Sunday, March 1, 2009

Something Complicated Actually Worked!

I've been so busy lately I haven't been posting much. I apologize to each of my three readers for leaving them in suspense too often.

Today I get to report on a bit of good technology news. As you may know, my recent luck with tech - particularly computers - has not been stellar, but just this once I have something to share that seems to be OK.

My ISP - a no name outfit that does wireless connections here the in the Santa Cruz Mountains where Verizon and cable companies dare not provide reasonable service - has been giving me fits lately. The connection has been poor at best, and sometimes didn't work at all. They've been out for a couple of visits (one of which they've billed me for, which I will be complaining about to them soon) but in the end had to admit that they were simply unable to get me a reasonable signal. Not good.

In desperation I've searched for alternatives, and finally settled on something that seems to work. It's not lightning fast, but it works. It's an EVDO connection provided by Sprint in my case, though others can get something similar from Verizon.

I ordered an EVDO modem from Verizon and a Kyocera KR2 EVDO router. The modem arrived on Friday and I began playing with it. There, I appeared to hit a wall. Initializing it required a Windows machine which I lack. Thankfully I managed borrow one from a friend and did the initialization there. Once done, I could simply plug the EVDO modem into my Ubuntu 8.10 system and connect to the network from the network connection tool. It just worked. Amazing.

Even more amazing was the fact that the router arrived before I visited the friend who loaned me the Windows machine. Once I had initialized the modem and tested it in my Ubuntu 8.10 laptop, I removed the KR2 from the box, plugged the USB modem into it, connected the router to the laptop, and plugged in the router's power supply. Once everyone's POST had completed and the EVDO modem had said "hello" again to Sprint, I was back online, this time through the router, which also acts as a WiFi hotspot.

In other words, except for the silly requirement that my EVDO modem be initialized under Windows (or a Mac), it all just worked. Perfectly. First time.

That never happens.

So now I get to do some speed testing with it and see how it actually performs. So far we know it is an acceptable alternative, but we've done no optimization about placing the modem, etc. I may also need to add an external antenna to increase the bandwidth, but I'll learn that with time.

Right now what I have is something we can use when my regular ISP's connection isn't working properly. And if we can live with the data rate and the 5GB/month cap, I may be able to say good-bye to my old ISP permanently. Give me a couple of months to figure all of that out. I promise to report on it here eventually.