Live – from atop San Antonio
Posted by urufish on March 1, 2008
This is part 2 of Mobile Inernet in Uruguay (the previous post). I said I’d write about what happened with our new mobile internet service on Monday. But guess what? It worked and here I am, sitting on the terrace (above) writing about how it went last night.
We chose the USB modem instead of the PCMCIA modem. We did that because with Mobile Internet, the exact placement of your antenna is critical. With the USB, you can move it, not your laptop, around to get a good signal. Personally, I prefer the PCMCIA because it becomes part of the laptop. You dont have to lug peripherals around, no matter how small they are. The other reason I preferred PCMCIA is power. The manual indicated the USB requires 2 connections. We only have 2 USB ports on our Dell. That means while you’re using this thing, you can’t connect an external modem or keyboard or HD without adding yet another periphal, a USB hub AND a big, clunky power supply, which is only available here in single voltage, (which means buying another transformer or hub when we’re in Canada/USA. I haven’t seen an electronic powersupply here that comes with a USB hub. However, the good news is that (at least on this laptop), it works with a single USB connection only. Some USB ports put out more power than others. The modem’s needs exceed some laptop USB port’s power output. My single ports seem adequate for this modem.
The modem we got was exactly the same model that was advertised. I asked the girl if the instructions were in English. She said yes. She was partially right. The cover does say ‘Quick Start’ but that’s as far as the English goes. I had to download a manual from the internet. It’s a Huawei E226. Had no problem finding Huawei’s website, but there was no E226 to be found. There was an E220 which is identical for all intents and purposes.
When we got into the house last night, I first had to bring in the LCD TV and hook it up to my wife’s J-Win portable DVD player. Got a chuckle out of that. The video does work fine with the TV, but the audio is another story. The volume control on the portable controls the output to the TV. Even at full volume on the TV, it’s still louder on the portable unit. Have to troubleshoot that back in the lab in Montevideo. Dont have all my goodies with me here on the mountain :).
After the TV/DVD was done, it was time to try out mobile internet. I did some Googling before I left Monevideo and all of the posts on the Huawei modem were positive. One post in particular was great to know. The poster detailed the entire bootup process. That’s good for someone like me who would have been freaking out with the real boot process if I hadn’t read that post.
When you’ve been around computers as long as I have, this process is always met with anxiety prior to starting it. I long ago gave up having a stiff drink before I did this. Had I not, I’d be a hopeless alcoholic by now 🙂 You get burned so many times, you figure the odds are against you and here I am, sitting on top of a hill, without any of my diag equipment. But my wife was desperate to get to Latinchat, so I just bit down and started.
The manual says you should turn on your computer first, then plug in the modem. I read the instructions several times, to make sure I wasn’t missing any nuances. There were two cables. One normal cable with mini on one end and regular on the other. Then there’s another cable with one mini on one end and 2 USB’s on the other end. The picture and manual talks about the cable with 2 USB ends. Based on comments from the first post, I’d say the single cable is used with a desktop unit, which has more power available per USB port than a laptop. The one that I didn’t get the first time around was which of those 2 plugs goes in first. Dont know if it really matters, but I followed it exactly as printed. The plug that is part of the main cable goes in first. I waited a few seconds, then plugged in the 2nd connection. The sequence was exactly as the other post described it (and as Wilbur confirmed in the previous post’s comments). The first thing it does is pick up the mass storage device. That’s because there is a mass storage device built into the modem. That’s where the software is located that it uses to install the drivers from. That was kind of a neat thing. Why have CD’s when you can put your software inside the device itself.
It then installs a few more devices. I believe one says it found a CD drive. It doesn’t matter because it’s all automatic. You just sit there and watch. Eventually, it says it’s done, (which it really isn’t but who cares). You agree to everything and it seems to be finished.
After a while, this process starts all over again. This is actually the important part. This is where the modem itself is installed. Then the software that runs it fires up. The name of the software is Mobile Partner. It’s equivalent to the wireless manager software you can run separately with most wireless cards. The only difference is that this doubles as that and as your modem drivers. Turn this thing off and you turn off your connection.
I find Mobile Partner interesting. In the image below, you can see most of what it does. It tells you how fast you’re able to upload, how fast you download, and it tells you how much data you’re moving per session. It also tells you how much data you’ve used in the calendar month. I suspect this is how you audit the bills from providers like Movistar, that charge you by how much data you move. CTI is ‘unlimited’. I was surprised by the very slow rate it shows for upload. Something must be wrong with the numbers because I’m writing this post and uploading images, and I see very little difference in the time it takes to upload an image between here and the 128 or 256 upload speeds I have in Montevideo.
When the modem installation completed, it takes you to a configuration screen. The first option is language. It defaulted to English and that was fine with me. The next option asks you which service you want to connect to. The options are CTI, CTI Uruguay and CTI Paraguay. The girl back at CTI told me to choose CTI Uruguay. She said you can choose CTI Paraguay if you are there and for Argentina, you choose CTI period. I guess Argentina/Uruguay is like USA/Canada. The big guys think they’re the centre of the universe, so there is no country distinguished. The rest of us are foreigners :). After that, the little bubble came up in the bottom right corner (Windows users), that said I now had a 7.2mb Intenet connection. Dream on dude. Now I have no doubt that someplace on this planet, this puppy can handle 7.2mb, but not here atop San Antonio. But that’s neither here nor there. The important thing was that it got connectvity and it just ‘felt’ OK.
After that, I punched up IE and away I went. My wife was drooling on the other side of the table, waiting for me to be finished but I managed to divert her attention by turning on her favourite soap, (Canal 7). That bought me an hour. It turns out I needed it because on my computer, Yahoo Messenger wasn’t installed. I had to download it. First big test of the speed. Worked flawlessly. About 15 minutes later, we were in the Yahoo world. Then I updated Windows Live Messenger and setup a shortcut for Latinchat. The soap finished and that was it for me. I was banned to the bedroom 🙂
To sum it up, I’d say that it works as advertised as long as you’ve got a decent signal. That’s a big if. RF is always a big ‘if’ and the the greater the distance between the tower and the receiver AND the obstacles inbetween, the bigger the ‘if’. Adding the experience last night with my experience using this technology in Toronto, I really believe that the key is the placement of the modem. In Toronto, I had to park my laptop within a foot of the Western wall of my cousin’s apartment to get decent speed. While I was using, I watched the speeds go up and down like a yoyo. Reminded me of the early years of the cellular industry. I will know more about ‘obstacles’ when I try this at home on Monday.
In my own little piece of this planet, I have no idea if CTI’s tower is atop Pan D’Azucar or 60m behind my house atop San Antonio, but whatever it is, it works fine. The installation went without a hitch. They’ve got my UYP1800 by now from my NATIONAL credit card (jajajaja) and I’m sure the autodebit will kick in next month on that credit card. For UYP500/month, I honestly have to say this is a serious altenative for anyone who is fine with this speed and UYP500/month. If you’ve got a laptop, travel around Uruguay and want to use your laptop in Colonia, MVD, Atlantida, Solymar, Piria or Maldonado/La Punta, I’d say this was your only option.
If Arrancopelito ever answers my request from last week, I’d love to take this over to her place and see if it works there. She’s not close to the Punta tower(s), but she may have line of site and that may just be enough.