Tag Archives: Verizon

Live Broadcast from Walmart Parking Lot Studios!

We were scheduled to present a Google Photos seminar to the Quad Cities Computer Society in Moline, Illinois on Monday night.


imageWe were in our RV in New Jersey, and Monday was a travel day for us. We left the Jersey shore and headed south to go home to Florida. We planned to spend the night at an Elk’s Lodge in New Castle, Delaware after a stop near Atlantic City to visit with Jim’s Aunt Julie.

If you don’t know, many Elks lodges offer parking for their RVing members. We became Elks members during an Escapees RV Rally in Gillette, WY and, using our Allstays App to find them, we have stayed at many of them all over the country! We arrived at the Elks Lodge about 4:30 – perfect! We needed to go live on the web about 7:30 to present our seminar using Youtube Live Streaming services. We’ve stayed at this Elks Lodge before and really liked it. They have a nice big parking lot and one electric hookup for an RV. We were the only RV there.


As soon as we pulled in to their parking lot we started checking our phones for Verizon signal. We have an unlimited data contract with Verizon and we find they usually have the best speeds of any service wherever we are. We turn our phones into hotspots, I connect my computer to my “Mrs. Geek” phone hotspot and Jim connects his computer to his “Mr. Geek” phone hotspot. To do a Youtube Live Streaming event you need a fast Internet connection and plenty of bandwidth. We can easily burn thru a couple of Gigabytes during an hour show.

As I mentioned, we’ve stayed at this Elks Lodge before- on our way north in July – and I remembered there being good Verizon Internet signal here. Unfortunately, I have discovered that trusting my memory is a bad idea! I was only seeing 1 bar of 4G on my phone, Jim was down to 3G on his! A speedtest by Ookla showed less than 1Mbps – not nearly enough! This won’t work. We turned around and headed out in search of better Verizon signal.

We found a Walmart not too far away (also using our Allstays app!) and saw 5 bars of 4G and 16Mbps of upload speed! That will do (upload is more important than download for broadcasting.)  Now to park and crank up the generator for electricity. Then to get the “studio” set up. We usually don’t put out the motorhome slides when we’re in a Walmart parking lot. It’s not good ‘etiquette’ to set up camp for an overnight parking lot stay. But there just isn’t enough room for everything with the slides in, so we compromised, parked in such a way that the one necessary slide was on the curb side and we put it out.

All looked good, and we connected with our audience with plenty of time to spare. Just as Jim was about to click the button to “Go Live” his phone’s hotspot crashed. No clue why. He quickly connected to the MrsGeek hotspot and we continued on! We demonstrated Google Photos for about 40 minutes then took questions from the audience. Somehow Chris’ microphone went missing early on, where DID our stage manager go?

Although we had a live audience in Moline, Illinois, anyone in the world could have tuned in because of the way Youtube works. For a worldwide broadcast from our RV in a Walmart parking lot – I think we did pretty good! Since Youtube automatically records, you can watch the presentation now if you’d like by clicking on the image below.


Here’s what Judi, the president of Quad Cities Computer Society wrote to us afterwards,

Chris, thanks to you and Jim.  As always you did a great job and we really, really appreciate your time and effort.

I am sorry I did not interrupt you once I suspected there was a microphone problem.  I thought at first it was a volume problem and turned up the speakers.  But we did hear through Jim’s Mic and I think being able to listen to the recorded version will help catch anything that I missed.

Your presentation helped me a lot and the book is a great resource. I know now MY confusion was about the computer not syncing like the mobile devices and the book lets me read and re-read about the correct methods for deleting photos from each source.

You guys are the best–your dedication to teaching is remarkable and NEEDED by so many of us “older” adults.  I hope you continue for many more years.

Thanks Judi! Let’s do it again sometime!

Here’s a photo of our Walmart Parking Lot Broadcast Studio.


p.s. I’m writing this blog post from another Walmart parking lot! In North Carolina now.

