Data On The Road With Your Cell Phone
Finally you’re spending the weekend at your friend’s cabin up at the lake. You managed to sneak your laptop up there because you know you’ll need to check your e-mail at least once or twice while you’re out of town.
If there happens to be Ethernet or WIFI available you’ll be in luck – just plug in and you’ll be ready to go! But what if you are in a secluded area? How should you get online?
Sometimes the best solution is to either have a cell phone or cell phone/PDA that acts as a modem, my favorites are the T-Mobile Sidekick, Treo 650, and the new Verizon Treo700W.If you have a way to dial in to your ISP this can be a solution.
AOL has local numbers around the US for example. The speed will be slow and you may need to pay roaming charges if you happen to be roaming on a different network, but you will be online!
Keep in mind that some but not all phones can be used as a modem and even then some require a wired connection. If you’re lucky you’ll have one that works via IR (in fared) or Bluetooth, so they can talk wire free to your computer.
Sometimes a phone will have multiple ways to connect to a laptop – choose Bluetooth over IR. USB is also a fine choice if you don’t mind wires. Using USB is easiest – you just plug the USB cable into the phone and the other end plugs into a USB port on your laptop.
Connecting via Bluetooth means that you will need to PAIR the devices first. This means they need to identify each other and talk to each other when they are in range (about 30′). You will need to turn on your Treo 700w’s bluetooth function and then make sure it is “discoverable”. Then turn on your laptop’s bluetooth, pair the two devices.
You are now ready to dial up your ISP. You have two options. Use the cell phone as a traditional modem – using your voice minutes to transfer data. This will usually be very slow, but if you have free nighttime calling this may cost you nothing. The other option is to subscribe to your carrier’s data service.
Prices range from $5/month for limited data service on some carriers, to $50/month on other carriers for unlimited data service. The norm is about $20-$30/month for unlimited service. This enables you to use your cell phone as a modem all the time even at home and minutes of internet do not count toward your monthly minutes. This service will usually require a “dial-up script” which you can get from the carrier or sometimes directly from the phone manufacturer’s website. This script gets installed on your laptop.
Another option is to get a cellular card for your laptop. This is a modem/card that automatically accesses the internet via the cellular service. These come with a subscription in most cases.
If you need to be online and you can’t wait to find Hotspots each time you need access – this is the way to go. Prices per month range from $29.99 to $79.99 depending on the carrier and level of service.
A few final words:
– Turn off bluetooth when you aren’t using it – it drains the battery faster than when you have it turned off.
– If you don’t have Bluetooth on your laptop you can buy a Bluetooth Adapter (often called a Bluetooth Dongle) for about $19.
-I recommend buying one branded by Linksys, Net gear or some other well-known company. There are some cheaper ones coming out of China that require special setup on your laptop and may not be as reliable.
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