On my most recent trip away from home to be re-scanned after treatment of my very rare cancer, I stayed at a friend’s apartment near the clinic I’m treated at, only to realize the friend was in the process of moving from one apartment to another.
This entailed two days’ interruption in Internet service during the evenings while it was transferred from one apartment to another – but all was not lost!
Boost Mobile provides me with cellular telephone (non US-ians, read “mobile”) service. My cellular/mobile phone is a Kyocera Hydro, a not-so-stellar performer which, however, does upgrade its system software compulsively (at least while attached to Boost Mobile – other Hydro users report less regular updates).
A recent software update to my Hydro advertised an ability to act as a Wi-Fi “hotspot” for laptop computers and other Wi-Fi devices. A couple of years ago, I tried using shareware Wi-Fi and Bluetooth “tethering” apps with my Kyocera Hydro on Boost Mobile, with no luck at all – so I was skeptical of this new claim to provide a Wi-Fi hotspot I could use. However, the worst Boost Mobile could say was “no service,” so I resolved to try my luck.
My moment of truth was at a Denny’s restaurant (the operator of which felt capable of competing with McDonald’s without the free AT&T Wi-Fi service you can get at almost any McDonald’s). I’d ordered a leisurely breakfast which could only be improved on by leisurely Wi-Fi Internet access, so I pulled my phone out of my bag.
Boost Mobile’s customer service line (a free cellular phone call) offered me the options of one day’s ability (not automatically renewed or re-billed each day) to use my phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, downloading a maximum of 1 Gb data at 3G speed for US $5, or a month’s ability to use my phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot (also not automatically renewed or re-billed each month), downloading a maximum of 2 Gb data at 3G speed for US $10.
I plumped for the month’s service at US $10, feeling adventurous.
Choosing “System Settings” from the bottom-right “drop-up” menu, then “More… ” from the “Wireless & Networks” settings group, I selected “Portable Hotspot.” I then configured my phone by touching “Portable Wi-Fi hotspot settings,” writing down the Network SSID, Security and other values, and entering a custom security password.
The phone then told me in a pop-up window what its network name would be, and reminded me of the password I chose to enter in Windows’ Network menu after I selected the phone from my laptop’s Wi-Fi server list. All of this took less than thirty seconds.
Windows 8.1 saw my phone on its Wi-Fi server list after a couple of minutes, and accepted my security password when I clicked on the phone with alacrity. Immediately, my laptop gave me service which I couldn’t tell (from “look and feel” on Internet Explorer) from any other Wi-Fi access. Encouraged but a bit wary, I then started Firestorm Viewer (I use the current beta release of Firestorm 64-bit, version 4.7.1(45325)), and it ran – again – in the same way as any other Wi-Fi connection.
It seemed to me that the landscape, terrain and other scenery detail at my ‘home’ position at Second Life took a bit longer to load, and my avatar was (and continues to this day on that phone hotspot Wi-Fi connection to be) an ‘orange cloud’ for a minute or two.
Apart from that and a small amount of lag in chatting between avatars and some avatar motions… there’s no difference worth mentioning between a Wi-Fi hotspot connection through Boost Mobile on my Kyocera Edge and any other Wi-Fi connection (except for the excellent Wi-Fi to be found in my apartment’s Xfinity/Comcast Internet service and at almost every McDonald’s restaurant I’ve ever tried).
Boost Mobile’s hotspot Wi-Fi feature worked well not just at Denny’s but two other restaurants where I tried it, at my friend’s apartment two nights running, and in several treatment and waiting rooms at the clinic where I am treated for my cancer. The hotspot worked just as well whether my phone was in a jacket pocket, in my bag, or on the table next to my laptop.
As far as that 2Gb download data limit, I haven’t hit it yet in over a week’s intermittent use of the Boost Mobile/Kyocera Hydro hotspot Wi-Fi combination, sitting down at restaurants which don’t offer Wi-Fi, riding as a passenger in a car tooling down the highway, sitting on the beach or in various parking lots.
Since Booth Mobile is “pay as you go” coverage, you can’t get into the same “surprise!” trouble I did when I used SLGo on my Comcast Internet connection and found out that SLGo was the Internet equivalent of a fully-opened fire hydrant, spewing over 300 Gb of data a month through my Internet connection into my laptop and other household computers – at an extra charge, of course.