Internet in Cuba

We took an educational tour of Cuba in December, 2015. We knew that Internet might not be available much in Cuba, but what we learned is a defining characteristic of Cuban life, the US embargo, and a communist government. Cuba has one of the lowest rates of Internet access in the world. See this Yahoo Tech article: Cuba Unplugged: An Island Still Stuck in Airplane Mode

To be fair, we had decent WiFi in our hotel in Havana, the Havana Libre. We paid our $5 to get a password that would allow us to be online with one device for one hour. We actually used that to connect our cute little Hoo Too travel router – then both Jim’s phone and my Chromebook could connect to the our own personal hotspot created by the Hoo Too. Pretty cool. If this is of interest to you in your travels, here’s a link:

The hotel’s WiFi hotspot was on the 2d floor, period – no access in your room. We were pleasantly surprised at the speeds. Nowhere near as fast as what we’re used to, but much better than we’ve experienced on cruise ships. There was one weird thing – we could not access our PayPal account. Access Denied! I thought maybe it was blocked by the government so as not to allow transfers of funds – and that may be the reason – but we were able to access our regular bank accounts with no problem. And, we seemed to have full access to any social media sites we wanted, like Facebook.

Our phones were working and Verizon greeted us with this message when we got off the plane

We did actually receive a couple calls and a couple texts during our stay in Cuba, but when we tried to answer the call, or reply to the text, it just didn’t work. We really don’t care about phone calls or texts, what we need is data – an Internet connection to manage our website and customer emails.

We saw people with smartphones everywhere, so we thought we’d investigate buying a local SIM card – like we did in Europe. Yes, indeed, we could purchase a SIM card with service from Cubacel. We were told the price was $40US – just for the card! Not for any service. We were still considering it – not that we NEED the Internet that much, we just consider it part of our job to do this research. But then we heard the final bad news – “Oh No Señor, there’s no Internet here!” only voice and text. The cell towers in Cuba are only 2G. You need 3G or 4G for data/Internet.

Wow! So, what were all these people doing with iPhone and Android devices? Just voice and text? We learned that just outside the hotel, on a street known as the Rampa because it runs like a down ramp to the sea, there is a public WiFi hotspot. You need to purchase an access code for $2-3/hour. So that’s what all these people were doing, sitting on the walls next to the sidewalk, they were accessing their emails, Facebook, and using Skype to make calls to the US. But as soon as they leave the immediate area of the hotspot … Internet gone. They really have no idea what these phones can do since they so rarely have an Internet connection.

No signs were necessary to find where the local WiFi hotspot was!

Other than the hotel, the Rampa, and the town square in Cienfuegos, we saw no way to get Internet in Cuba. We learned that the people do not have Internet access in their homes at all. One reason is the US embargo. Here is the map that we were shown during our US-Cuban relations lecture that shows all communications lines that go under the ocean bypass Cuba by law (except one from Venezuela.)

A submarine cable map drawn from Global Bandwidth Research Service. Click to go to the source map.

Although the US Embargo definitely limits the communication, the Cuban government also has something to do with it. According to this article from the Economist, in 2009 the Obama administration authorized American companies to provide internet services to the island but the Cuban government wasn’t interested.

If you followed the events that led up to the re-opening of the American Embassy in Cuba you know that there was an exchange of prisoners between US and Cuba. The Cuban prisoner was a man named Alan Gross – they say he was in a Cuban prison for being an American spy, but do you know what he was doing? Installing equipment for Internet access!!

We have a passion for learning history! We just had to take a selfie in front of the recently re-opened US Embassy in Havana.

We learned that people who are desperate for Internet information have formed a type of  ‘sneakernet’ called The Package. Someone with Internet access at a business collects a Terabyte of data from various websites and saves it to DVDs or maybe external hard drives? Then they charge $2/week to distribute this “package” to those who want it. $2 may not sound like much, but when a government worker (and most all Cubans are government workers) typically makes $20-30/month, that’s a lot of money. A neighborhood might pass the package around and share the cost. I think I also heard this referred to as an IntRAnet. Here’s an NPR story on the Cuban Internet Package. Here’s another story about how young people are forming Internet ventures in spite of the obstacles.

