More Connectedness…

The past couple of weeks or so I’ve been hunting for some sort of mobile hotspot device or at least a reliable connection while I’m out and about in the world.  Most of the time I seek the shelter and relatively tasty supply of caffeine offered at a coffee shop (with power to boot), but as I continue to remain unemployed I’ve found myself wanting to be out in a park somewhere and still get some stuff done.  Or, getting out of the city for the weekend and heading to the Pacific to hang out.

A big problem for me was cost: Every major wireless player offers a variant of a USB stick, or a MiFi device but they all require a new contract and ironically a “phone number” for that device because they’re all phone companies.  I was attracted to Clear’s devices because of their cheapness and a device that was meant to specifically get “Apple” devices on-line, the iSpot.  I’ll not here that I am a shareholder in Clear (CLWR) but I’m casual and while I want them to succeed, I’m not tethered so to speak to their devices.

The iSpot is an Apple-like MiFi spot designed to only let devices that match known MAC addresses of iPads, iPhones, and whatever “i” thing Apple will launch next.

Clear iSpot

Clear's iSpot Device

Because these devices would sap less of the network than others, Clear offers their plans at a fantastic discout: $25/month to month and a $99 device fee.  Within days of its launch back in August some intrepid hackers figured out how to open it up and remove the MAC address restriction, disable OTA (over-the-air) updates, and enable USB tethering.  While I’m technically using Apple devices anyway, the MacBook Pro is not inclusive in the default MAC address settings: this is purely an iOS device device.

My largest problem is that out here in Ocean Shores, Clear does not offer 4G coverage.  Sprint, Clear’s partner offers 3G coverage but once-upon-a-time I owned a Sprint USB stick that didn’t work so great out here.  Also, when I went to pick one up in W.Seattle they were sold out and backordered for a few days.

In the end I went back to the simplest option: tethering my iPhone over ATT for an extra $15 a month.  Surprisingly, ATT has updated coverage over here and it’s not as bad as I would’ve thought– I pulled down 2 megs, .75 up at a relative ping of about 348 ms.

iPhone in Tether Mode

iPhone in Tether Mode

I’m not thrilled about losing my unlimited data plan in order to gain tethering but I gotta say this is fairly fast and useful for doing what I should be doing out here: checking the news, email, and letting Xcode fetch new defs out of the Apple respository.

The only thing to decide now is whether or not I really want to be spending my time away from the city and home online somewhere.  It has advantages but I’ll have to watch it.

The iSpot is an Apple-like MiFi spot designed to only let devices that match known MAC addresses of iPads, iPhones, and whatever “i” thing Apple will launch next.