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Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots 98

Posted by Zonk
from the internet-in-your-pants dept.
Dekortage writes "David Pogue reviews several portable wi-fi access points in the New York Times. If you have cellular Internet access, you can plug the PC card into the wi-fi box and presto, you've got Wi-Fi from wherever you are." From the article: "The card provides the Internet connection, courtesy of those companies' 3G ("third generation") high-speed cellular data networks. The box just rebroadcasts that connection as a Wi-Fi signal so that all nearby computers -- not just one privileged laptop -- can go online. With those PC cards, you can go online anywhere there's a cellular signal: in a taxi, on a bus, in a waiting room or wherever. In major cities, the speed is delightful, like a D.S.L. or slowish cable modem (400 to 700 kilobits a second)."
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Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots

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  • by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:46PM (#14798116)
    3G data here (in Australia) is farking expensive. I don't know why you would want to share your limited data allowance that you pay more than $1/meg for with everyone else?
    • Well, luckily for us here in America, 3G wireless data costs aren't (nearly) that high...
    • Of course if you pay by the megabyte, it makes no sense to share. Only people with flat rate plans (plenty in the U.S.) would buy these things.
    • Typically the application is to share a single 3g connection with multiple users. (e.g. getting 5 or 6 company laptops onto the internet at a tradeshow while only needing 1 evdo card, and associated service plan.)

      I don't know of anyone who uses them to create mobile hotspots for the general public... although I suppose one could.
    • Most of the providers here in the US have unlimited data plans available, for $50-100. But yeah, the per-byte plans are outrageous and can wind up being $50 for a few megabytes -- clearly they'd like everyone to buy an unlimited plan right up front.

      If people start making open hotspots, I suspect they'll find the cell providers cutting them off or otherwise changing the deal (which of course no cell CUSTOMER could ever do without paying an outrageous cancellation fee, isn't "capitalism" great when only one s
      • Unlimited? You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means.

        Sure, they put out lots of hype about 3G, but for most of them the "unlimited" plans really mean "all the bits your cellphone screen can display and you're not allowed to Bluetooth/Cable/IR to your laptop", plus there's a much more expensive "unlimited" plan that lets you actually connect a computer, though there's probably fine print in the contract that limits you to a few hundred megabytes of unlimitedness.

        So if I

        • We're not talking about unlimited phone data plans, we're talking about dedicated PCMCIA cellular modems. Unlimited for them is obviously about plugging into a computer and running normal web/data over the connection, not viewing things on a 320x240 screen.

          Verizon Wireless, for example, sells a product targetted to consumers call BroadbandAccess, that is $79.95/month for unlimited 700-800kbps data. It is actually intended as an alternative to Cable and DSL for normal computer usage -- the wireless Router pr
          • I use the NationalAccess service from Verizon Wireless on my cel phone for internet access. A bluetooth adaptor, a little software hacking on my Treo, and I have unlimited data. It's only 128kbps, but I don't have much of a need for lots of bandwidth. With a little time, I can even download torrents.

            But, you're right. My setup is a frankenstein's monster to an end user. Replace the bluetooth Palm app with a hacked version?

            I'm sure that Verizon locked out the bluetooth dialup access for precisely wh

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I have T-mobile (Deutsche Telecom) here in the US. for $19/month I get unmetered GSM/GPRS data service as an add-on to my bluetooth-capable cellphone, and $29/month for unlimited data on a non-phone device (I use a Sierra GPRS data card). Of course the connection speed varies according to reception and location, but on more than one occasion I've used my mac to share out my GPRS connection over wifi to an office full of coworkers, and left it nailed up all day. For less than $1/day, it's not a bad soluti
      • Hmm.. I have a Sidekick II right now with the unlimited data plan, and I was thinking about along with this, getting a PCMCIA card for use in my laptop. I asked a rep at T-Mobile if this would work (Just transferring the SIM card when I needed to use my laptop with the PCMCIA card). He said that it wouldn't work because it was a 'different kind of data'. I didn't really think he knew what he was talking about. Can you confirm that this will/won't work? Thanks.
    • I'm working on this particular problem - mostly 'coz I'm in Australia too :)

      Charon [wiki.rcpt.to] will do micropayment-based charging for using a wireless service. If you can run on it on your wireless device (there's ipkgs available for OpenWRT at the moment) then you can share wireless on a cost-recovery (or profit-making, for that matter) basis. I have my iBurst service available to all and sundry at 4c/MB at the moment, for example.