We were only totally without connectivity for 4 days –  I kind of enjoyed it. My phone was still in my hand most of the time, because it was my camera, and my note taker. I also wrote a few emails, knowing they would get sent as soon as we were back in the States. But, generally not worrying about email or business was nice for a few days. I’m sure going to pay attention to increased Internet access in Cuba though. We would love to go back and spend much more time someday – but we need Internet for that.

Speaking of my phone as my camera – I think I’ll end with this little movie put together by Google Photos from pictures on my phone. And, remember, there’s lots more pictures where these came from: Google Photos Album on Cuba Trip


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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.

Part Time Mobile Internet Connections

As fulltime RVers, we have no problem signing a 2 year contract for Internet service from Verizon, but we know many people who only travel part time.  What are their options for mobile Internet service?  A couple years ago, your only option was to rely on Wi-Fi which is very UNreliable!  Now there are several options for short term cellular Internet connections.  The technology world moves fast, and nothing moves faster than cellular Internet plans, so take the information below as talking points only.  Check with your provider, and/or your contract for the details that apply to you.


Verizon is the focus of much of the information in this article since it is what we use personally, and it is the most popular service among RVers.  There are links at the bottom for information on other providers.

1. Putting your Contract on Vacation: Even if you do sign a 2 year contract with Verizon, for example, you can put your service (and payments) on vacation for up to 6 months.   Be aware that vacation time will be added to the end of your contract.  That means, if your contract period starts on 1/1/11 and goes thru 1/1/13, and you put it on vacation for 6 months, your contract now goes thru 7/1/13.  Be sure to check with your service provider (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T etc.) for details based on your particular contract.

2. Bring your Own Device: People sign up for a two year contract because that is the way to get the device (Mi-Fi, or cellular modem) for a steeply discounted price.  If you already have an appropriate modem or hotspot device, you can get service on a month to month basis.  So, bring your own device and sign up for monthly service and you can turn the service off at any time.  Standard monthly service plans offer 5GB for $50.

3. Prepaid Mobile Broadband: These plans can be pretty pricey, but it may be the best option to get your teenagers for your month-long summer vacation.  For example, Verizon charges $50 for 1 GB  – expires in 1 month or $80 for 5GB – expires in 1 month.  There are no overages because, once you hit your limit the service is turned off.

4. Cellular Resellers: You can get service without a contract from Virgin Mobile (resells Sprint network) and Millenicom (resells Verizon network.)  Also see the paragraph below on the 3GStore – you will find several options there, including monthly plans that resell Verizon, and DataJack which uses Sprint.

4. Pay-As-You-Go: TruConnect is a service using the Sprint network.  You buy the device from them then pay $5/mo plus 3.9 cents per megabyte.  This would only be good if you are a very sporadic user with low data needs.  According to my calculations 5GB at 3.9 cents per MB = $169.68.

5. Smart Phone Internet: This is my favorite.  First of all, you may find that you don’t even need to take your computer on short trips because you can do your email and browse the web straight from your phone.  If you do take your computer, many smart phones today have a ‘Hotspot’ feature that costs extra from the service provider, but that feature can be turned on/off at will and you only pay for the time you have it on. When it’s on you have your own Wi-Fi hotspot powered by the phone’s data plan and up to 5 devices can connect to it.  You can also use third party tethering software called PDANet. This allows you to tether your phone to the computer with a cable and use the phone’s data plan to power Internet browsing on our computer at no extra service charge.  The PDANet software costs about $20 – one time fee.  See this Geeks on Tour Video: Connecting to the Internet with Droid.

