I've used cellular modems for my laptop for years. They work well in a pinch, when there is no friendly or free WiFi hotspot around. The Verizon MiFi Intelligent Mobile Hotspot has been around for a while but it seems particularly relevant now with all the WiFi devices we seem to be accumulating and our growing dependence on being "connected". First here's how it works.
MiFi is a 3G cellular modem about the size of a credit card, and < 1/2" thick. You turn it on and it makes a 3G cellular call to Verizon's wireless network to establish an internet connection. Then it act as a WiFi access point. It has it's own SSID and password. You set your laptop, iPad, Kindle, smartphone, iPod, to access it, just like any other WiFi connection, up to five wireless devices at a time.
It is Windows 7, Vista, 2000, XP, Mac OS X and Linux compatible. WiFi mode is 802.11 B or G. If you need a VPN connection, it's compatible. Weighs 2 oz. Battery lasts 4 hours in use, 40 hours in standby. Charge it with any USB cable or AC charger that has a micro-USB connector (thin spade).
Now I walk into a conference room, hotel room, airport, wherever, and any wireless device I carry with me can connect to it. I'm not limited to the cellular modem device that only works with my laptop. And if I'm traveling with someone, they can share my wireless connection.
Verizon will give you this free with a 2-year contract, $70 with a 1-year contract and $269 if you want to go month-to-month. Of course, there is a monthly data fee for this device as well.
I will update this post with some data points for connection speeds as I use it in various locations. But for now, know that this is a great device. I highly recommend it if you travel a lot and have multiple WiFi devices.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
We had a WiFi signal problem in our house and it seemed the right kind of signal extender would boost the WiFi signal so every device, particularly the family iMac, could be on-line. I've tried access points, larger antennas, WiFi dongles that could be moved around the room. Nothing worked.
Then I saw the Netgear WiFi Range Extender (WN2000RPT) on newegg.com. $70, great price. Reviews were all positive. So I bought it. Installation was pretty easy.
The way it works is it creates a new SSID which depending on where you physically place it, has a better WiFi signal than your original wireless router. So if your router has a name of Sharktooth for example, your Netgear extender gets named Sharktooth-EXT. For fixed devices like desktop computers, TVs, etc., this works great.
However, wireless printers are a problem. Printers and the PCs/Macs that are printing to them need to be on the same SSID or wireless network. So if your computer is on new Sharktooth-EXT but your printer is on Sharktooth, you can't print to it. I called Netgear tech support and they couldn't figure it out. They wanted me to change my wireless security from WPA to WEP and retry it. Sorry, that simply means it doesn't work. I'm not reconfiguring my WiFi network for this. So basically only devices that don't print like TVs, iPods go on the -EXT (Netgear) connection.
Speaking of number of devices on my WiFi network, the router says it can support 32 devices. I thought, easy, I'll never have 32 WiFi devices. Well, the number we are accumulating is growing: 4 computers, 3 smartphones, iPods, iPad, PS3, TV, Roku and more to come, I'm sure. And the trick is no necessarily reaching the device limit, but bandwidth. They all have to suck off the same air hose. Fortunately they're not all at the same time. But when several go online, performance slows.
Conclusion on Netgear WiFi Extender:
A for general improvement of WiFi signal and performance
C- for full functionality of the WiFi network due to the printer problem.
Posted by John at Sunday, December 19, 2010