Top

Part Time Mobile Internet Connections

November 29, 2011 by Chris Guld · 23 Comments 

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to our E-mail Digest or RSS Feed. We will then send you the stories that are posted each day in an e-mail digest. We use a service called Feedburner for delivery of these emails. You will receive an e-mail from Feedburner after you subscribe and you must click on that email to activate your subscription. Thanks for visiting and enjoy all the information!

RV.Net Blog Admin

As fulltime RVers, we have no problem signing a 2 year contract for Internet service from Verizon, but we know many people who only travel part time.  What are their options for mobile Internet service?  A couple years ago, your only option was to rely on Wi-Fi which is very UNreliable!  Now there are several options for short term cellular Internet connections.  The technology world moves fast, and nothing moves faster than cellular Internet plans, so take the information below as talking points only.  Check with your provider, and/or your contract for the details that apply to you.

cellmodems

Verizon is the focus of much of the information in this article since it is what we use personally, and it is the most popular service among RVers.  There are links at the bottom for information on other providers.

1. Putting your Contract on Vacation: Even if you do sign a 2 year contract with Verizon, for example, you can put your service (and payments) on vacation for up to 6 months.   Be aware that vacation time will be added to the end of your contract.  That means, if your contract period starts on 1/1/11 and goes thru 1/1/13, and you put it on vacation for 6 months, your contract now goes thru 7/1/13.  Be sure to check with your service provider (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T etc.) for details based on your particular contract.

2. Bring your Own Device: People sign up for a two year contract because that is the way to get the device (Mi-Fi, or cellular modem) for a steeply discounted price.  If you already have an appropriate modem or hotspot device, you can get service on a month to month basis.  So, bring your own device and sign up for monthly service and you can turn the service off at any time.  Standard monthly service plans offer 5GB for $50.

3. Prepaid Mobile Broadband: These plans can be pretty pricey, but it may be the best option to get your teenagers for your month-long summer vacation.  For example, Verizon charges $50 for 1 GB  – expires in 1 month or $80 for 5GB – expires in 1 month.  There are no overages because, once you hit your limit the service is turned off.

4. Cellular Resellers: You can get service without a contract from Virgin Mobile (resells Sprint network) and Millenicom (resells Verizon network.)  Also see the paragraph below on the 3GStore – you will find several options there, including monthly plans that resell Verizon, and DataJack which uses Sprint.

4. Pay-As-You-Go: TruConnect is a service using the Sprint network.  You buy the device from them then pay $5/mo plus 3.9 cents per megabyte.  This would only be good if you are a very sporadic user with low data needs.  According to my calculations 5GB at 3.9 cents per MB = $169.68.

5. Smart Phone Internet: This is my favorite.  First of all, you may find that you don’t even need to take your computer on short trips because you can do your email and browse the web straight from your phone.  If you do take your computer, many smart phones today have a ‘Hotspot’ feature that costs extra from the service provider, but that feature can be turned on/off at will and you only pay for the time you have it on. When it’s on you have your own Wi-Fi hotspot powered by the phone’s data plan and up to 5 devices can connect to it.  You can also use third party tethering software called PDANet. This allows you to tether your phone to the computer with a cable and use the phone’s data plan to power Internet browsing on our computer at no extra service charge.  The PDANet software costs about $20 – one time fee.  See this Geeks on Tour Video: Connecting to the Internet with Droid.

6. 3GStore: 3GStore has a reputation for being very knowledgeable and helpful in giving guidance thru the morass of mobile internet devices, service providers, data plans, and signal boosters.  They are resellers for cellular services and they sell all the devices to make it work.  We’ve had such good experience with them that we are an affiliate for 3GStore.com.  They have several plans for short-term cellular Internet solutions.

Here are some links to more information

Verizon Data Plan Details

Sprint Data Plans

AT&T Data Plans

T-Mobile Plans

Discussion of Part-Time Internet solutions on RV.net Forums

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free enewsletter, or become a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Get your Verizon Droid or iPhone before July 7?

July 4, 2011 by Chris Guld · 25 Comments 

It’s been rumored for quite a while that Verizon’s unlimited data plan for smart phones will be going away.  I still can’t find anything official on Verizon’s site, their Data Packages page still states that Smartphone’s data plans are Unlimited, but this discussion on RV.net’s forum is pretty convincing that the unlimited plan will be no more as of 7/7/2011.  It will be replaced with a 2GB limit for the same $30.  If you’ve been considering this purchase, you should visit the store before the 7th.

