Sunday, 27 December 2009

3G Internet

We live in two places, one is a rural area with no broadband service available (I did ask) and the other is right in the city where such problems do not happen. For a long time we relied on dialup. Most of the time dialup is okay in the city. We get 50k and that's enough for casual surfing and email. I can even run a remote terminal at that speed as long as I tune it a bit (limit the colours etc). But in the country the speed falls to about 20k and while that is still okay for surfing and email it doesn't get me much else. I should add that I use broadband at work for things that need more speed and are work related and I don't spend much time on YouTube which needs either speed or patience.

But the rural place at 20k was just too annoyingly slow. With no wired broadband option available I checked if we could install a satellite dish. Yes, but expensive and data capped. Then my neighbour happened to mention that his mate had visited and was using his 3G card in his laptop. I had assumed that, while we get cell phone coverage, that we wouldn't get 3G here. That's because my Vodaphone phone reported no 3G coverage. But this was a Telecom card and it worked fine.

This got me interested. It has the advantage that I can carry it with me, so it doesn't matter whether I am in the city or the rural place. So we got one. It plugs into the USB port and it is something like 5 times faster than dialup in the country. In the city it is a lot faster again. From a cost point of view it came out about the same as the landline phone connection. Since we only ever used the rural phone for dialup we turned that off, so the change was cost neutral. I'm not certain that the 3G card is actually using real 3G in the rural setting, but whatever it is doing works.

Still one problem though. With two laptops in the house we needed to share the connection. At first we shared the connection through a desktop machine plugged into a wireless router but it didn't perform well. I suppose it wasn't really worse than the dialup it was sharing before but I wanted to do better.

So now we have a little box with a wireless aerial and a USB port. It took a little bit of configuring but we got there. The 3G card is from Sierra Wireless but it was supplied by Telecom. The little box is a Netcomm N3G002W. It supports WPA2 and is basically transparent. We plug it in and our laptops can get internet. It is also small enough to carry with us anywhere, including on holiday. So, when we feel like it, we carry our laptops, the 3G card and the Netcomm and we can sit in our hotel room and get to the internet. We ignore the (generally ripoff) connection that sometimes comes with the room. We no longer need a spare desktop in each place to share the connection.

Monday, 7 December 2009


I got all the firewood for next winter cut yesterday. I find this very satisfying and go all smug about how 'green' we are in this regard. The wood grows on our property and trees either fall down from time to time or need thinning. I ought to be specific there. Our native bush is protected from any cutting, but taking fallen wood is okay, so we do. But the non-forested part is fair game and we let the odd tree grow here and there. They need cutting down every so often because otherwise we'd have all forest and no pasture (which would make the sheep unhappy). It is surprising how fast those trees grow.

If I were really, really green I would cut everything with an axe. This would probably make my wife quite pleased because she gets likes to see me chopping wood. But I'd never get it all done. So I use a chainsaw for most of it, though I split it with an axe, which is actually easier than the chainsaw.

So the wood gets all piled up in a covered area where it can dry nicely over the summer. Come winter it will be ready for burning. Our wood burner is connected to a wetback to the hot water cylinder so as well as heating the house it heats the water. During summer the hot water comes from the solar heater on the roof. The system depends on a small electric pump, just as the wood requires fuel for the chainsaw, so not completely green, but close. The fossil fuel energy used is minimal compared to the output and, of course, this is reflected in the costs ie very close to zero operational cost.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Gadget update

The new gadget is working out well. It doesn't suck power, I can get a day's use out of it as long as I charge it most evenings. I don't sit listening to music all day anyway and, if I need it, I have a charger with me anyway.

I was a bit disappointed that my ring tones don't come through the earpieces, just a generic ring tone. I assign ring tones to different frequent callers so I know who's calling. However the caller name is displayed on the unit itself. I have just a little difficulty reading this without reading glasses, but I can, just.

The earpieces screw quite firmly into my ears which blocks out external noise very well. But it does mean when I want to talk to someone (other than on the phone!) I do have to pull them out. The wired headset earpieces were not so fitting but they did fall off until I made my own 'ear hooks'. So this is just different, not necessarily better or worse.

But the good news is I can start keeping my phone in the belt pouch I bought for it long ago. The wired headset always got in the way when I tried it before. And I can pause the music without pulling out the phone, which was the primary goal.