Tag Archives: JuneFabrics

Internet from your Smartphone with PDANet/FoxFi

You may remember this video we did a couple of years ago when we first got our Droid smartphones.  It shows how we use some software called PDANet to tether our phone to our computer, giving the computer an Internet connection.

New Smartphones with New PDANet = WiFi Hotspot on your Phone

Both Jim and I now have Droid RAZR smartphones and they have the ability to be a WiFi hotspot.  If you go thru Verizon and turn on that feature, it will cost you an extra fee.  However, if you use the PDANet/FoxFi software, you just pay once for the software and the hotspot gets its data from your phone’s data plan.  It’s really amazing.

After you’ve downloaded the necessary software, you just turn on your phone, touch the App called PDANet or FoxFi, touch ‘Activate WiFi Hotspot mode’, and voila!  You can look at the available WiFi hotspots on your computer or tablet and you’ll see your phone listed.  Connect to it, and you’re online, using the the Internet connection provided by your phone.   Geeks on Tour members can watch the video on exactly how this works.

This is using the data on your phone’s data plan, so be aware of your data usage to avoid exceeding your contract limits.  If you had an original Verizon unlimited plan, I hope you renewed it recently because you will no longer be grandfathered into the unlimited plan.  Although there is iPhone versions of the PDANet software, Apple doesn’t allow it, so you have to ‘Jailbreak’ your phone – cutting the umbilical cord to Apple – before you can install it.

What is FoxFi?

FoxFi is free software, that turns your Android smartphone into a Wi-Fi Hotspot without turning on any extra features from your cellular provider (Verizon, AT&T etc.)  You just install it from the Google Play store, you don’t have to root your phone or do anything special.  If you don’t know what ‘rooting’ means – don’t worry about it!  You don’t have to do it.  It works on most Samsung/Motorola/LG phones and new HTC phones with Android 4.0.

What is PDANet?

PDANet is software from Junefabrics.com.  Although there is a free version, we recommend the full version currently priced at $16.  That is a one time fee.  If you get the free version you will not be able to use the Internet connection to browse to secure sites.  PDANet is the software we demonstrated in the video above to tether your phone to your computer with a cable.  The latest version includes an option for WiFi Hotspot mode.  When you select that, you’ll see FoxFi!  These two great products have joined forces.  I like that because I sometimes have trouble with the WiFi and plugging in the cable solves my problems.

Is this Illegal?

No, this is not illegal.  Of course the cellphone companies would rather you pay their extra fees for the tethering/hotspot options, but when we’re paying them nearly $300/mo already, I really don’t think they mind!  I was a bit surprised, however, to find the salesmen in the Verizon booth at our last rally telling customers about FoxFi!  I guess they figure it sells phones and data plans if you know you can use your phone to provide Internet to your other devices as well.  You’re still paying Verizon for the Internet use.

For travelers, especially fulltime RVers like us, this is a wonderful way to get Internet on the road.

Internet by DROID

I have had my new Verizon phone for a couple of weeks now, and I like it.  You don’t need to be a Geek to want one.  If you are one of the many folks who want a phone just to make calls, the Droid is way overkill.  For a phone, it is expensive at $200 with a 2 year contract.  It’s cheap for a computer, though.

connected-droidDroid showing Sliding keyboard. Optional desk dock.

The Droid is essentially a computer that can also make phone calls.  It is connected to the Internet through the Verizon cellular data network or a local WiFi network.  You can browse the Internet, send and receive emails, stream or download videos/music and so much more.  Texting or entering data is easy using one of the three keyboards.  Some people I know could use the Droid and never need a conventional laptop or desktop computer.

The Verizon data plan for the Droid is unlimited.  There is no 5GB limit as with cellular data cards or tethering my old phone using VZaccess Manager.  How about using the Droid’s Internet connection to connect my computer like I used to do?  Well, I can.  I just need PdaNet software for the Droid from June Fabrics.

Tethering is the term we use to describe the hardware and software needed to connect a computer  to the Internet using the cellular data connection from a smart phone.  It is usually a USB connection, but could be wireless using Bluetooth DUN (dial-up network) or WiFi.  A wired connection to the computer is simplest and most reliable.

There are two parts of the system.  A program that runs on your computer and stays in the system tray and an app on the Droid.  Installation is easy.  Follow the easy instructions.  Download the installation program from the website and run it on your computer.    Plug the Droid into an available USB port.  Let the program talk to the phone for a moment to establish communication, and you are ready.

First, start the PdaNet app on the Droid phone and Enable USB Tether.  Then, on your computer, click the PdaNet icon in the system tray and connect.

image

This is a broadband connection and speed is determined by the cellular network.  In a good Verizon area, the speeds are excellent.  You can easily stream video and not worry about going over your monthly data limit.

The Droid is not the only smart phone that allows tethering.  PdaNet has been available for PalmOS phones, BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile phones for a while.

If you want to use PdaNet for the iPhone, you need to “jailbreak” it, voiding the warranty.

The price of a single license is $23.95. It is a one time purchase for the Android version. One license covers one phone (you can reuse the license if you switch to a new Android phone). There is no limit on the computer side and your license gives you unlimited free upgrades.

So far, there is no support for connecting to our Cradlepoint router, but I expect that fairly soon.

We’ll show you how to network the connection in a future post.