Is Unlimited Data Important?

Your data plan is a separate line item from your phone’s voice plan.  Your voice plan gives you minutes of talk time, your data plan gives you Internet usage measured in GigaBytes.  If you just want your email, and some basic web browsing, and you only use your phone’s data plan for your phone, then 2GB may be sufficient.  But, if you want to watch videos on your smartphone, or if you want to use your phone’s data plan to tether to your computer, then you’re going to go over that limit. 

How do you know you’re going over?  You can check your data usage at any time on your Verizon account.  There is also a setting to have Verizon email you when you’ve used over 50%.  The unlimited data plan means you don’t have to worry about it!  And, heaven knows, we could use one less thing to worry about!

Do you want a Smartphone?

If you’re anything like me, you do!  There is some learning involved but, the more you learn, the more you like!  Rather than listing all its virtues, let me tell you a story.

One of the first things we learned how to do was to tether the phone to the computer so it could provide the Internet connection for the computer to browse the Web.  It took a while for me to fully appreciate that my Droid *IS* a computer! 

My Droid Traveling Story

We were driving north on I-95 in Georgia and it was about time to start looking for a campground for the night. I see a likely candidate on our Streets and Trips program, but I want to look at the website. OK, I need to find the cable so I can tether the Droid to my laptop computer and get on the Internet.

DOH! No I don’t!  I can just search the web directly on the phone.  The Droid *is* a computer with its own web browser.

Ok, so the website looks nice.  Now I need to find pencil and paper so I can write down the phone number so I can call and see if they have space for us tonight.

DOH!  no I don’t! I can just touch the phone number on the Droid’s screen and it will dial the number.  The Droid is a phone after all.

Ok, they say they’re ready for us.  Now I need to write down the address so I can feed it into the Garmin GPS …

DOH! No I don’t!  Just touch the address on the Droid’s screen and it will start to navigate.  The Droid is a GPS after all and it has its own Google map and navigation program.

That’s just one example.  For every Droid, or iPhone owner you know, you can hear many similar stories of discovery.  The more you use your smartphone, the more you’ll discover.  And, the more data you’ll need! 

Like I said, get your Verizon Droid or iPhone before July 7.  And enjoy!

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger. Members can view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

My On the Road Data Diet

May 9, 2011 by Chris Guld · 28 Comments 

How I Exceed My 5 Gigabyte Limit with Verizon

verizonThis is not a good thing!  The point is to stay within your contract limits.  When you go over, there are extra charges. 

Our contract allows 5 Gigabytes of data usage per month.  Check the image at right and you’ll see that we’ve used over 4 Gigabytes and we’re only on day 8 of 31!  Looks like I’ll have to go on a data diet for the rest of the month.

What’s a Gigabyte?

Data usage is simply Internet use as opposed to voice.  Voice plan usage from your cellular provider is measured in minutes, Internet/Data usage is measured in Megabytes/Gigabytes.  Data usage is also referred to as Downloading, Uploading, or Bandwidth.  Think of it like a stream of water going thru a hose, email and other text is just a trickle, video is a firehose.  You’re measured by how much data is going thru the connection – what you’re looking at, not the time you’re online.

Each Gigabyte is roughly 1,000 Megabytes.  We teach people that 5 Gigabytes is usually plenty for a month of one person doing normal browsing, email reading and maybe some Youtube watching.  But, if you share that connection with multiple computers, or you watch a lot of video, then 5 Gigabytes won’t be nearly enough.

Just to give you an idea, a large, high resolution picture that you view on the web may consume about 1 Megabyte.  You’d have to view 1,000 of those pictures to hit one Gigabyte of usage.  Over the period of one month, you might view 1,000 pictures on the web.  Watching a typical, standard quality, 3-4 minute Youtube video will use roughly 10 Megabytes. So you could watch 100 of those for 1 Gigabyte of data usage.  See this article from the folks at evdoinfo.com for a chart: What does 5GB (Gigabytes) Get Me?  Here’s another article for more detailed info on data usage for videos.  The only thing we tell people they cannot do is to watch full length movies.  Watching one Netflix movie online can use up to 2 Gigabytes of your allotment right there. 

How Did We Go Over Our Limit?

