Posts Tagged ‘Internet Connection’

My Wi-Fi Journey

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

As you may have noticed from my last few posts, I recently went on a business trip. I brought my trusty new netbook for its first major outing. As wi-fi is becoming more ubiquitous, I thought I would try my luck at getting as many free or low-cost wireless connections as possible.

My first opportunity came at the Burbank Airport. I remembered last year there was an AT&T hotspot, but since I can’t get AT&T in my area, I was unable to take advantage of it. This year there was a free service though. I was able to take advantage of it while I waited for my plane.

I got to my hotel late enough that I waited to get online again until the next morning. The Las Vegas Convention Center has a couple of different zones available, depending on where you are in the building. In the opening session I used a free service that I had to register for, and for a free account I could only use it for 30 minutes per day. This was enough to get me through the first session, but then I was on my own.

One of the best things about my “dumb” phone is that I can tether my internet connection. In a pinch I can connect at relatively fast speeds through my Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN). I don’t have 3G, so the speed is that much more impressive. Unfortunately I got a little carried away and managed to drain my phone and my netbook of most of their power. I had the ability to charge my netbook on the spot, but I was out of luck on the phone side until I returned to my hotel.

As I was heading to a luncheon, I noticed a “Blogger’s Corner” that advertised free wi-fi. I mentioned this in an earlier post. I was able to get some work done, and since it was designed for bloggers, I went ahead and made a preliminary post from there.

When I got back to my hotel I had to pay for the wi-fi for the first time of this trip. $10 bought me 24 hours of access. Unfortunately my room was far from the access point, so I clocked a whopping .99Mbps. My cell phone is faster than that. I didn’t have much of a choice though, so I went with it.

Thursday morning it was back to the free 30 minute session from the Convention Center, and then back to the blogger’s lounge later in the day.

On my way home, I thought I was going to get a chance to use wi-fi on a flight. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post the connection didn’t work. I was a little disappointed. Southwest mentioned an experimental pricing plan ranging from $2-12 per segment of flight. My little 1 hour hop back to Burbank certainly would have qualified for the $2 plan, but I didn’t get the chance to find out.

In summary, I was able to use free wi-fi at the Burbank Airport and Las Vegas Convention Center, paid for access in my hotel, and while technically I pay for my unlimited internet on my phone, the Bluetooth connection was free. I was denied a connection on the airline, but had it worked that would have been a round-trip connection, the bulk of which was free. There will soon come a time where this entire trip will be connected to wi-fi both free and fast. Until then, I think I got pretty good mileage out of the services I was able to find.

Wi-Fi In the Sky

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

When I boarded my Southwest flight tonight, I saw something curious. “Southwest Wi-Fi Hotspot”. I had heard of airlines experimenting with wi-fi, but hadn’t flown since they started. Apparently Southwest is one of the airlines testing the service out.

When I sat down there was another advertisement on the tray in front of me. I fished around for more authentication and was rewarded with an instruction list. It mentioned when we could connect, stated the experimental price range, and gave basice advice on how to connect and what to do if connection failed. Interestingly enough, the flight attendant kept saying that cell phones are now no longer allowed at all, even in airplane mode. The instruction sheet didn’t say that. It said that devices without wi-fi were stuck playing games in airplane mode. I wonder if the guy read the sheet. Anyway, I was planning to get online with my netbook, so I didn’t need to worry about whether or not he was wrong.

At this point I was pretty stoked. I thought it would be fun to blog from the air. Alas, it was not to be. I decided to get one last confirmation that I was allowed to connect when the flight attendant came by for my drink order. He noticed the instruction sheet and kindly informed me that the network hadn’t worked on the flight in, and he didn’t expect it to work for me. He asked me to let him know if I got it to work. I couldn’t.

There are two basic reasons I imagine it didn’t work. The first has to do with the little note on the instruction sheet stating that once the devices are supposed to be turned off again, the wi-fi would shut down. This makes me wonder if it is stuck on shutdown mode…that or there is some related problem. The second thing I thought of had to do with basic wireless router setup. When setting up a typical router, one has a choice to hide the SSID. I wonder if this setting was activated, whether on purpose or accident. This would explain my inability to find any networks available.

Since I couldn’t actually blog from the air, I decided to do the next best thing. I am typing the blog from the air. I don’t know when I will be flying again, maybe not until Christmas. Hopefully that airline has wi-fi so I can test this feature again. Until then, I will keep blogging from the ground.

Mobile Speed Test

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

I came across a web service the other day and decided to check it out. I had been wondering how fast my cell phone was connecting to the internet but hadn’t been curious enough to look for a way to test it. Enter mobilespeedtest.com. Nothing revolutionary here, just a simple website to let you see how fast your phone is connecting to the internet.

My first test surprised me. The results chart shows the various speeds of different connections, from a simple analog modem all the way to standard DSL. My phone was testing above standard DSL. More than double to be precise. I knew this had to be a fluke. I use a simple Sony Ericsson W580i – a “dumb” phone, and it only has Edge access. I thought there had to be some sort of mistake.

Sure enough, I was right. It turns out that by using Opera Mini I was skewing the test results. I tested again on my built-in browser and got the results I was expecting. I really was at the low end of the Edge spectrum. For a while I thought that maybe AT&T was giving me a great connection, but no dice. I am certainly looking forward to getting back to 3G, if only Sony or Google would release their phones on my carrier.

Be sure to check out the mobile speed test site. If nothing else it will help keep your carrier honest considering how much unlimited internet access costs.