BitDepth 688 - July 14

Notes on my effort to tether a mobile phone to a computer to create a roaming Internet connection...
A nice kinda tie up

PDAnet creates a wireless router on the iPhone that allows a computer connected via WiFi to access any Internet services available to the mobile phone. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

The plan was to have a secondary Internet access option for those occasions when my primary wasn't available. The no-brainer solution would be a low-cost connection from a provider who isn't Flow, my current ISP, but when has this column ever pursued the simple path? No challenge after all, brings no BitDepth.
This combination of cussed determination and the allure of the Sisyphean resulted in the pursuit of GPRS capability to my cellphone with the intention of tethering it to my computer.

This, gentle readers should be cautioned, is neither the best available solution nor is it the easiest, but the process has undeniable geek cred.
First off, my delimiters may not be yours. I'm good with my cell service with bMobile, but the quality of GPRS service is typical for the technology, which is to say it sucks. Expect the kind of speeds delivered by a 28.8 modem, if you can remember back that far, but TSTT offers unlimited access for a disturbingly high $150 per month.

Digicel offers a better option with its EDGE network, which I've tested with favourable results
in a previous column. When I tried the Blackberry service from Digicel just over a year ago, tethering was blocked, but that restriction has since been lifted according to a note from Quincy Hunte, the company's Head of Products & Distribution.
Digicel users will want to use the Edge network over GPRS and can access it on from any web capable phone on either pay-as-you-go or 20MB, 40MB, 150MB, 300MB, 600MB and 1GB data plans.
In a move that TSTT's Media Relations Manager Graeme Suite described as an answer to my prayers (rants might be more accurate though), the company has reduced its mobile Blink on the Go service by 30 percent. On a two-year contract, you can get 512k speeds for $249 per month and 700k speeds for $350.

Creating the link
GPRS and Edge services are primarily intended to enable web access on a mobile phone, where data access demands are less intensive than in typical desktop computer use. Accessing websites on a mobile phone tends to be more agreeable because many major websites switch to a special version of their website when they detect the browsers used by the more popular cellphones. E-mail, Twitter and instant messaging services are generally text based and also make lighter demands on these slower data services.

Tethering a mobile phone to your computer essentially turns it into a modem, and the demands placed on the mobile data network multiply quickly.
The process of tethering varies both my brand and model of phone, so the precise technical details I leave in the hands of Google and Bing. Search for your phone model and tethering to find resources that can guide you through the process, which can range from simple to Dr Evil scale dastardly.

My own experience is based on putting a 2G iPhone on TSTT's GPRS network. Digicel's Edge service is superior, as evidenced by previous tests, but I'm unwilling to toss out all my call cards for a backup service.
The first step (and it proved to be a doozy), required a visit to TSTT's Westmall office to activate the plan. For no reason that's been adequately explained to me, this can't be done over the phone and the visit proved to be deeply unsatisfying. Kudos, though, to the young receptionist who despite her unequivocal hotness, got up from her desk and got me connected when surly staffers kept stonewalling me.

The hacks that enable tethering only work with a 3G iPhone. Half an hour or hardcore Googling later, I turned up PDAnet, software originally designed for the Palm Treo that's available on the iPhone focused Cydia hacks network. US$30 later, I'm up and crawling.
Two weeks later, Flow experiences cable cuts and a fire on a pole. The backup plan gets the test by fire, and I got my research and transmission done via the tethered mobile connection. 
Now, at least, I can begin to justify this expense to the household management.
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