Wireless hunters on the prowl

Thursday, 3 July 2003, 12:27 AM EST

Mike Outmesguine leans against a Chevy Suburban packed with Wi-Fi, GPS and ham radio gadgets, gazing out at the necklace of hilltop radio towers that surround Los Angeles' Chinatown.

"The cool thing about war driving is that it makes what's invisible -- the wireless Internet -- visible," the Southern California Wireless Users Group co-founder says, grinning. "I worked on radio frequency jamming systems in the U.S. Air Force, and when I got out I remember returning home and suddenly being aware of wireless waves everywhere."

Outmesguine, a Gulf War veteran and Los Angeles-based wireless technology consultant, isn't alone in that fascination. During the third WorldWide WarDrive taking place now through July 5, participants in dozens of U.S. cities roam around with Wi-Fi-sniffing gear, logging access points that will then be collected, shared and analyzed.

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