6. 3GStore: 3GStore has a reputation for being very knowledgeable and helpful in giving guidance thru the morass of mobile internet devices, service providers, data plans, and signal boosters.  They are resellers for cellular services and they sell all the devices to make it work.  We’ve had such good experience with them that we are an affiliate for 3GStore.com.  They have several plans for short-term cellular Internet solutions.

Here are some links to more information

Verizon Data Plan Details

Sprint Data Plans

AT&T Data Plans

T-Mobile Plans

Discussion of Part-Time Internet solutions on RV.net Forums

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Get your Verizon Droid or iPhone before July 7?

It’s been rumored for quite a while that Verizon’s unlimited data plan for smart phones will be going away.  I still can’t find anything official on Verizon’s site, their Data Packages page still states that Smartphone’s data plans are Unlimited, but this discussion on RV.net’s forum is pretty convincing that the unlimited plan will be no more as of 7/7/2011.  It will be replaced with a 2GB limit for the same $30.  If you’ve been considering this purchase, you should visit the store before the 7th.

Is Unlimited Data Important?

Your data plan is a separate line item from your phone’s voice plan.  Your voice plan gives you minutes of talk time, your data plan gives you Internet usage measured in GigaBytes.  If you just want your email, and some basic web browsing, and you only use your phone’s data plan for your phone, then 2GB may be sufficient.  But, if you want to watch videos on your smartphone, or if you want to use your phone’s data plan to tether to your computer, then you’re going to go over that limit.

How do you know you’re going over? You can check your data usage at any time on your Verizon account.  There is also a setting to have Verizon email you when you’ve used over 50%.  The unlimited data plan means you don’t have to worry about it!  And, heaven knows, we could use one less thing to worry about!

Do you want a Smartphone?

If you’re anything like me, you do!  There is some learning involved but, the more you learn, the more you like!  Rather than listing all its virtues, let me tell you a story.

One of the first things we learned how to do was to tether the phone to the computer so it could provide the Internet connection for the computer to browse the Web.  It took a while for me to fully appreciate that my Droid *IS* a computer!

My Droid Traveling Story

We were driving north on I-95 in Georgia and it was about time to start looking for a campground for the night. I see a likely candidate on our Streets and Trips program, but I want to look at the website. OK, I need to find the cable so I can tether the Droid to my laptop computer and get on the Internet.

DOH! No I don’t!  I can just search the web directly on the phone.  The Droid *is* a computer with its own web browser.

Ok, so the website looks nice.  Now I need to find pencil and paper so I can write down the phone number so I can call and see if they have space for us tonight.

DOH!  no I don’t! I can just touch the phone number on the Droid’s screen and it will dial the number.  The Droid is a phone after all.

Ok, they say they’re ready for us.  Now I need to write down the address so I can feed it into the Garmin GPS …

DOH! No I don’t!  Just touch the address on the Droid’s screen and it will start to navigate.  The Droid is a GPS after all and it has its own Google map and navigation program.

That’s just one example.  For every Droid, or iPhone owner you know, you can hear many similar stories of discovery.  The more you use your smartphone, the more you’ll discover.  And, the more data you’ll need!

Like I said, get your Verizon Droid or iPhone before July 7.  And enjoy!

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger. Members can view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

3G vs 4G: The Tortoise and the Hare

We recently purchased a 4G mobile hotspot from Verizon.  It’s a tiny thing with magical powers.  With just one press of a button, it turns the immediate area around it into a Wi-Fi hotspot.  You can plug it into a power source, or it will run on batteries for about 4 hours.


A similar device, called the Mi-Fi, has been around for a couple of years, but those are 3G only.  The 4G Mi-Fi is coming soon.

What does 4G Mean?

Without getting unnecessarily technical, we are talking about the technology that Cellular communications companies use to deliver wireless Internet connectivity. The ‘G’ stands for ‘Generation’ so 3G is third generation technology and 4G is fourth generation technology.  4G is better.  It’s faster and it goes farther.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that it exists only in limited areas.  Below is Verizon’s coverage map, 4G is represented by the dark splotches, the red is 3G coverage, and the white is no coverage at all.