      Still early days for usability, though.
  • Also it should be known that the Kyocera 'KR1 mobile router' is also capable of connecting via cable to several cell phones, as well as the PC cards. Currently, there's not a ton of models supported, but you can pretty much guarantee that will change pretty soon.

  • I heard of some lady that did something similar with a cell phone + laptop deal, but she ran a p2p application.

    Apparently they have a cap on usage, and she got stuck for hundreds in overages...

    This defeats the purpose of charging you $100 per month to use a wifi PC, so cell providers won't let this fly.
    • Can you provide backup on this? Right now, Verizon offers "Unlimiited" internet access via their "Airpass" and Sprint offers their service for 39.99 per month up to 40MB, then $0.01 per kB after that, maxing out the price when you reach the $99.99 level, but not charging for data transfer after that. I haven't read the fine print though, and that's what'd kill.
  • Didn't someone make one of these and it was reported here on /. over 9 months ago. I think it was using a Verizon card.
    • You are recalling the story of someone taking TWO of these cards, soldering the heck out of them, and getting a faster total connection. however, it required a laptop with two pcmcia slots on top of each other, the company had to take your computer for a while to do this, and you ended up paying for two subscriptions, one for each card. Oh, and you voided warranties and all that happy stuff.
      • You are recalling the story of someone taking TWO of these cards, soldering the heck out of them, and getting a faster total connection. however, it required a laptop with two pcmcia slots on top of each other, the company had to take your computer for a while to do this, and you ended up paying for two subscriptions, one for each card. Oh, and you voided warranties and all that happy stuff.

        Sounds like a waste of time - just write a channel bonding network driver that coalesces the two network interfaces

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Sounds like a waste of time - just write a channel bonding network driver that coalesces the two network interfaces. Then you can share it with anybody you want.

          "Easy! Just look at what I do!
          (He waves his magic wand and intones the magic incantation: "Foo! Bar! Baz! Quux!" The flame of the antique oil lamp flickers, the drawer beside the computer desk makes an alarming cracking sound, the safe in the basement rattles...). See? (opens up list of installed network drivers) A chnnel bonding network driver!

          Late
          • "Easy! Just look at what I do!

            Sorry bud, there are no NDAs to sign - just write a fakie driver that coalesces two other drivers. Write it once and use it everywhere - all you need is the OS DDK.

      • You are recalling the story of someone taking TWO of these cards, soldering the heck out of them, and getting a faster total connection.

        No, there was a story about a homemade wifi - mobile phone router. [slashdot.org]

  • Mobile Wardriving (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew&zhrodague,net> on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:55PM (#14798152) Homepage Journal
    Now you can wardrive [wifimaps.com] AND provide internet access at the same time. I wonder if you can broadcast a better signal than people's own APs, and redirect them to your own loacal propaganda. I think I have a summer project now...
    • Do you even know what wardriving is? It involves looking for other people's access points.
      • Yes I think he does, and he considers the possibility of a home user connecting to him in his car rather than to the persons own in house wifi ISP connection.
        With a nice set of host redirections you could do have plenty of fun.

        Hanging around peoples homes waiting for them to connect to their bank account or buying things would never be so easy.

        • Yes, thank you -- I like to think I take a personal hand in promoting safe wardriving practices [seattlewireless.net]. I also recommend having a bit of fun, but I do not advocate breaking any laws -- like siphoning credit card information, passwords, etc.
          With all the hubub freakout over people wi-camping streetside, I wonder how people would react to superceding in-home APs with a more mobile approach. I think a game, or "tag you're it" type of thing might be fun. I think I'd hate to have to carry a couple of laptops in my back
      • Do you know what the word "and" means?
    • Quietly set up at your local college (one that does NOT provide WiFi access), in an area where students gather to do home work, and turn it on.

      As people find they have an internet connection suddenly, you get to surf through any unsecured laptops' shared folders, like "My Music."

      Of course, I'm not advocating anything of the sort... *whistles innocently*

      H.
    • Er, who will have time to connect to your AP as you zoom by in your car? Doubt they'd have enough time to load google before you would be out of range.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday February 24, 2006 @09:58PM (#14798161)
    As long as prices run in the 1/mb range, this will not really be the killer application. Compare it to internet access, until the price got affordable (it was like 5$/hour here until about 1992), nobody went on the 'net either.

