[nSLUG] Cellular dongles

Dave Flogeras dflogeras2 at gmail.com
Mon Apr 22 09:26:26 ADT 2019


I'll fork a new discussion here for anyone who's interested to follow/chime
in, and not to railroad the existing conversation.

> I didn't know that if you have a non-smart "plain" cell phone, that
> the service attached to the SIM would automagically support data.

Well, you'd still need to subscribe to a plan that supported data.
Depending on your needs, and/or provider affiliation you can usually get
reasonable plans that are preferential to either calls/data.  For instance
you can get a Virgin plan which has unlimited minutes in Canada, but pay as
you go data.  Or, vice versa (well probably not unlimited data, but a load
of it).  It all depends on how much you expect to use either.  The
important takeaway though is that with newer equipment, your account is not
tied to the phone hardware, but the SIM card which you are free to move
from device to device.

> Does the "stick modem" to which you refer just allow you to do dialup
> over the cellular link?  Or does it behave like a wifi hotspot,
> getting you an IP address via DHCP?

Typically the modems will just connect to the carrier's network (digitally)
as a client in a similar fashion that a smart phone does.  NB. I'm
certainly no expert here, the one I purchased was used solely to test
sending text messages from a remote place.  Also, not all of these dongles
work the same way, and not all are supremely easy to configure in anything
but Windose environments (so I've read). The first couple paragraphs of
this page outlines some of the differences and possible pitfalls:


Now, that being said, I have also seen a device that is completely
stand-alone that you put your SIM card into, and it just becomes a WiFi
hotspot (as you asked).  Those are probably a bit more cash, but may be
easier to deal with if you don't feel like going down a potential rabbit
hole of kernel modules and/or network management software.

I'll see my uncle this week, who usually carries a work provided dongle
around (he works in remote places).  I may be able to play around with it
under Linux, or at least grab the model number and give you a specific
starting point.  I can also find my old one and test it out as a network
client.  However mine might not help you much, that model is probably no
longer made (it was for older 3G networks I think).

> I need a sit-down (or maybe a series of them) with somebody that knows
> all this stuff and, additionally, can explain the varieties of
> functionality without lapsing into Deep Jargon.  (One person who

If you're going to be near HRM at any point, I'd gladly meet up for a
coffee and transfer whatever limited knowledge I have.  I have pretty
flexible work hours, so even if you were day tripping, I could probably
find time.

> Didn't know that. Do you mean lots of preloaded "apps", like the
> teaser software packages that (allegedly) come with Windoes?  That you
> have to tediously extirpate?  Huh.  I believe the term is "blivet". ;-)
> Not keen on managing a digital blivet.

Not only, but also even the standard apps are heavy it seems to me.  For
instance, I have an ageing Nexus phone.  This was a fast, flagship, higher
end phone produced by Google.  The selling point was that it was a "pure"
android experience with no extra manufacturer crap.  But even still, after
ageing out the hardware, I keep getting bigger and more bloated software
updates.  This means that even the default "phone" app (yes it's an app),
or the text messaging app now feel much heavier than they did when the
hardware was brand new.

All that tracking does take some MHz!  (Maybe this still does belong in the
other thread :)  It never ceases to amaze (disappoint) me that my phone now
struggles to handle the basics, and has multiple processors and more RAM
than one of my 10+ year old laptops which is still useful for real work.

Finally, the amount of data that google services "sips" just sitting idle
is fairly appalling.  Even after turning off every possible useless
"feature" or "service" I could that might be doing things behind the scenes
(without crippling the phone completely).  By my estimates, it is upwards
of 2MB/day without me even using it.  I have a plan that more than covers
my needs plus this overhead, so I don't care that much.  But if you were
thinking of getting a smartphone with pay-as-you-go data, you'd have to
manage it by remembering to always keep the phone's data in airplane mode
when not in use.

My $0.02
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