I’ll continue to update this article to tell readers
– when, in terms of days on service my hotspot Wi-Fi connection through Boost Mobile and my Kyocera Hydro cellular phone either slows down or stops entirely, and
– whether I can just pay for more coverage with little expense and effort (that would be welcome news for those of us SLers who would like to be road warriors AND still have a Second Life).
Verdict: Cautious optimism about this new way of enjoying Second Life away from home.
UPDATE: THERE ARE LIMITS TO THE GOODNESS!
And I had to really work to reach them.
I got the dreaded notification that I’d almost reached the 2 gigabyte data limit (for my first time ever with Boost Mobile) last week. But I doubt it was my Second Life activity that did it (at least not by itself).
Last week, I was at the home of one of my sisters, with my other sisters. Two of whom are addicted to one of the video games you don’t have to actually own a computer to play. They play it on iPads. Still another sister (I’m the youngest of seven kids) loves Facebook on her iPad.
Unluckily for them (and me) the sister of mine playing hostess has no Internet coverage (I know, “say it isn’t SO!“)
So, being the kind, generous kid I’ve always been, I set my phone’s hotspot to “maximum of four users,” and felt like Santa Claus for two whole days.
And I used my own part of that hotspot coverage to watch video on Hulu. That MIGHT be what sunk me.
Not that I ever actually hit the 2 Gb limit, but I got close enough to get automated nastygrams from my phone, telling me I was THIS close (about 1.8 Gb of usage), and we all started getting very sllllllow, and otherwise unsatisfactory Internet service.
The Hulu worked for about two minutes, then promptly broke. Pretty obviously, Boost was throttling my data to keep me on the sunny side of 2 Gb of data downloaded.
As Doris Day used to sing, Que sera, sera….
It’s still a neat thing, and for ten bucks a month, almost unbeatable.
ANALYSIS: the hotspot didn’t use all that data. Just most of it.
Curious Patty just hit the “System Settings, Data Usage” tab on her phone and found:
During the time I had the mobile hotspot on, my phone had gorbed 1.87 Gb.
However… only 1.57 Gb was traceable to mobile hotspot activity.
Using the handy “sliders” on the data usage graph, I was able to tell that MOST of that hotspot activity was reached at my sister’s home, when I shared my hotspot four ways.
Before then, I’d been (so I thought), prodigal with my hotspot use, annoying waitresses by whipping out my largish laptop and pulling up real estate listings where my housemate and I were looking at properties, but the data usage up until our family reunion was only 845 Mb.
It wasn’t till Hulu and my sisters’ tablet video game entered the picture that I’d really gone through most of my data allowance – over an entire gigabyte (1.18 Gb), more than the whole rest of the month, in two short days. Since their last major upgrade, the game my sisters play has become SUCH a data hog that older iPads won’t run it, so I’m pretty sure that two iPads running it went through more data in two day than my laptop did in the prior two weeks, even supporting my Second Life.
The rest was
81 Mb from Yahoo Mail (the biggest background slurper of data, which likes to ring me to tell me crap I don’t care about)
29 Mb from Google Maps (which saves my neck on the road often enough it probably qualifies as the most valuable app on my phone)
24 Mb from Google Plus (mostly junk Email I could do without)
33 Mb (combined) from Google Play Store and Google Play service – I’m not a games addict, this is almost all updates to my smartphone’s apps
11 Mb from the Android Browser for various “look it ups” I’ve done while away from a computer
8.3 Mb from Android OS
6.55 Mb from the Sprint Installer (firmware updates)
2.5 Mb from Google Play Books (feeding my addiction to the work of Rudyard Kipling, mainly)
2.2 Mb from Voicemail
and dribs and drabs from other support processes and applets.
So, yes, the Mobile Hotspot took Patty to places Patty has never gone before on her smartphone’s data plan.
And I still like it. It just beats the heck out of being without Internet when you’re away from home and time’s hanging heavy on your hands – or you really need to get on with your Second Life.
To paraphrase the cover of Mad Magazine, “Price: Ten bucks, cheap!”