    Not to mention the old saying "I got WiFi access now, my neighbor bought an Access Point". Who's want to run an AP through a line that's probably costing more than your rent if some leecher finds your AP? How secure can those APs be made so it's possible to make sure you're not going to invite everyone on the airport to a P2P party?
    • If you had RTFA you would have known that most cell wireless providers offer "unlimited" access plans for about $60 - $80 per month which is expensive but not outrageous.
      • Not everyone lives in the US and has access to those providers. And, as usual, our providers will wait and see if and how it works out in the US. I'm quite sure we won't see this cross the pond 'til well into 2009.
      • If you had RTFA you would have known that most cell wireless providers offer "unlimited" access plans for about $60 - $80 per month which is expensive but not outrageous.

        Alas, at least in my experience, it's definitely "unlimited" rather than truly unlimited. I used to listen to Shoutcast and other internet radio stations regularly on my Treo 600, but after a few months of this got a phone call from Sprint PCS telling me to stop using up so much bandwidth.
        • You can see this behaviour in ISPs here too. Yeah, they offer "unlimited" traffic (at least some do, some make you pay for your internet traffic), but as soon as you actually make use of that "unlimited" traffic you get rather unfriendly mails.
        • We have two unlimited cell plans (sometimes in two places at the same time) and run several computers for extened periods over the verizon modems on the Broadband access plan. Never been a problem in 2 years.
  • by FuryG3 (113706) on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:07PM (#14798197) Homepage
    Is easy to do under Linux or Windows, so you can already do this without any fancy hardware.

    1) Plug in WAP wherever you are
    2) Enable ICS or iptables on whatever computer has both the mobile internet card and a wifi card
    3) Configure IPs to use the computer in step 2 as gateway
    4) Profit! er, I mean: Surf!

    We did this on the way up to defcon between 3 cars like 4 or 5 years ago... :)
    • Is easy to do under Linux or Windows, so you can already do this without any fancy hardware.

      Same with OSX; you can pick which interface to share, and what interfaces(multiple ones can be used) to share it with. I've done it before in hotels where we didn't all want to pay for high speed internet, so each night one of us 'bought' internet and shared it with everyone else.

      Anyone else get the feeling the summary is major astroturf? Half expecting it to dice and do my taxes, from the sound of it.

    • I hope they're doing this kind of stuff with EDGE, UDMA, or EVDO because if they're using vanilla GSM/GPRS then its too slow for more than just one PC. I tried doing this with 1 or 2 friends, and having that 2nd pc online made things like google timeout.
    • We did this on the way up to defcon between 3 cars like 4 or 5 years ago...
      Nothing quite like playing Quake III Arena between cars at 75MPH :-D
    • We've been doing this for years at events. For some reason, every time we shut everything down and come back in the morning the network doesn't work and we have to redo the network setup on every computer. You also always need to have the computer with the cell modem on, and if you need to change which computer has the modem you have to go and mess with your network settings again. Or if the computer with the connection crashes (as Windows computers are prone to do) your connection goes down with it.

      So i
  • by mattbee (17533) <matthew@bytemark.co.uk> on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:10PM (#14798207) Homepage
    We exhibited at the UK Linuxworld 2005 and because previous shows wanted like £300 for a 64Kb internet connection to the stand, it turned out to be cheaper for us to commit to paying that much over 1 year for an unlimited 3G/UMTS plan and PCMCIA card. We attached a wi-fi & 3G cards to a laptop, some software written in the car, and it turns out our portable hot-spot was providing 200-300Kb of internet access for several stands in the room that had found our AP. I like the principle but when the ridiculous per-MB usage charges kick in for 3G access it might not be so smart :-)
  • I remember my dial up companies bitching about my usage beacause I would be on 24/7. They tried to say that they only provide Unlimited Internet if you are actually using it. It was nice though when I had one dial up isp called CTS net in San Diego back in 1997 or so. I would leave the red hat box on 24/7 with a firewall. They actually were convinced that I was not online because they could not ping me. It was quite a laugh. However, Verizon and Sprint both provide high speed wireless in Las Vegas wit
    • Rogers, Cogeco, and others (Toronto area) have already come up with the "excuse" to limit bandwidth far below the rates they advertise. In some cases their traffic shaping results in poorer performance than you'd get with an old dial-up modem.

      In most industries you're expected to grow your capacity to service the market. With cablecos, they'd rather charge you the full price and limit your service. The problem is, why pay for an "extra fast" link if it doesn't even perform as well as the "light" packa

    • There've already been a ton of complaints from Verizon's customers on their so-called 'unlimited usage' advertising.
    • yea, i got hit with the same excuse years ago when my ISP wanted my static IP back.

      one night my workstation locked up, but not my modem/router so i had like 12 hours of 'inactivity'. They used that as the excuse to terminate my account.
  • You can also build your own [stompboxnetworks.com] if you want. :) This got slashdotted last year [slashdot.org]. It's pretty much the same as a JunXion box but in a DIY format. This was also in Vol.03 of MAKE: magazine.

