Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Share Your EVDO Wireless Broadband Connection

Here is the quick setup: (Read the entire post for why this is useful and how it could be profitable ;) )
1) Buy a Mac Laptop (sorry the MacBook Pro is the laptop I have and its OS X and Airport make this super easy)
2) Select system preferences from the Apple Menu
3) Click on Sharing from the Internet & Network subsection
4) Select the Internet tab from near the top of the screen
5) Under Share Connection From: Select your EVDO Broadband card (mine is listed as: Novatel Wireless EXP CDMA)
6) Select the AirPort checkbox under the To computers using: list
7) Configure the AirPort Options as your situation necetates (read the rest of the post for more info)
8) Click Start

Read on for my story, why this is cool, and warnings ...

Prologue: Wireless Broadband EVDO
I have had Verizon Wireless' EVDO wiereless broadband service since August of 2006 and have been very happy with the service's speed and coverage area. I have been able to get signals everywhere from in the Cascades of Oregon to Philly and nearly everywhere in between. If I have cell coverage I can pick up the EVDO wireless broadband signal. Check out a previous post for a full review of Verizon's EVDO service and my detailed setup. Cingular/AT&T and Sprint also offer EVDO mobile broadband services and this technique will work if you have service through Verizon, Sprint, Cingular/AT&T, or whomever is the provider where you reside.

Chapter 1: Jealousy and a Heart for the Un-Plugged-In
The only problem with the service is it kind of pricey and it invokes jealousy from other laptop users wherever you go. I have gotten numerous comments about how I am online [insert location here]. Recently I attended a conference at the Sheraton in Philadelphia where the card really came in handy. It seems they Sheraton folks felt it necessary to block out WIFI inside of the conference room, so if you purchased WIFI from the hotel so you could surf in your room (yep no free WIFI) you were maddened to find that WIFI would not work in the conference room and you had to sign up for additional WIFI at another cost! Then, to make things worse, that conference room only WIFI kept falling off. So here I am with a room full of web designers half with laptops checking my email etc while none of them can get online. Yes yes I felt like an internet magician but I quickly had pity on those around me and I knew I must jump into action to save the masses!

Chapter 2: Give the People their Internets
I said to my self
"Bob (not my name but what I call myself), I wonder if its possible to share your bounty of EVDO goodness with all these poor conference people. This way you will be a hero to all and Robin Hood those evil Sheraton WIFI evil dooers."
Well it took a few clicks but I found the solution and gave those people their tubes to clog.

After checking around in System Preferences Internet & Network section I stumbled up on the Sharing menu. By simply selecting my EVDO card and clicking to share it on my Mac's internal AirPort card I had done it! The crowd erupted in moderate indifference and all updated their MySpace pages in celebration.

Chapter 3: Coolness
Why would you want to share your EVDO wireless broadband connection?
  • You are traveling with a group of coworkers, family, or the circus who refuse to pay $9.95 to check their gMail or update their MySpace while waiting at the airport, bus stop, or space port. Instead they insist on bugging you to borrow your laptop and make small talk about hair products. The quicker they get online the quicker you return to the peace that is mindless surfing to pass the time.

  • Your work or school does not allow you to access say Digg or GMail and since you don't agree, are a rebel, dont' care about getting in trouble, and wish to share your good fortune you help them stick it to the man.

  • You are at a Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, or anywhere else that limits its WIFI access to TMobile and you want to prove a point about why WIFI should be free or should be bought from you not them.
    "Simply" share you EVDO connection, configure the Airport correctly, set up a required proxy page, and either collect donations or charge a reasonable buck or two for the pleasure of using your provided WIFI connection instead of TMobile's.
    Granted this could and probably get you arrested or sued as a proof of concept it could be pretty brilliant if you can pull off the technology necessary.

Remember if you are running at full EVDO speeds you can hit well over 5MBps which is plenty fast to share the wealth a bit.

Chapter 4: Bubble Bursting
All is not roses in EVDO sharing land, though. There are a couple of issues you should be aware of, though (some of which I can think of and others I am sure I am missing).
  • By doing this you set up your laptop up as a router and thus straddling it with all of the CPU, network, and management load that goes along with that not to mention the security headaches. Translation: You go slow and could get screwed.

  • Verizon and probably Sprint and Cingular closely monitors your use and if they feel you are not being reasonable with your bandwidth they shut you down. I know, I know, it says unlimited but the small print says its not so.

  • If you set up your Airport to share without a required WEP key you have NO idea who will access your connection and thus your laptop. I sure don't want to be responsible for what other people download and set myself up for some lame RIAA lawsuit ;) or worse so I suggest setting up WEP using the Airport Options button when you share your EVDO connection.

