Internet Access While On The Road...



To keep things compact, I went with a laptop.  A desktop unit would work too, but it takes up much more room.  I've had some experience using Toshiba laptop computers at work.  They are extremely reliable and come loaded with features.

Mine has 4 USB connections, a Firewire connection, built-in modem, built-in WiFi card, a 60 GB hard drive, PCMCIA slots, a DVD reader/burner, etc.  It was about $1400, then I received $300 worth of rebates.



After much research, I found T-Mobile offered the best deal on internet access.  I first tried using one of their cell phones and a cable.  This was very difficult to configure.  It took a couple of hours working with their technical dept to finally get it working.  Then I discovered the bad news, the phone was limited to only a 9 KBPS transfer rate.  Way too slow.  T-Mobile offers a money back deal for 2 weeks if you don't like what you bought.

I took the phone back and purchased a Sierra Wireless Aircard, model 750.  It cost $300, but had a $150 rebate.  This was extremely easy to install and configure.  A real plug and play device.  It's slightly larger than a credit card and inserts inside the PCMCIA slot on the laptop.  The only thing hanging out is the 3" antenna, which folds flat when not in use.


The T-Mobile plan runs $29.95/mo if you don't have their phone service.  If you do have their service, then the price drops to $19.95/mo.  The coverage is good for all the major cities and highways.  If you end up in some out of the way place, they may not have coverage.  Go to their website to determine if it has what you need.  

Keep in mind when comparing the T-Mobile plan to any others that this is for unlimited time, unlimited data!  You can leave your computer online 24/7 if you so desire.  It doesn't kick you off like AOL and others.  The downside is that it is limited to 56 KBPS.  As good, or a little better, than dial-up.  But this is from anywhere you can get a signal.  You could be sitting in your lawnchair at some beach and still be online, or your better half could be surfing the web while you're driving.



Since my laptop has a built-in WiFi card, I also try to find places that offer free WiFi, such as Starbucks.  Buy a cup of their coffee, sit in their shop, surf at broadband speed for free.  

There is another option.  For about $20, you can buy a Kensington WiFi Sniffer.  I bought mine online, but I've seen them at Office Depot.  Push the button, and if there's a WiFi connection available, green lights illuminate.  You could drive around apartment buildings and businesses to find open hot spots.  Then boot up your computer, turn on your WiFi card, and you are online within seconds.  This DOES work.  I'll let you decide whether it is ethical or not to use an unsecured WiFi connection.

Some places offer WiFi for pay, like at the Flying J gas stations.  Expect to shell out about $5/day for this service.  Can get expensive.  Not everywhere offers it.  Someday I'm sure it'll be rather common at most campsites, but that's far from true for now.  I like having the option to use either my WiFi or Aircard connections, depending on what's available at my location.



Back to the main page



My favorite search engine!

Last updated 03/04/05    All rights reserved.