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Jan 14, 2013 -

Why I Pay For Mobile Internet Instead of Relying on Public Wifi

I’ve been using my own mobile internet connection in Canada for years now and am in my second bout of using it in the US. When I have access to a safe, reliable, and fast wifi connection (such as at a friend’s or family member’s), I’ll go with that since mobile internet can be slow and the bandwidth is limited. But when I’m traveling or staying in a campground, my own connection is preferable.

In no particular order, here are the reasons I pay the high prices for mobile internet instead of relying on public wif:

– I need access to do business. My mobile connection doesn’t always work, but I can pretty much rely on having internet access anywhere there is cell service. I don’t have to hope that I find a wifi hotspot with a good signal and I can do my own troubleshooting. It really sucks to be relying on someone’s wifi and have that person’s router fail and need a reboot when you don’t have access to the device.

– Using public wifi for anything more than checking email and doing very light surfing is stealing. I didn’t understand that when I hit the road. I thought that access to wifi meant access to unlimited bandwidth. That is not the case. If you start downloading massive files or go on a streaming marathon, you’re reducing usage availability for everyone else by slowing down the network. In some regions, you can even incur huge bandwidth overages for your hosts to pay.

– My connection is secure. I have no idea who is monitoring a public network.

– My cellular connection tends to be faster than most park wifi.

– I can go anywhere on the web with my connection. I was having trouble getting my computer to recognize the handset this morning so I used the the park wifi for a short while. I could not access several sites because the state of Louisiana has blocked them.

– It’s a tax deductible expense.

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Communications & Electronics, Internet, Technical    9 Comments
Nov 15, 2012 -

Uneventful Drive Down I-87 To Saratoga Springs

It was a perfect day for a drive, clear with few cars on the road. Except when she was stuck behind some impossibly slow rigs or was climbing a grade, Miranda effortlessly matched the speed limit. I could only feel the truck behind me when I slowed down or was climbing a hill. I need to measure my new rig, but, truly, it doesn’t feel any longer or more unwieldy than my old one! My gas consumpition was normal for a day going up and down grades!

Just ahead of the last area before Saratoga Springs, a long column of white cars appeared in my view screen. They roared past me and I saw that they were US Border Patrol vehicles. They merged in between myself and another rig plated in Quebec that was closely followed another Quebec-plated rig. The two Quebec vehicles pulled into the rest area and the border patrol vehicles followed suit. There were no lights or anything, but it was the darnedest thing to see as they appeared to be on a mission.

One exit before the raceway, I was running on a quarter tank of fuel when I noticed a sign saying ‘truck stop.’ I figured that I’d be able to find a gas station where I could get in easily with my toad, and I did.

At the raceway, I tucked myself into the far end of the parking lot, much like I did last time. There are a lot more cars here this time, however.

I called Verizon to reactivate my phone to get internet and then realised that I’d need wifi to get online, like I did in the spring. My GPS told me where was a McDonald’s fairly close by, but was useless at providing a neighbourhood map that would set me off in the right direction on foot. I set off in a couple of directions, easily covering the distance to the restaurant, and each time my GPS told me I was going the wrong way.

Even though I’d truly had enough toad excitement for one day, I unhooked the truck and drove around a bit until I found the McDonald’s, which was ludicrously close by. It almost wasn’t worth it to have unhooked except that I would have come home in the dark.

There, I downloaded the Lion version of the VZAccess Manager and then tried to connect. No dice. I called Verizon back and when I finally got to a live person, he informed me that the first guy I spoke to forgot to authorize use of my cell phone as a modem. I hung up with him, restarted my phone, and tried the internet again. It worked!

I drove home in the growing darkness and then spent a very frustrating 15 minutes or so trying to hook my truck up. It’ll go much more smoothly as I gain experience with the tow bar… and hook up while not completely exhausted.

The disappointing news of the day is that my battery bank is not working properly. I haven’t even tried my new inverter setup yet because my batteries are so low.

I unhooked from shore power on Monday and had a full charge on Tuesday morning, but haven’t had one since then. I really should have plugged back in. What happened is that I thought the propane was on, but it wasn’t, and the furnace kicked on for hours, completely draining the battery before I caught the mistake. It’s been pretty overcast since, I spent all of yesterday in a garage, and I didn’t drive enough today to get a full charge. At this point, I can’t tell if my problem is just that I need a charge or if I screwed up somewhere in my wiring and actually have a problem.

My battery monitor says that I’m at about 80% charge with a voltage in the high elevens, (which goes to show that voltage tells you nothing about the state of your batteries), and that I could run at my current amp draw for about 24 hours. Unfortunately, my current amp draw is just the fridge. As soon as I turn on the furnace, my fridge goes haywire. Forget running the water pump or even an LED light. It’s getting chilly, so I predict I’ll be going to bed early with the electric blanket. I’m not even going to bother to have my batteries load tested. As soon as I can get a deal on a good pair of Trojans with more amp hours, I’ll be switching. I should not be shivering my first night back on the road.

Tomorrow will be the hardest day of the drive south as I’ll be heading onto the New York Thruway. After that, it should be fairly smooth sailing. I do need to find a place to overnight between St Clair PA and Hampton Roads as I want to arrive at my destination in daylight. ETA at this point is Sunday afternoon.

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Batteries, Boondocking/Dry camping, Cell Phone, Communications & Electronics, Driving, Electricity, Fridge, Furnace, Internet, New York, Solar Panels, Technical, Travel, USA, Weather    No Comments
May 24, 2012 -

A Day on Lion

My upgrade to OSX Lion did not go smoothly because Snow Leopard ate my internet connection. It came on and off until it finally decided to stay long enough for me to get the necessary software updates to download Lion overnight.

It took about an hour this morning to install Lion. Everything seemed fine until I tried to open Mail and I kept on getting error messages. I decided to trash the imported files and restore from my last Leopard backup, which worked. The new Mail looks weird and is taking some getting used to, but it now has threads, so I know I’m going to love it.

My only other complaint is that I had a dickens of a time with my transcription today. The file would stop and freeze periodically, like my foot pedal was jamming. If this had happened a couple of times, I would consider the behaviour coincidental to installing Lion, but the number of times it occurred is concerning me. It was a very frustrating transcription day.

Another thing I need to get used to is ‘reverse scrolling’ in that I have to roll the mouse wheel upwards to scroll down a page (or swipe upwards on the track pad). For some reason, this isn’t irking me at all and I think that I will get used to it quickly.

iCal has a pretty skin (looks like a physical desktop calendar), but I find the colours too muted. I put all my financial stuff in red and the bold red boxes were impossible to ignore while the meek pink ones kind of fade into the background.

I like the Address Book skin, too. It looks like the Address Book skin on the iPad, more like a real book.

The new Finder window is missing a crucial piece of information that I check all the time: the amount of space on my hard drive. I’ll have to get used to periodically getting the info from the hard drive icon on the desk top.

If I don’t have any transcription tomorrow, I’ll be taking the day off to explore some Lion financial apps. I’ve been wanting to move from my buggy free suite to bug-free paid software for some time. I also need to remove Office for Mac 2004 in such a way that I could restore it should I decide to go back to Leopard if Lion ever explodes in my face. Finally, I’m going to poke around iWork ’09 to see if it’s worth upgrading or not.

With Mountain Lion coming out shortly and so many apps now being updated for Lion only, it really was time to make the switch. The speed bumps aren’t much fun, but I’ll get through them. In the long run, upgrading to a new OS is almost as much fun as getting a new computer!

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Communications & Electronics, Computer, Finances, Internet, Technical, Work    4 Comments
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