  • Security. Security. Security. I have no idea how this opens you up but I am assuming it is probably enough to make your sphincter pucker. I would never recommend this on a PC (hello Windows viruses et. al.) but even on my Mac it does worry me.

The End: Suggestions
For lawyer types from Verizon etc., hackers, and others who would chap my hide: I would never recommend anyone doing this and have and never will do this myself.

For EVDO users and normal Mac users: Just be careful that group 1 doesn't catch you since I am not totally sure if they could have a valid point. Have fun showing your Mac and EVDO goodness even if it is just to wow the throngs of lame PC'ers in your office. PS. let me know if you have any cool uses for this I didn't think of.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Verizon Wireless EVDO Internet Review

I recently signed up for Verizon Wireless EVDO High Speed Internet. The service was referred to by Verizon as: BROADBANDACCESS PROMO UNLIMITED and is $59.99/month with a two year contract. The wireless EVDO service from Verizon that I signed up for is a data only service which I use to connect to the internet through a card in my Mac Book Pro Laptop.

The Verizon Wireless Qualcom V640 Express Card
Verizon Qualcom V640 Express CardThe V640 card is regularly $199 at Verizon Wireless but don't pay that much for it. The card is available at on-line retailers for $99 and I was able to get my local Verizon store to sell me the card for $99 a couple of months ago when I purchased it. I imagine this price will go down to promo/free soon.

The V640 is an Express Card which is another format of card other than the PCMICA cards which had been standard on most laptops. The Apple Mac Book and Mac Book Pro's all have the Express Card Slot only. The V640 was one of the first EVDO Express Cards that was produced and has been avilalble for a couple of months. In September when I got my card, only Verizon and Sprint had Express EVDO cards available. This card is plug and play for the Apple laptops and mine has worked flawlessly.

The V640 Express Card has a few nice features including a flip up antenna for a bit of a signal boost, an input for an external antenna, and a very handy flashing signal detector light. I have been happy with the reception of the card. Most of the time if I have cell phone coverage, I also have EVDO data coverage. The signal light of the V640 flashes green if you have coverage and red if no coverage so you know your coverage even before you try and connect.

VZAccess Connection Manager Software
VZAccess Connection Manager SoftwareMy only complaint with Verizon's EVDO wireless high speed internet service would be the VZAccess software. The software is not terrible but it is not flawless either. The software is required to set up the service, this is disappointing. With previous wireless internet service, you could configure a modem manually and connect, but this is not possible with the EVDO service from Verizon ... well not initially anyways.

The VZAccess software comes with the V640 card and installs easily, although requiring an annoying restart. The software starts on boot I assume because it complains if you boot your Mac with the card inserted that it must be started before you insert the card... again annoying. Once you start the software the first time, it auto configures and you can then connect...AFTER you register the card and service. This process is what stops you from manually configuring your modem and connecting. Once you have successfully activated connecting is as easy as pressing the connect button.

VZAccess Connection Manager SoftwareThe software has a few handy features including a stat display which gives you your connection speed, current and historical, in text and graphical format. These are pretty useful especially to know whether you have the juice to try a huge download or if you should wait.

The major problem with this software is it has some dependability issues. I have a few times had it go into some kind of CPU eating condition where it takes all free processor cycles and runs up the heat on my Mac Book Pro.

Connection Speed
The service works by running in 1x Mode when EVDO is not available and the VZAccess display is a great way to keep track of your speeds. My speeds are usually around 96Kbps up and 1.2Mbps down when in 1X and 1.5Mbps up and 5Mbps down when in EVDO. I have seen it max out at around 8Mbps down. Any of the EVDO numbers are amazingly fast and the 1X numbers are annoying but fast enough to be very useful. I have been very happy with the speed of the service. Having unlimited data is a must, though, since I use this service pretty heavily at times. At a recent conference I attended, I used the service daily and with downloading Diggnation and GeekDrome at night, I pulled over 1G of data down one day :)

I have heard nasty rumors of that some people feeling they are being throttled when they use too much data. I have not found this to be true but are keeping my eye out for these kind of tactics because they are a possibility, I am sure.

Manual Modem Connection
So, I don't think you can completely bypass the VZAccess software because of the activation functionality it performs but once you have activated your card it is very easy to go manual and bypass the VZAcess software. First, Open Internet Connect and select the Novatel Wireless EXPD CDMA modem from the selection bar at the top. Click the "Show modem status in menu bar" check box. This is a good selection to have anyways because it gives you your connection information. Now when you want to connect, just click on the modem phone icon and select connect. This works because the VZAccess software is nice enough to set up the modem profile when you first connect.

Final Conclusions
I have been very happy with Verizon's EVDO high speed wireless data service. The service area and speed are excellent and as EVDO coverage is expanded this will just get better.

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