    --the guy who built the stompbox :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is the way I'm going to do it. Why pay $600 for one of these "mobile hotspots" when you can build your own for around $200 in hardware. Not to mention that with a soekris computer you can use ip route tools to setup traffic shaping. I particular like this script: easyshaper [sf.net].

  • FTA:
    the Junxion has some neat features, including the ability to greet colleagues with a splash screen. ("Welcome to Dave's free Wi-Fi highway! Click Connect to continue, and don't forget to thank Dave by dropping off cash or baked goods at his cubicle.")

    Sound's like it'll pay itself off in no time. ;-)
    • Do we assume that Dave is...

      a) At work? In which case his boss isn't going to be too happy if half the workforce are bypassing the secured, corporate gateway to the outside word.

      or

      b) Sitting on a toilet somewhere (local Mall or gym?) in his makeshift 'office'? - in which case I'm staying well away from Dave and he needs to get a life.
  • by KingJoshi (615691) <slashdot@joshi.tk> on Friday February 24, 2006 @10:35PM (#14798295) Homepage
    You mean people actually leave their parent's basement?
  • "The card provides the Internet connection, courtesy of those companies' 3G ("third generation") high-speed cellular data networks. The box just rebroadcasts that connection as a Wi-Fi signal so that all nearby computers -- not just one privileged laptop -- can go online."

    I remember when 3G was first being discussed, lots of /.'ers couldn't understand why anybody would want a 'broadband' connection on their cell phones.
    • I have access to all that crap, but using it via the phone is pointless. IT takes so long to hammer in addresses on those crappy little keypads.

      Sure, if I could link it to the PC and use my PC to do the browsing... wait, I can. Shit, if I want to take the phone out of my pocket I could use IRDA to get ~1MB/sec to the phone... plenty fast enough for 3G.

      But wait there's more. If you but a phone or laptop today we'll throw in a thing called Bluetooth. Your phone connects to your PC with bluetooth and can s
  • You could build your own:

    http://devices.natetrue.com/mobileap [natetrue.com]

    Made from a router using OpenWrt Linux and a cell phone data cable. Batteries not included.
  • Yeah, it'd be a great idea except for the inevitable crowd of people (say better: nerds) that would follow you around once they found out you've got the hotspot.

    "dude, he's got the hotspot. FOLLOW THAT GEEK!"
  • Anyone know how to make a PocketPC phone do this?

    Other then being a big money hole, and a way to play solitare I'm trying to figure out what to do with mine....

  • by muftak (636261)
    these guys [dovado.com] do a similar gateway, so you can put any 3g pcmcia card into it... more usefull with fixed rate broadband wireless td-cdma or wimax ISPs
  • Let's see...I can plug cellular access card into my laptop or I can buy an expesive box, plug my cellular access card into that, then connect to that box using the wireless card in my laptop. Um...Why? What's the point? Cellular data access is hella-expensive. No way am I going to be sharing that with anyone else. And, if I am crazy enough to do that (or I need to share with a business unit), I can plug the card into my laptop and turn on internet connection sharing with my laptop's WiFi adapter.
    • "First, not all computers have the necessary card slot. ( Apple's iBooks and new MacBook Pro laptops come to mind.) Second, a mobile router can accommodate machines with no wireless features at all -- like desktop computers -- thanks to standard Ethernet network jacks on the back. (The Kyocera has four, the Junxion two and the Top Global one.)"

      And, if I am crazy enough to do that (or I need to share with a business unit), I can plug the card into my laptop and turn on internet connection sharing with my lap
      • Uh huh. I did RTFA. Brilliant move if you bought a MacBook Pro without taking your connectivity needs into account first. I have an ibook. Typing on it now. I knew it didn't have a PC card slot when I bought it. I considered my needs and determined that the lack of a PC card slot would probably not be an issue. I figured I could always use bluetooth or USB to connect to my cell phone if I ever wanted to go the mobile data route.

