I'm sad to report that I suffered a terrible loss recently. My PC, which had served me faithfully for five years, finally died. Needless to say I was quite disturbed by this turn of events. Firstly, since I hadn't been without a computer for over six years. And more importantly, because I was now without a way to access the internet. Or so I thought. I quickly remembered that I own a Wii, and also have the Internet Channel. Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, I moved Defend Your Castle to my SD card to make room for the channel on my Wii Menu.
The first thing I quickly realized upon attempting to use the Internet Channel for my regular internet access was that a USB keyboard would be a necessity. Using the Wii remote and the virtual keyboard built into the browser is unwieldy at best. Sure, it's not too bad if the only thing you use the channel for is the occasional YouTube visit, but for serious usage, a keyboard is a must. The next thing I realized is that while the Wii Browser is quite capable, it lacks two things I rely on quite a bit while using the internet. Those being tabbed browsing, and the ability to chat through programs like AIM and IRC. However, a bit of Googling solved these problems, and I'd like to share my findings with all of you reading this, just in case any of you are ever in the same position I'm in.
Tabbed browsing: WiiTabs is the perfect solution if you're used to using FireFox or any other browser that supports tabbed browsing. Simply click the "+" symbol in the upper left corner of the page, and the site will open a new tab. Keep in mind that you can't use your Favorites saved in the Wii Browser through WiiTabs. You'll have to input the URL's manually, but this shouldn't be too big of a problem. Being able to use tabs is a pretty fair trade for not being able to go straight to a site via your Favorites menu.
AIM/MSN/YIM chat: Meebo is a web-based client that supports all of the major chat clients. I've only tried it for AIM thus far, as I don't regularly use MSN or YIM, but so far it's worked surprisingly well on the Wii. Simply click on the person you want to message, and the chat window pops right up. You can even go back to your buddy list by clicking the window icon in the lower left portion of the chat window. Definitely the perfect site for those who can't live without the ability to chat with friends.
IRC: I had been using Mibbit for a while before my PC broke, since my usual IRC client wasn't letting me access certain servers for some reason (and no, I wasn't banned). And it works just as well on the Wii as it does on the PC. Now, even with all these solutions to problems I faced while getting used to the Internet Channel, there were still problems that went unsolved. First, I really wish I could copy and paste through the Wii Browser. Second, being able to save images, say to an SD card, would be handy as well. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I'd love to see USB mouse support at some point in the future. It can be a pain to have to pick up the Wii Remote just to click a link or start typing in a text box. I've got a few other, minor complaints, but I'll save those for later.
All in all, the Wii's Internet Channel is a pretty good substitute for an actual PC. While it's understandably limited, there's still plenty you can do with it. Heck, I'm even writing this very article through it right now. So, if your computer ever breaks, and you own a Wii, you can take comfort in the fact that you'll still have a reliable way to access the internet.
Images courtesy of Nintendo.