[nSLUG] Cellular dongles

Frank Geitzler frank.geitzler at ns.sympatico.ca
Tue Apr 23 17:04:17 ADT 2019

To add to the confusion, some of us have limited budgets for our 
hobbies, and either can't afford (or can't justify)  spending a great 
deal to buy new tools (or toys), or limited time, ability, or resources 
to learn how to use the devices we have.  I have a old Canon Canon 
PowerShot A480 camera, which takes reasonable pictures 'as is', and a 
number of features I have never gotten around to learning how to use -it 
has a cable which can be attached to my laptop, to download pictures, or 
I can simply pull the chip and plug that into the side of my laptop, and 
treat it as a USB device; I have a Hipstreet (Google?) Phoenix tablet 
which has an Android Jellybean o/s (although I gather there are a number 
of releases of Jellybean, not all being equal) which takes adequate 
pictures as well, and can be cable connected to my laptop -or I can 
transfer files and pictures via email to or from the tablet; the tablet 
also has bluetooth (as does my newest laptop) and a free-standing, 
bluetooth-connected keyboard, and the laptop has bluetooth as well.  I 
don't know enough about bluetooth to know its capabilities and make 
better use of its facilities.

I also have a LG F4NR 'Flip-Phone' cell-phone, which again has an 
Android Jellybean o/s, but I have not been satisfied with the few 
pictures I have taken with it; it too has bluetooth, and I use the phone 
only to stay in touch with home; I have a payment plan where I must pay 
a minimum amount each month, and if my useage is less than the 
time-charges, the balance accumulates -I seldom exceed the minimum, but 
I keep receiving text messages from Bell-Aliant at the same time every 
month, within an hour of turning the phone on, wanting me to switch to a 
more expensive plan -which would give me additional features I don't 
want or can't use.  Several days ago I received seven such text messages 
-and I don't use it for texting -the keys are too small for my old 
fingers, so I haven't bothered to learn how to reply -even to say 'stop 
texting me'!

I would find it interesting to have one or more pre-arranged sessions 
where we could discuss and learn how to use cellular dongles -to find 
out their abilities and limitations, their connection details ('normal' 
USB, mini-, micro-, firewire-, or other USB, SIM -and what type and 
size, etc.), where they can be obtained and their approximate cost.  
Perhaps one or more people locally might be interested in participating 
in such a session either at a regular Halifax Computer Club meeting (our 
next meeting is tomorrow evening, by the way).

Frank Geitzler

On 2019-04-22 9:26 a.m., Dave Flogeras wrote:
> Mike:
> 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:
> https://blog.soracom.io/beginners-guide-to-iot-cellular-connectivity-on-raspberry-pi-and-linux-devices-55d4f7489adf
> 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
> Dave
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