or there is one but you don’t have authorised access to it (a.k.a you don’t know the WiFi password) in the classroom where I’m going to mirror my iPad to teach a lesson. 

The solution

If I know in advance that I won’t be able to use a WiFi network where I’m giving a class using the iPad mirroring I always take with me a spare router. Really that’s all you need to create your own WiFi, any WiFi router will do. So, I plug the router and immediately it starts broadcasting a WiFi network to which all my devices connect automatically without me having to do anything else and I’m ready to use AirPlay (or any other app that needs the wireless network).

Needless to say this WiFi that you take with you wherever you go just creates a communication network for your devices, and doesn’t provide you with Internet connection. 

Obviously the hard work has to be done at home beforehand, but the good thing is that you only need to do this once and it’s not that difficult.

Setting up the router once and forever

Whatever the brand of your router is the steps are all the same.

  1. Look on the bottom of the router for a label with an IP address and user and password. Typically the IP is 192.168.x.x (, are examples) and the credentials can be user=‘admin’ or none, and password=‘password’ or ‘admin’.
  2. Now plug the router and do a reset. Look for a tiny hole labeled as reset and press in it with a needle or a toothpick for 30 seconds.
  3. Use an ethernet cable to connect a computer to the router. If you don’t have one try to connect to the default WiFi which will be easy if it’s open.
  4. Type the IP address into your browser address bar (Firefox, Chrome, Safari…) and type the credentials to log into the router configuration.

Once you can see the interface of your router configuration:

  1. Find the ‘Wireless’ configuration tab and enable WiFi (if it’s not enabled) and choose a Wireless Network name (SSID) for your WiFI, for example SSID: myWIFI
  2. Under ‘Wireless Security’ choose one among these: WPA2, WPA2-TKIP, WPA2-AES. WPA2-Personal and create a password.
  3. Save all changes.
  4. Connect your devices (tablet, phone, computer) to the network myWIFI with the password you typed in and that’s it.

I always recommend setting up a secure network, even if there is not connected to the Internet, for the following reason: as a teacher it’s highly likely that all the 20+ students in the classroom with you will have their smartphones on even if they are not allowed to use it, I know this by experience. Lots of smartphones will try to connect by default to a near open WiFi, and you don’t want 20+ devices connected to your network. It’s easily avoidable by setting a secure network (steps 5-8) and it prevents any anauthorised access to your data and your router having to deal with many devices login to your WiFi.

And another way of mirroring with no WiFi: WiFi Direct

Using WiFi Direct, which by the way it’s even more simple because you don’t need a router, in fact don’t need anything at all. So, why didn’t I mention it before? Well, because it has its disadvantages too. First, although it works for mirroring with AirPlay it might not work for those other apps that need a real Wireless Network Infrastructure Mode, what we all call just WiFi. WiFi Direct means that your computer broadcasts the WiFi and not the router and because the signal strength is not so powerful you can get the iPad so far away from the computer.

If you own a Mac it’s very easy: just click on the WiFi icon on the top bar and select ‘Create Network’. It’ll ask you for a name and a channel. The channel is just the carrier frequency for the network, so don’t worry about it and leave the one by default. Then you need to connect to that WiFi on your iPad and ready to mirror.

And one more: bluetooth

There is a wireless option to communicate your iPad with your computer in order to mirror it. Turn on bluetooth on both devices and pair them. I tried this once and I have to admit the lag between the iPad and the computer was too long using Airserver to mirror my iPad. The bandwidth of bluetooth is not as good as the one you get from a WiFi network, so the communication might struggle if there is a lot of data to be sent. Also bluetooth works well in a 10 m range, which limits your movement around big classrooms.

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