We had not watched any online movies, so how did we rack up so much data usage so fast?  First of all, for the whole winter season, we were in one RV park where we contracted with Bell South for a DSL line.  DSL is nice and fast and has no limits.  So, we got spoiled.  We didn’t have to pay attention to data usage all winter.  Now that we’re back on the road, we need to be paying attention.  Both Jim and I are sharing our mobile hotspot Internet connection from Verizon.

Once I got a notice from Verizon, I did some checking.  One culprit is my Windows Updates.  I had automatically received Windows 7 Service Pack 1.  I checked Microsoft’s site and learned that it was over 1 Gigabyte in size!  We are also preparing to deliver a seminar remotely using Skype and screen-sharing.  Our practice session probably cost us us a 1/4 Gigabyte.  A couple days ago, I purchased the latest Microsoft Streets and Trips program and downloaded it.  That was 1.3 Gigabytes!  Pretty stupid on my part since I already had the trial version installed on my computer.  We now have a 4G mobile hotspot from Verizon and we were so excited to be in a 4G area around Nashville …  I may have watched a couple episodes of Glee on Hulu because it worked so well … hey, I call that research!

What Can You Do to Limit Your Data Usage?

We need to go on a data diet!  Here are the things that we are going to do:

  1. Always check for good Wi-Fi and use it when possible.
  2. Stay aware of our current data usage by checking our account stats online at verizonwireless.com/myverizon and logging into our account.  If you don’t know how to do that for your provider, give them a call and ask.
  3. Turn off automatic Windows Updates (Control Panel\System and Security\Windows Update)  note: if you do this, make sure to do your updates manually whenever you’re in a good Wi-Fi area.  Getting updates *is* very important.
  4. Turn off Carbonite online backup.  I love Carbonite, but it *does* use bandwidth to backup all new files I create to the backup website.  Since we’ll be on the road for quite some time, I’ll probably turn off the service completely and just use our ClickFree for backup.
  5. Turn off DropBox.  DropBox is a great utility that synchronizes a folder of data across multiple computers.  It does this by uploading them to a website and then downloading them to the other computers, so it uses double bandwidth (data transfer usage) going up and down!  If I remember, I’ll turn it back on when I’m connected to a good Wi-Fi signal.
  6. Stay away from Netflix and Hulu
  7. Limit our Video Skype calls.

How Much Does it Cost When you go Over Your Allotment?

Verizon used to charge 25 cents per Megabyte of overage.  That adds up quick!  If you went over by a Gigabyte, that would cost $250!  The fees today are much more reasonable – each Gigabyte of excess will be charged at $10/Gigabyte.  Check with your provider and your contract to see what your overage charges are.  If you’ve had your contract for a long time, you may even have an unlimited usage contract.  If that’s the case … don’t lose it!  Any change in your contract may get you started with a whole new contract – with new limitations.  The unlimited usage contracts are highly desirable.

Can I Increase My Limits?

This depends on your provider and the plans they offer.  Verizon does currently offer a 10Gigabyte contract for $80/month.  We might just have to do that. 

Kind of like those real diets … so often I give up and go buy some clothes in a larger size!  Smile

 

by Chris Guld, Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger.  Members can view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Internet by DROID

March 3, 2010 by Chris Guld · 174 Comments 

by Jim Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com

I have had my new Verizon phone for a couple of weeks now, and I like it.  You don’t need to be a Geek to want one.  If you are one of the many folks who want a phone just to make calls, the Droid is way overkill.  For a phone, it is expensive at $200 with a 2 year contract.  It’s cheap for a computer, though.

connected-droid
Droid showing Sliding keyboard. Optional desk dock.

Droid as Computer

The Droid is essentially a computer that can also make phone calls.  It is connected to the Internet through the Verizon cellular data network or a local WiFi network.  You can browse the Internet, send and receive emails, stream or download videos/music and so much more.  Texting or entering data is easy using one of the three keyboards (touchscreen vertical or horizontal and slideout keyboard). 

Some people I know could use the Droid and never need a conventional laptop or desktop computer.

Droid as Internet Connection for your Laptop

The Verizon data plan for the Droid is unlimited.  There is no 5GB limit as with cellular data cards or tethering my old phone using VZaccess Manager.  How about using the Droid’s Internet connection to connect my computer like I used to do?  Well, I can.  I just need PdaNet software for the Droid from June Fabrics.

Tethering is the term we use to describe the hardware and software needed to connect a computer  to the Internet using the cellular data connection from a smart phone.  It is usually a USB connection, but could be wireless using Bluetooth DUN (dial-up network) or WiFi.  A wired connection to the computer is simplest and most reliable.  The necessary cable comes as a standard attachment to the Droid.

