June 3, 2009
I recently purchased a new device that has turned out to exceed my expectations for it. I just love it when that happens!
The device is the Cradlepoint PHS300. It’s a portable device that creates a WiFi hotspot that accesses the internet through a cellular USB modem. It works great with my AT&T USBConnect Mercury cellular modem.
The main reason I bought is was my experience in the Cayman Islands, which I related here in a previous posting. I needed to be able to access the Internet through WiFi in order to use Skype on my iPhone to make calls. Skype doesn’t work over the AT&T 3G network, only over WiFi. So my wife, Rosemarie, and I found ourselves constantly scrambling around the island looking for free WiFi hotspots. Luckily, we found an abundance there.
Nevertheless, this experience really got me thinking. There are a few key iPhone applications that are blocked from directly using the AT&T cellular network and require a WiFi connection – applications like Skype and Sling Media Player. So why not get a device that would allow me to carry my own mobile WiFi hotspot around in my pocket and have access to the Internet through it wherever I was able to access the AT&T cellular network, i.e., pretty much everywhere I travel in the US.
The Cradlepoint PHS300 is just that device. So far it has worked flawlessly. It’s got a rechargeable battery good for a couple of hours usage, and includes an AC adapter for when electrical outlets are available. In addition is has provided me with an unexpected benefit – better connectivity at my work location with my current consulting client. I’ve written here before of my problems in getting a decent AT&T 3G connection in the part of the building where I’m now working. Well, it turns out that if I put my AT&T USBConnect Mercury cellular modem into a vertical orientation (see picture above), I get a great signal there! So, I’m using the PHS300 at work all the time and not even plugging the AT&T USBConnect Mercury device into my Asus 1000H anymore. I can even carry the 1000H into conference rooms on the floor I work and still maintain a usable WiFi connection to the PHS300.
End result: I’m really happy with the PHS300!
April 22, 2009
I recently installed Presto on my Asus EEE 1000H netbook, and I’m loving it. Presto is a subset of Xandros Linux and installing it on a Windows XP or Vista machine automatically sets up a dual-boot environment. Booting into Presto is super-fast compared to booting into Windows XP on my netbook, taking only about 25 seconds. Shutting down from Presto takes only about 3 seconds on the 1000H!
So, it’s fast, but what good is it? The Presto environment comes with Open Office for working with Microsoft Office documents, the Firefox browser for Web browsing and email (if you use something like GMail, which I do), Skype for audio and video calls, and an IM client that supports most major IM services (I use GoogleTalk with it). In short, everything I need to get 90% of my work done. There is also a Presto App Store with a limited selection of sofware available for download. I got the latest Java Runtime Environment and the AVG Free Anti-Virus program from it.
I use Presto at my hotel, at the airport, at home – in short, anywhere I need to get to some straightforward PC work done quickly. It’s very fast and very solid. Best of all it only costs $20!
March 10, 2009
I first started blogging about my Startech USB Docking Station with VGA back in August of last year. Now after over 7 months I’m still extremely happy with this unit. I’m using it right now at my client site and it’s allowing me to attach a full-sized HP keyboard and mouse, an Ethernet cable, and an HP 17″ LCD monitor to my little Asus 1000H netbook. What more can I say about this device other than it works, and it works flawlessly. If you’re looking for a very powerful and relatively inexpensive docking station for a laptop or netbook, I highly recommend that you check out this device.
November 11, 2008
I posted last week about having problems getting decent signal strength from AT&T’s cellular data network at my current work location in Indianapolis. I had come up with at Rube Goldberg solution that seemed to work OK, but I thought I might look for something a little more elegant. I found that I could get an external antenna for my AT&T Mercury USB Wireless Modem on eBay for only $15, so I ordered one. I’ve got it connected to my USB modem right now and it’s working very well. I’ve gone from poor signal with frequents drops to an extremely strong and solid 3G signal. The antenna has a magnetic base and the instructions say to put it on a flat metal surface for best reception. So, I’ve got it on top of the storage shelf in my cube. Works great!
November 7, 2008
As I’ve previously mentioned here, the only way I can access the Internet using my Asus Eee 1000h at my new client site in Indianapolis is through my AT&T USB Wireless modem. I did run into a problem when using it, though. It seems that the cube in which I work is on the side of the building that has the poorest cellular reception. If a take my laptop to the other side of the building I get great 3G reception, but in my cube reception is very spotty. I was seeing my modem regularly drop down to EDGE, and sometimes report no signal at all. Bummer!
So, I figured I needed to get an external antenna for my USB Wireless modem. I even looked at such antennas on eBay. Then I had a somewhat inspired and whacky idea – I carry a 3-foot USB extension cable with me in my computer bag – might that somehow work as an antenna for my AT&T USB Mercury Wireless modem? Well, it turns out that it actually works amazingly well. When plugging the modem into the cable and stretching it out a little, as shown in the picture above, I now get perfect 3G reception. Now it never drops to EDGE and always reports a good, strong 3G signal. What a terrific kludge!
November 4, 2008
I’m now working in Indianapolis at my new client site. The Asus Eee 1000h is working great, along with my new AT&T USB wireless modem. The wireless modem is a great addition to my travel kit. It’s providing terrific download and upload speeds – it’s a very impressive little device!
