How-To Geek

What You Said: How Do You Stay Connected Away From Home?


Earlier this week we asked you to share your tips, tricks, and techniques for staying connected when you’re away from your home broadband connection. Now we’re back with a roundup of what you said.

Mooching Wi-Fi was an old standby in everyone’s bag of tricks. The more densely populate the area you live in the better the chances you’ll find an open node to connect to. Twalorn weighs in:

I rely only on free Wi-Fi (cafes,restaurants,unprotected home signals, etc.) for my Wi-Fi capable phone =’( but i’m saving up for a Galaxy SII with data plan =D

On the opposite side of things, Steve-O-Rama shares why he doesn’t mooch free Wi-Fi and uses his smartphone instead:

For me, it’s almost always through my smart phone (HTC Incredible); if not via the phone itself, I use PdaNet to connect my netbook. I will NOT use Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or location other than my own apartment or my parents’ home, where *I* am the only person with (reasonable) access to the wireless routers at each.

I just don’t trust Starbucks, or their customers, to provide me with a secure wireless experience. Am I paranoid? Yes, very. But then again if I’m away from home and *need* greater bandwidth than my smartphone can provide for Internet access, I ain’t likely using it to check the weather or if the Mudhens won; I’d be doing work or accessing private data.

We’re with you Steve, which is why we configured our laptops to route through our home broadband connection via secure tunnel. Anyone who is interested in encrypting their Wi-Fi hotspot traffic should check out our tutorial here.

Smartphones with high speed connections and the ability to tether to other devices factored into most readers away-from-home plans. Blisk was one of the many readers who has found his smartphone does everything he needs it to do:

I use my Droid X. I do everything I would do on a computer on it. I read the blogs I follow, Twitter (which I do primarily on my phone anyway), and email all on my phone when I’m not at home. There are somethings I can’t do easily like watch some podcasts, but other than that, I’m covered. I mainly just use my phone’s 3G when I’m not home, so it’s a bit slow for streaming video.

For those who use their phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, J. Howe offers a warning:

However, while I was experimenting with my phone settings and another friend who has a different android model, I found that the default setting for both phone is open security, meaning that anyone who is out wardriving will take advantage of that and leave you with a hefty data access bill from your provider. Just a fair warning out to those who aren’t as tech savvy.

That was certainly our experience when we first installed Wi-Fi Tether on a rooted Android phone. If you are wirelessly tethering your to your phone make sure the connection is secure!

Other readers went for the full mobile hot spot package, like Jeff:

I use my Optimus V unlimited 3G data plan from Virgin Mobile only $25/month US. It allows me to setup my own wifi hotspot for my laptop if needed. But usually just carry the smartphone. Stay connected with email, Skype, Sipdroid VOIP, Skyfire web browser and Teamviewer for remote sessions to PC’s.

Finally we have Rein Couperus who has the distinction of being the only reader who used a mobile connection so far reaching he can check his email from the North Pole:

You probably don’t believe it, but there are places on earth without 3G or Wi-Fi, even without GPRS or phone service. There are even places without electricity…

When I am on the North Pole I use PSKmail to connect to the internet. Slow, but it’s there,
even if all satellites are broken…

If you’ve never heard of PSKmail, this overview is an interesting look at how people in remote locations (research stations, sail boats, etc.) are able to send and receive email.

It’s not too late to sound off in the comments here or in the original discussion. How do you stay connected away from home?

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/5/11

Comments (9)

  1. Zonk

    > However, while I was experimenting with my phone settings and another friend
    > who has a different android model, I found that the default setting for both phone
    > is open security,
    I love it.
    We should *trust* each other instead of treating everyone as *enemy !*

  2. Lady Fitzgerald

    Yes, we should but here in the real world, there is always someone out to take advantage of others so it pays to assume the worst and take the proper precautions.

  3. Leonick

    What? Android default setting for wifi tethering is open?!
    The iPhone has secured be default, not sure if all devices use the same password or if it generated. The one I had was a word a series of numbers so could be generated but it isnt completely random

    Either way, if I tether anything it’s my iPhone to my iPad, this I do trough bluetooth.
    Alternatively, if I want to share the connection with someone else I put up a secured wifi with a very short range signal.

    My iPhone and my Galaxy Tab (7inch) both have dataplans.

    I never use an open wifi for anything but searching google or opening a news site, nothing that requires me to log in or is private in any way.

  4. Kevin

    Adore the PSKmail bit….sounds like our communications are not as weak as i have always feared

  5. Antriksh

    When I am traveling abroad, my Kindle has free 3G, which let’s me do the routine, basic stuff when I need to.

  6. EvenSteven

    How Do You Stay Connected Away From Home?

    I don’t. If anything really bad has happened I’ll find out about it when I get home and since this is how I have operated for 72 years with no major cause of death from being unreachable I’ll keep my freedom when I’m on the road.

    Really it is nice to enjoy a uninterrupted cup of Joe while checking out the better looking customers as the ocean breeze ruffles my hair and the salt air invigorates my soul. Try it sometime even if you are sitting in a mini mall. Just imagine the salt air and that bikini on the drop dead gorgeous redhead who just walked in. Beats a “We Have To Talk” call any day.

  7. Thom

    Just bought smartphones and I am less than impressed & don’t like them at all. This key board sucks and the touch screen is to fn touchy. The worst part is what the Verizon people told that I could wire tether the phone for my laptop no other charges. Those that told me that were wrong/lying about what I could with this phone. The fact that is I am unable to do anything that I need to do on online I can’t on this phone. Email is not the only process that I use the computer for. This post has taken more time than I am willing to put up with. Point is that I was given wrong information and I am unwilling to spend more money with a company that misdirects me on a regular basis. The abilities of this latest version of smart phone is not my cup of tea.

  8. BigTrav

    Don’t forget the public library. Lots of public libraries offer free wifi for all and often leave the equipment on 24/7. The signal can also be aquired from the parking lot in a lot of cases.

  9. Ian4c

    Me, I use Three Mi Fi… Can’t beat it!

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