There are two parts of the system.  A program that runs on your computer and stays in the system tray and an app on the Droid.  Installation is easy.  Follow the easy instructions.  Download the installation program from the website and run it on your computer.    Plug the Droid into an available USB port.  Let the program talk to the phone for a moment to establish communication, and you are ready.

First, start the PdaNet app on the Droid phone and Enable USB Tether.  Then, on your computer, click the PdaNet icon in the system tray and connect.

image

This is a broadband connection and speed is determined by the cellular network.  In a good Verizon area, the speeds are excellent.  You can easily stream video and not worry about going over your monthly data limit.

The Droid is not the only smart phone that allows tethering.  PdaNet has been available for PalmOS phones, BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile phones for a while.

If you want to use PdaNet for the iPhone, you need to “jailbreak” it, voiding the warranty.

The price of a single license is $23.95. It is a one time purchase for the Android version. One license covers one phone (you can reuse the license if you switch to a new Android phone). There is no limit on the computer side and your license gives you unlimited free upgrades.

Droid as Internet Connection for your Network

So far, there is no support for connecting to our Cradlepoint router, but I expect that fairly soon.

We’ll show you how to network the connection with software in a future post.

Jim Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com

Computer Education for Travelers

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

HotSpot in your Pocket

February 26, 2010 by Chris Guld · 483 Comments 

by Chris Guld, www.geeksontour.com

Just because you buy a computer with built-in ‘Wi-Fi’ doesn’t mean you can connect to the Internet from anywhere.  You need to have a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect TO.  Usually that means being in a Starbucks with a Wi-Fi hotspot, or a Hotel, or an RV park.  Your computer connects to their Wi-Fi hotspot.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could carry your own Wi-Fi hotspot around with you?!

I’m not talking about plugging something into your computer.  I’m talking about having a Wi-Fi hotspot in your pocket.  You computer can connect to it, just like you connect to Starbucks or the RV park.

The Mi-Fi

image

There is only one button on this little device.  It’s either on or off.  Stick it in your pocket and your computer can connect to your own private Wi-Fi hotspot whereever you are.  And 4 other people with Wi-Fi enabled devices can connect as well. Read more

Extra Charges for Cellular Internet

December 27, 2008 by Chris Guld · 23 Comments 

I get a lot of questions about how much bandwidth usage is typical in one month. If you use an aircard, or tethered cell phone for your broadband Internet access, the contract with your cellular provider probably limits you to 5 Gigabytes of usage. So, how much is that?

First, you need to know that 1 Gigabyte (GB) = roughly 1,000 Mebabytes (MB) (1,024 to be exact)

Here are some numbers just to give you an idea of typical usage. Keep in mind that there is really no such thing as ‘typical’ however. It’s kind of like asking, “How many miles does the typical RVer travel in a month?” You know that can range from 100 miles to 5,000 miles or more!

Read more

Back up your Cell phone

December 19, 2008 by Chris Guld · 17 Comments 

If you travel a lot, like us, your cell phone may be your only phone. I love the feature that you can keep your little black book of phone numbers right in your phone. Then, when someone calls who is in my phone list, I even see their name on the caller ID. If I lost this phone, or it broke, it would be difficult or impossible to recreate that phone list.

In our Computer Education business we are evangelists for doing backups on your computer. Well, cell phones today are also computers. So I was thrilled when a friend mentioned that he uses Verizon’s free service to back up his phone online! I’m not sure if other carriers offer this service, but for Verizon, you go to www.verizonwireless.com and log into your personal account. If you haven’t created a personal online account, you will need to register.

Once you’re logged in, find ‘Tools & Applications’ ; Business/Tools ; Backup Assistant. You need to download this to your phone. On my phone (the LG enV) I did it with the ‘Get it Now’ option. You would need to find the instructions for your phone. Once it is downloaded, it will automatically backup your address book every day! As long as the phone is on, and it has signal – the backup happens automatically. How cool is that!?

Backup your phone's address book online

Once the backup is done, you can access your address book on your computer as well as on your phone. So, if you should ever lose your phone you can just download the numbers to your new phone!

Chris Guld
www.GeeksonTour.com

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Internet by Tethered Cell Phone

December 11, 2008 by Chris Guld · 17 Comments 

I’ve written about this before, but I’ve learned more since then, so I’m revisiting the topic. This is a good option for Internet access on the road, especially for part time travelers because it does not require a separate contract. It’s a feature of your cellphone contract and it can be turned on and off at will. My phone is a LG eNV and my service is from Verizon. I believe other providers offer something similar, but I can only speak about Verizon.

