What application are you using to manage your NIC? (Wireless Zero Configuration service is the default for Eks Pee). That app should have a feature to allow you to view the properties of the wireless network(s), which might reveal something helpful in diagnosing the problem.
If all three of you successfully have connected those same laptops to other wireless networks, my hunch is that Mickey D's net admin has had a brain cramp. Either that or it's not free after all.
i'm going to guess it was some sort of interference. when you're in mc d's, you can also pick up an open wireless network from the mall across the street as well as from a motel next door. those signals waver back and forth in strength. eventually one of us (not me) was able to connect to the motel's wifi signal but her browsing was very slow.
The Mall accross the street also has free wifi courtesy of the local telephone cooperative. I'm not a 'mall rat', but the place recently underwent an extensive refurbishing and now there's a very clean area with tables and chairs to use. In addition to the free wireless, at least a dozen stores (at least in the part of the mall I was in) have their own networks.
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