November 3, 2008
On Friday, I found out that my new client in Indianapolis has a super-secure corporate network – so secure that they don’t allow any Internet access to non-corporate computers. Most client sites I visit allow access to the general Internet for non-corporate computers, just blocking access to their own intranet. Sometimes it requires running a special browser start-up script, but it can normally be done somehow. My new client doesn’t even allow that.
This means that I can’t access the Internet through their network from my Asus Eee 1000h while working there. Thus, I can’t even check my email through their network. So, on Saturday I ran over to my local AT&T store and picked up a Sierra Wireless Mercury USB modem. I tested it out at home and it works amazingly well, with speeds indistinguishable from my home WiFi network connected to the Internet through my cable modem.
One particularly nice thing about the modem is that the AT&T Connection Manager software install package is actually contained in ROM inside the device. So, no CD-ROM is required to install it on a computer. Just connecting the device to a computer’s USB port will automatically start up the install process.
So, I’ll now be able to access the Internet and get to my email while working at my new client site. BTW, I’ll actually be starting there on Tuesday, not today as a previous posting here indicated. As that post mentioned – nothing in the consulting business is 100% sure until it actually happens! So, I’ll be driving out to Indianapolis early tomorrow morning.
September 23, 2008
Last night while driving around town I was listening to music streaming from my iTunes music library located at home over my car radio. How did I do that?
First of all, I recently purchased the Griffin iTrip AutoPilot iPhone/iPod FM Transmitter. This device, pictured above, broadcasts audio from an iPhone or iPod to an open FM channel on your car’s FM stereo radio. It even has a SmartScan function that picks out the three best frequencies to use and saves them. Most importantly to me, it will charge an iPhone 3G. It’s a little finicky regarding optimal placement within the car to get the strongest possible signal to the car’s radio, but once you find the proper location it’s a real breeze to use.
To get iTunes music streamed over 3G to my iPhone, I use the amazing Simplify Media application. It enables my iPhone to play any music that is on my home computer (I happen to have my music stored on Chocolate Shake, my Asus Eee 1000h) by having it streamed to the iPhone over WiFi, 3G, or even Edge. It even displays all my playlists, and can view artist bios and song lyrics. I say it can stream from my home computer, but it can actually do more than that. It can also stream from up to 30 friends’ computers if they have the free Simplify Media server installed on their machines, too. (Clarification: I just found out that music purchased from the iTunes store is blocked from playing on an iPhone, although at least one of my purchased albums slipped through Simplify Media’s filter, which is why I didn’t immediately notice this. So you can’t play all of your iTunes music on an iPhone, just music you’ve ripped into iTunes.)
This is an incredably handy feature for me. Since I have quite a large video and music collection stored on iTunes, I’ve had to split it up between my iPod Touch and iPhone 3G. The iPhone contains all of my video files, while the Touch contains all of my music. The Touch normally sits at home where it serves up music over my in-home wireless speaker setup. With Simplify Mediia I can now listen to all of my music on my iPhone, too, even though none of it is actually stored on that device.
So that’s how I managed to be listening to streaming iTunes music over my car’s radio last night. Isn’t mobile technology wonderful!
September 19, 2008
I recently purchased a Linksys Storage Link for USB 2.0 Disk Drives NSLU2 from Amazon for the amazing price of $41. This is actually a tiny Linux computer that allows you to mount up to two USB disk drives and/or memory sticks and access them as network drives. It also provides a Web-based interface for administrative functions. From what I’ve read on the Web it’s also eminently hackable so that you fairly easily get into the Linux OS and turn it into a Web server. I’m actually quite happy with just its network drive capabilities. I’ve got a 160 GB portable USB drive hooked up to it and am using it for backups of my Asus Eee 1000h. I think it’s an outstanding bargain!
September 17, 2008
I’ve been a Remember The Milk user for quite some time, but I’ve recently switched to Toodledo as my Web-based task manager. Why?
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I now use Appigo’s Notebook application on my iPhone and it syncs very well with Toodledo to maintain a backup of my iPhone notes and provide PC-based access to them. I’ve also been a long-time user of Appigo’s other iPhone application: ToDo. ToDo is a wonderful task manager that can sync tasks with either Remember The Milk or Toodledo. I’ve been using it with Remember The Milk up until a few days ago. I switched to Toodledo syncing for two reasons.
The first is simple: just to have the same syncing platform for both Notebook and ToDo. However, much more importantly is the fact that I’ve had continuing problems with syncing repeating to-do’s with Appigo’s ToDo and Remember The Milk. Every so often a repeating task would either mysteriously disappear or get duplicated after a sync. Since I’ve switched over to Toodledo as the sync partner for Appigo’s ToDo program, this problem has completely disappeared.
Now as a task management service in and off itself, Toodledo has advantages and disadvantages over Remember The Milk. Toodledo offers a much more complete set of services (like notes), however its interface is also much less elegant than that of Remember The Milk. However, as a syncing partner with ToDo and Notebook, it’s the simply superb. Frankly I use ToDo and Notebook much more than Toodledo, so its interface isn’t really an issue for me. Reliable syncing between my iPhone and Toodledo is vital, and that is exactly what it provides.