What do you need?

  1. A qualifying cell phone
  2. A qualifying service plan for your phone
  3. The ‘Mobile Office Kit’ (USB cable specifically for your phone and software)
    available for Windows and Macintosh
  4. See Verizon’s Broadband Access Connect page for more details.  Also the BBAC FAQ page.

How does it work?

It’s a cellular technology, so you need to be within range of a cell tower that your phone can connect to. The ‘range’ is getting better and better though. Sometimes the data signal can connect even when you can’t make a voice call. Dead zones are getting fewer and farther between. You simply plug the cell phone into the computer via the USB cable, then run the VZAccess software. Click Connect, and you’re off and running.

I have found the speed to be very good. It’s not the fastest, and it depends on the vintage of the nearest tower, but I have been pleasantly surprised. If a call comes in on my phone, I can ignore it and stay connected to the Internet. If I pick it up, I lose the Internet connection. It also works just fine while we’re driving down the road. And, I can leave it online all day if I want – minutes are not being counted when using a broadband connection on your cellphone tethered. It’s the amount of data that is transferred that counts, not the minutes.

How much does it cost?

The Verizon plan that goes along with my phone is $60/month (smart phones and blackberries have cheaper plans.) That gives me 5Gigabytes of data transfer which is plenty for ‘normal’ use. Don’t go downloading movies though, or you’ll exceed your limit. At 25 cents per Megabyte for the overage, that would hurt!

The beauty is that you can turn this ‘feature’ off any time you want. So, if I turn it on just for a weekend jaunt, Verizon will prorate my bill, charging approximately $2/day. Be careful with your timing though. I turned it on once toward the end of the month, and didn’t turn it off till after the beginning of the next month. My bill reflected a full $60 for the month that just started. They did issue a credit the following month for the unused portion – not bad.

Data usage is also prorated. If you use it for just a day or two thinking you have 5GB of data transfer available, you could be in trouble. Let’s do the math. 1 day of usage is roughly 1/30th of a month. Divide the $60/mo by 30 and we get $2. 5Gb (roughly 5,000 Megabytes) divided by 30 = 167MB. If you use 1,000 MB, you are 833MB over your prorated allotment! 833MB * .25 and you’ve just incurred a $208 bill for that one day! Now, I haven’t actually seen anyone receive a bill like that, but Verizon’s customer service tells me that is the way it works.

If you have two people who want to use the Internet this way, you can even plug in a router and create your own mini-wifi hotspot.  Then, you need to be doubly aware of your bandwidth limitations!

Chris Guld
www.GeeksOnTour.com
Sign up for our free e-newsletter.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

Cell Phone Internet Hot-Spot

September 25, 2008 by Chris Guld · 25 Comments 

If you’ve been reading my posts about connecting to the Internet as you travel, you know that I love my satellite dish! But, I also am a big advocate of Wi-Fi and of cellular connections to the Internet. If you absolutely, positively need the Internet – you need to use all three methods. When we’re in the forest and the trees block our satellite dish, we’ll use our cell phone tethered to the computer and connect thru Verizon. If the Verizon signal isn’t available, we’ll find a Wi-Fi hotspot somewhere.
using tethered cell phone to connect to Internet
The tethered cell phone is a fabulous option for occasional use because it does not involve a separate contract.  Read more

Internet Access Using ‘Embedded’ Cards

March 7, 2008 by Alex Sian · 10 Comments 

So far we’ve covered the basics of BroadBand Cellular Internet Access, and the pro’s and con’s of tethering a phone or PDA to provide internet access to a computer… today’s blogpost entry will explain some pro’s and con’s of embedded cellular devices and make some comparison’s to more conventional devices like cards and USB modems.

First, a quick reminder: high-speed broadband cellular internet is typically provided by using a pcmcia “aircard”, expresscard or USB modem that is connected to your computer and provides that single computer with wireless internet access where cellular phone towers are readily available.

For maximum convenience, some laptop manufacturers have recently started to include tiny cards that can serve the same purpose, but are embedded or operate from within a laptop, rather than connected to the laptop using a card slot or USB port.

The selling point is that with the card embedded inside, you don’t have the ‘hassle’ of having to connect or disconnect any device to your computer. Life is simple again.

Read more

Bottom