        Desktops? Do you really think there's much call for this? How many peop
    • One application i know of is use in trains/buses to provide access to users in places where wi-fi may not be available but 3G cellular data is available. This is info i got from a Kyocera rep at a conference a few days ago, although i don't know how many places will have 3G but not wi-fi...
  • Since in most places you're billed by the kilobyte, even modest usage could run up a significant bill. NTT DoCoMo in Japan has data download rates that range from JPY 0.84 to 1.26 per kilobyte. A yen is approximately 0.8 US cents, so downloading a megabyte goes to about US$7. Downloading a copy of the Linux kernel at those rates would cost you JPY 33,000 (US$280), which is insane. This might work in other countries where mobile carriers provide flat rates for 3G data, but it would very rapidly become un

  • When you can accomplish this for much less... Okay, let's think ClearWire. I am personally not a fan, as I don't need to move my connection around, however, ponder the following morsels: 1. Monthly lease for ClearWire Reciever: 4.99 2. Monthly charge for Access: 29.99 (first three months at 19.99) 3. 768 Down/256 Up 4. NETGEAR - WGR101 on PriceGrabber: $29.99 5. Your current Laptop. Total up front: $54.97 - Less than the advertised $60.00 for the cellular wireless access (which is per month btw). Monthl
  • I'm picturing someone going about town looking for "coldspots" and then providing wireless to those places. Call it peacedriving??
  • I saw an article about this in, I think, Popular Science. I wish I remembered the issue, but I don't. Anyway, they used one of these things with a backpack mounted with solar cells to create a backpack that would serve a wireless network anywhere, like in the woods. It's kinda a neat idea to play with, and would be definately useful for anybody seriously doing work in the field. That and it'd be really hot for long distance roadtrips.
  • The bandwidth of the wireless services are limited. As more and more users are multiplexed the user experience will deteriorate. WiMAX would be a better solution. http://witopia.blogspot.com/2006/02/mobile-routers .html [blogspot.com]
    • Alvarion [alvarion.com] is the killer WiMAX equipment provider, and although the article you linked claims it is "not available", it should be revised to "In the United States".

      I'm foaming at the mouth for its widespread introduction into the United States, which seems to be hindered by the 3G providers. It's already available in over a hundred countries, and some countries entire communication infrastructures are being redesigned around breezeMAX solutions. Mexico for example has the largest WiMAX deployment in the wor

      • Even Sloka is a WiMAX equipment provider (www.slokatelecom.com). And it provides equipment cheaper then Alvarion. WiMAX has been delyaed because of the politics in the standardisation process. IETF working groups have been plauged by it and is more evident in the MANET group. But if you go by the quote of the major telcos. they are dismissive of it. To my mind, they are also a bit apprehensive. Once the deployment starts, maybe all the telcos will releaise that they need to include it in thier services.
  • by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday February 25, 2006 @03:13AM (#14799167) Journal
    I tried to do this once with my Laptop and the Verizon "Air Card". As soon as I turned on NAT, the aircard went dead. I suspect that they're using some sort of NAT detection on their end to keep this "roaming hot spot" thing from happening on their "unlimited" plans.

    Just to be sure, I tried the same thing with a different connection (eg: Ethernet) and my setup worked fine - it was definitely something to do with Verizon....
  • So I have one, or better a client has one, which I had to crack open to see inside. Nothing special, just a Soekris.com net4521 with a different serial header (not rotated 90). Toss in a flash card and a pcmcia card and you can make your own with Metrix Pebble [metrix.net]. The reason someone would buy a Junxion is not for style - it's plain "time to make it" vers "money to buy it" logic.

    I have used ICS + a Belkin Travel router (in AP mode) to accomplish the same thing. King County Metro (bus service) has free wif
  • I've been saying this for years - cellular service is cheaper in the US. You can slice it any way you want it - SMS is cheaper, you pay less per minute, and data service is way cheaper.

    T-Mobile USA has unlimited EDGE and WiFi (at their HotSpot locations) for $30 a month. Sprint and Verizon offer unlimited EV-DO for $60 a month, and Cingular offers unlimited UMTS for $60 a month.

    Paying by the kilobyte went out of vogue here in the US almost four years ago.
  • I have Verizon EVDO service (that I use directly on my laptop) and it's great, except the pingtimes are stupidly high - the best I'm able to get is around ~200ms, which makes typing in a terminal a bit painful. I think it's a function of the cellular network itself, rather than a routing problem.

    Anyway, it sure beats the Apartment Area Network (aka, free wifi from the neighbors) and winds up being about the same cost as I would pay for home DSL + monthly coffee shop fees.
  • I haven't even bothered to set up internet access with my phone, just use my PC to check any picture messages I get. However, within the context of a Nintendo DS and a Wi-fi enabled game, this is very ... :)

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