My MiFi and My Newton – The Novatel MiFi 2200
The Newton MessagePad 2100 is an amazing mobile device. It helps me stay organized and allows me to easily transfer information wirelessly using e-mail. Even though the first Newton predates the Internet, industry standard PCMCIA slots and the continued software development by its fan base — long after its cancellation — have allowed the Newton to hold its own in this ever-mobile world.
The Newton’s Handwriting Recognition is unsurpassed, bar none. It is one of the reasons I continue to use my MessagePad everyday. However, it is being able send/receive written text, VCards, ToDo’s and Tweets using Mail V, and doing so while remaining completely wireless, that’s the primary reason the Newton remains relevant to me.
WIFI MAKES THE MIFI
At home I can easily control my wireless network. Using a Two-Legged NAT, I am able to provide my Newtons with very reliable (wireless) Internet access and I feel comfortable enough that the rest of my Network is secure. My solution at work is not as clean and easy.
With Internet Connection Sharing in Windows, I am able to share a workstation’s Internet over WiFi by creating an Ad-Hoc wireless connection. This method requires a PC with both, a WiFi adapter and an Ethernet port with Internet. Setup can be a little tricky and security leaves a little to be desired. For on-demand Internet access in a crunch, the idea can work great.
The latest extension to my personal network is a Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot Device. As the name suggests, this mobile device sets up a personal WiFi hotspot that is capable of sharing a 3G broadband connection with up to five simultaneous devices. There is certain kind of freedom to be found carrying your own WiFi hotspot in your pocket. With 3G Mobile Broadband, the Internet is widely available in all but the most remote locations. Using the MiFi hotspot eliminates all the tethers and restrictions that public WiFi hotspots present for a Newton.
Did I mention the MiFi 2200 was small? This thing is small. About the size of a standard PCMCIA card. A fraction wider and just a little thicker so, it doesn’t quite fit into a credit card sleeve or one of those protective plastic PCMCIA cases. It does, however, fit just about everywhere else.
Press the power button, set it down or place it in your shirt pocket. My original Apple Calisé case for the Newton has a perfectly sized exterior pocket where I can discreetly stow mine away. Range is stated as 10 meters (30 feet) and the hotspot easily covers an entire room, a beachfront picnic bench, or a van full of carpoolers.
I love USB. It’s so … universal. The MiFi 2200 is no different with features you would expect from a standard mobile phone. The MiFi has a microUSB port for charging, along with a removable 1150 mAh Lithium-ion battery pack. The USB cable allows recharging using any number of external power sources including my personal favorite: The 12V lead acid battery commonly found in most vehicles.
A bonus feature of the MiFi 2200 are modem drivers located on a read-only Flash partition. Plug the MiFi in to any PC or Mac, the device doubles as a (very) high speed modem with drivers for Windows or Macintosh that install even on a PowerPC.
The MiFi 2200 promises 4 hours usage time and 40 hours of stand-by. You can set the MiFi to auto-power off between connections and conserve battery. It can also operate while charging. Simply put: Easy mobile broadband for your Newton on-demand indefinitely.
THE WIRELESS SETUP
The MiFi 2200 is essentially set and forget. Those familiar with router administration via a web interface will feel right at home. The device defaults to 192.168.1.1 but you are able to easily change all the defaults (as you should anyhow) by connecting from any computer with a WiFi adapter and a web browser.
Three selectable profiles are preset and each one allows a certain level of customization. There is, of course, Open. There is also a strange (and possibly dangerous) random Temporary profile. It is the Secured profile which allows you to modify all the available security options. Considering that a current profile can only be changed by using a web browser, you should set the Secured profile to that lowest common denominator which includes your Newton: 128 Bit WEP.
SO … HOW MUCH FOR THAT DATA?
There are up-front costs and data plans. No matter, pay-as-you-go data plans are now becoming quite reasonable. The Novatel MiFi 2200 hardware is branded by each mobile carrier (thus locked) but the hardware and software is pretty much the same under the hood. You can find one for under $60 shipped with data plans that start at $5 for 200MB. Monthly plans for 2GB, 4GB, or 5GB will range from $35 to $55 and can still be a value if you have other mobile devices that also lack 3G connectivity.
A MiFi 2200 retail package is easily worth $149 without the plan. Amazon.com sells the Virgin Mobile branded MiFi for $30 and if you just so happen to live in an area where 4G (LTE) is available, you should consider a 4G model for $89.
Virgin Mobile offers Broadband2Go that uses the Verizon network for extended coverage across North America. Virgin Mobile has a very mature infrastructure and you can even access your account directly from the MiFi device without needing Internet or an active data plan.
Yet another plan I’ve seen is from DataJack. The DataJack branded MiFi can be had for $50 with a 250MB data plan priced at $10 per month. This plan would be best for those with a Newton only and usage limited to a couple times a day. Data plans for higher usage are comparable to Virgin Mobile.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW!!
The MiFi has not only extended the usefulness of my Newton but also its range and mobility. I can now send and receive text anywhere and at any time. This simple thing cannot be understated. The Newton gives me the flexibility to manage my Contacts, Notes, ToDo’s, and Tweets, all with the ease of paper and pen. Now, my MiFi gives my MessagePad 2100 anywhere access to same high speed cellular network as the rest of the mobile world.