As you know if you are a regular visitor here, I live off-the-grid, which in general terms means that my household is not connected to the electricity grid, using instead alternative energy in the form of a wind turbine and solar PV (photovoltaic) panels. Some years ago we also made the decision to cut the connection to the telephone lines and rely on our mobile phones and Skype. This was a budgetary decision which was heavily supported by our dissatisfaction with the internet connection (12 bits per second) that was provided by our telephone provider.
For the last few years we have used a Vodafone mobile modem, a sim card based dongle. At the beginning the reception was very good and we even utilised an old network hub to run both of our laptops on the one mobile dongle, which meant that we were now paying €20 each month for our internet connection. Even including the cost of our mobile phones at an average of €20 each per month we were still saving up to €100 per month.
For our budget we think that ending our contract with the telephone company was the best decision we ever made and we wonder now how did we manage to pay those bills and how did we use the phone so much? We never once missed the old telephone line.
It is not unusual these days for people to need an internet connection that is not telephone line based and lots of people in Ireland live in areas that are not yet serviced by wireless broadband companies offering service.
Over the years the Vodafone dongle became increasingly irritating, with speeds varying between 70 bps to zero. We could no longer run both laptops from the one dongle and had to get a second one. We experimented with placing the dongles in different places to see where the reception was best and noticed that quite often the weather affected the effectiveness.
However the situation became worse and unfortunately the service provided by the help-line was not satisfactory with endless excuses being presented to us for the lack of a reliable service – why can companies not just come clean and admit to allowing their service to become over-subscribed?
Last year we switched to another company with the same price deal and were delighted to have an internet connection that was reliable. Not so long ago I unlocked the second Vodafone modem and oredered a second O2 Sim card so that we could both have internet whilst travelling separately.
Recently the company O2 released a new form of wireless dongle, the Hotshot.
The new modem is larger, about the size of a mobile phone, however so is the download allowance. Previously we were paying €20 per month for a 5 gigabyte download allowance, with the new Hotshot we get to an allowance of 15 gigabytes per month for €20, a pretty good improvement I think.
The Hotshot creates it’s own WiFi zone and we can connect up to 5 different units (computers or internet phones) to the Hotshot so anyone who visits can also use the modem.
Our large pc, which was recently rebuilt, connects quickly with the new Hotshot. My old laptop is too old to connect wirelessly however I simply plug the modem into a USB slot and can connect with no problem whilst using a Windows based operating system.
So far we are happy with the performance of this new modem, the only negative comment is that the battery life is really poor. This may be a problem which is particular to our modem, I am chatting with the O2 forum on twitter about the battery and will do a few tests to check exactly how long it lasts on each charge.
I am awaiting the arrival of a little USB stick which will allow my lalptop to pick up WiFi and so connect wirelessly to the Hotshot which will be more convienient for moving my laptop around.
Happily we can also connect to the Hotshot whilst using a Linux operating system, in fact that is the main reason why I bought the wireless stick – to allow me to use Ubuntu, but that’s another Geeky Wednesday post.
Remember if you have any geeky questions that you think I may be able to help with then I would love to hear from you.