How Fast is 4G?

We live in our motorhome and happened to be staying in a friend’s driveway in Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville.  It is a solid 4G area – and it was exciting to use our 4G connection.  Click a link – you’re there.  Watch a video all the way thru – no hesitations.  What a joy!  For those of you who like numbers, I ran a speed test using testmy.net and here’s the result:


Read that as 9 1/2 Megabits/per second.  A really good 3G speed would be 500Kbps – that’s 500 Kilobits/second, or 1/2 Megabit/per second.  We were browsing the Internet at 20 times normal speed!  We never wanted to leave.  This was not only 4G, but it was extra fast 4G.

The 3G signal available from our same location was horrible.  It was extra bad 3G. Here’s a screen shot of that speed test:


That’s just over 1/4 Mbps!  Our spot in Franklin, Tennessee is the poster child for why you want a new 4G device.  With it, using the Internet was a joy. Without it was torture.

Data Limits

In the Tortoise and the Hare, the blazing fast bunny runs out of energy.  With our blazing fast 4G Internet connection, we quickly ran out of our data allotment.  Our mobile hotspot device was on a $49/mo plan for 5 Gigabytes of data transfer.  After one week and 4 Gigabytes of usage, we changed our plan to the $80/mo for 10 Gigabytes of data.  Today, May 28, we’re at 9.88 Gigabytes.  We’re in Ohio now, outside of any 4G area and we’re using our 3G Droid cellphones, tethered to our computers for Internet access.  Verizon’s penalty for going over our allotment really isn’t too bad – $10/Gigabyte of overage.  If we were still in the good 4G area that had lousy 3G, we would probably pay the overage.

To Buy 4G or Not to Buy 4G

If you’re going to buy a cellular wireless Internet device now anyway, why not get 4G as long as it also does 3G?  Notice the lights in my picture above of our mobile hotspot – there’s a 4G indicator light as well as a 3G indicator.  If it can’t find any 4G signal, it will connect with a 3G.  If you have a 3G only device – you’ll be very disappointed in Franklin, Tennessee!

If you aren’t already planning on buying such a device, then it’s a harder decision.  Is it worth upgrading when 4G is still so rare?  Pay close attention to the coverage map for your provider before deciding.  Geeks like us just gotta have it!

Your Mileage May Vary!

Don’t take any speed test, or anyone else’s (even ours!) experience as gospel.  Speeds vary from minute to minute, mile to mile, and computer to computer.  This story is useful just to let you know how drastic the speed difference *can* be between 3G and 4G.

by Chris Guld, Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger.  Members can view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

My On the Road Data Diet

How I Exceed My 5 Gigabyte Limit with Verizon

verizonThis is not a good thing!  The point is to stay within your contract limits.  When you go over, there are extra charges.

Our contract allows 5 Gigabytes of data usage per month.  Check the image at right and you’ll see that we’ve used over 4 Gigabytes and we’re only on day 8 of 31!  Looks like I’ll have to go on a data diet for the rest of the month.

What’s a Gigabyte?

Data usage is simply Internet use as opposed to voice.  Voice plan usage from your cellular provider is measured in minutes, Internet/Data usage is measured in Megabytes/Gigabytes.  Data usage is also referred to as Downloading, Uploading, or Bandwidth.  Think of it like a stream of water going thru a hose, email and other text is just a trickle, video is a firehose.  You’re measured by how much data is going thru the connection – what you’re looking at, not the time you’re online.

Each Gigabyte is roughly 1,000 Megabytes.  We teach people that 5 Gigabytes is usually plenty for a month of one person doing normal browsing, email reading and maybe some Youtube watching.  But, if you share that connection with multiple computers, or you watch a lot of video, then 5 Gigabytes won’t be nearly enough.

Just to give you an idea, a large, high resolution picture that you view on the web may consume about 1 Megabyte.  You’d have to view 1,000 of those pictures to hit one Gigabyte of usage.  Over the period of one month, you might view 1,000 pictures on the web.  Watching a typical, standard quality, 3-4 minute Youtube video will use roughly 10 Megabytes. So you could watch 100 of those for 1 Gigabyte of data usage.  See this article from the folks at evdoinfo.com for a chart: What does 5GB (Gigabytes) Get Me?  Here’s another article for more detailed info on data usage for videos.  The only thing we tell people they cannot do is to watch full length movies.  Watching one Netflix movie online can easily use up to 2 Gigabytes of your allotment right there.

How Did We Go Over Our Limit?

We had not watched any online movies, so how did we rack up so much data usage so fast?  First of all, for the whole winter season, we were in one RV park where we contracted with Bell South for a DSL line.  DSL is nice and fast and has no limits.  So, we got spoiled.  We didn’t have to pay attention to data usage all winter.  Now that we’re back on the road, we need to be paying attention.  Both Jim and I are sharing our mobile hotspot Internet connection from Verizon.

Once I got a notice from Verizon, I did some checking.  One culprit is my Windows Updates.  I had automatically received Windows 7 Service Pack 1.  I checked Microsoft’s site and learned that it was over 1 Gigabyte in size!  We are also preparing to deliver a seminar remotely using Skype and screen-sharing.  Our practice session probably cost us us a 1/4 Gigabyte.  A couple days ago, I purchased the latest Microsoft Streets and Trips program and downloaded it.  That was 1.3 Gigabytes!  Pretty stupid on my part since I already had the trial version installed on my computer.  We now have a 4G mobile hotspot from Verizon and we were so excited to be in a 4G area around Nashville …  I may have watched a couple episodes of Glee on Hulu because it worked so well … hey, I call that research!

What Can You Do to Limit Your Data Usage?

We need to go on a data diet!  Here are the things that we are going to do:

  1. Always check for good Wi-Fi and use it when possible.
  2. Stay aware of our current data usage by checking our account stats online at verizonwireless.com/myverizon and logging into our account.  If you don’t know how to do that for your provider, give them a call and ask.
  3. Turn off automatic Windows Updates (Control PanelSystem and SecurityWindows Update)  note: if you do this, make sure to do your updates manually whenever you’re in a good Wi-Fi area.  Getting updates *is* very important.
  4. Turn off Carbonite online backup.  I love Carbonite, but it *does* use bandwidth to backup all new files I create to the backup website.  Since we’ll be on the road for quite some time, I’ll probably turn off the service completely and just use our ClickFree for backup.
  5. Turn off DropBox.  DropBox is a great utility that synchronizes a folder of data across multiple computers.  It does this by uploading them to a website and then downloading them to the other computers, so it uses double bandwidth (data transfer usage) going up and down!  If I remember, I’ll turn it back on when I’m connected to a good Wi-Fi signal.
  6. Stay away from Netflix and Hulu
  7. Limit our Video Skype calls.

How Much Does it Cost When you go Over Your Allotment?

Verizon used to charge 25 cents per Megabyte of overage.  That adds up quick!  If you went over by a Gigabyte, that would cost $250!  The fees today are much more reasonable – each Gigabyte of excess will be charged at $10/Gigabyte.  Check with your provider and your contract to see what your overage charges are.  If you’ve had your contract for a long time, you may even have an unlimited usage contract.  If that’s the case … don’t lose it!  Any change in your contract may get you started with a whole new contract – with new limitations.  The unlimited usage contracts are highly desirable.

Can I Increase My Limits?

This depends on your provider and the plans they offer.  Verizon does currently offer a 10Gigabyte contract for $80/month.  We might just have to do that.

Kind of like those real diets … so often I give up and go buy some clothes in a larger size!  Smile

2014 Update: We now use our Android smartphones as hotspots rather than the MiFi device. Our smartphones have a grandfathered UNlimited data plan, so we don’t have to worry.

by Chris Guld, Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger.  Members can view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

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.


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.