Browsing the net on the desert highway

WIRELESS | GPRS and Bluetooth are an amazing combination when it comes to unwired internet access. Ahmad Humeid puts the two technologies to a serious test

The taxi was speeding at over 130 km/hr on the desert highway down to Aqaba. My partner and I sat in the back seat putting the finishing touches on a presentation we were due to deliver in less than two hours. As I was saving the file and preparing to close my laptop, a thought crossed my mind. What followed was one of those ‘digital age moments’.

If you think that wireless web browsing in a hotel lobby or café is cool, then how about doing that in the back seat of a speeding taxi in the middle of the desert? I can tell you: it’s totally cool.

I thought “let’s take my mobile’s GPRS internet access capability for a test drive. And while we’re at why not use my phone’s and laptop’s Bluetooth connectivity to see if we can actually surf the web too”. And guess what? It worked!

Theoretically, GPRS access should be as fast as a dial-up internet connection. But in practice I found it to be quite slower (approximately 33.6 kbps), even in stable environments (our kitchen table for example). I was not surprised that access was even slower when attempted in a car rolling down the highway. That still didn’t take away the thrill of this unwired experience.

Better still, I launched MSN Messenger and suddenly had my colleagues in the office, a friend in Dubai and another in the US in front of me, ready to chat. Needless to say I drove them all crazy with the fact that I was text-chatting with them from a car (“I hope you’re not driving!” one of them exclaimed).

Setting up
A few weeks earlier I tinkered a bit with my laptop (An Apple PowerBook) to set it up to access the internet using a Nokia 6600 using GPRS and Bluetooth. After reading several posts on various discussion group I finally got it to work. The trick was to choose the right modem configuration on my laptop to enable it to connect to a GPRS network using Bluetooth (I used the Nokia Infrared modem setting, although I was not using infrared). I also had to use the sequence “*99#” as the dial-in number (which in fact is a so-called “modem script”) to enable the computer to talk properly to the phone.

Bluetooth and GPRS rule!
What I immediately liked about using a Bluetooth phone to access the net is that you can simply put the phone anywhere on the desk, without the need to a direct line of sight between the devices, as was the case with infrared connectivity. A few years ago I managed to connect my old Palm device to the internet using the data line of my old non-GPRS phone. Believe it or not I also did this on the way to Aqaba! Keeping the phone and Palm’s infrared ports aligned was a real pain, I tell you. That’s not to mention that the speed of 9,6 kbps of the non-GPRS data line would be pretty useless for web access.

Another advantage for GPRS is that you only pay for the amount of data downloaded/uploaded and not on a per-minute basis. So, in theory, I could have stayed connected to MSN Messenger for the whole length of my Aqaba trip at a reasonably low cost, as text chatting only sends and receives small amounts of data. Fastlink, for example, charge 1 Fils per kilobyte of uploaded or downloaded data. Thus, a typical web page of 40-100 kilobytes would cost 4-10 Piasters to download.

I could’ve stayed connected, but, of course, my laptop’s battery would have run out before we arrived. That’s another story, however.

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6 Responses to “Browsing the net on the desert highway”

  1. iyas Says:

    My cell phone carrier (T-Mobile USA) has two data systems: an older CSD which is basically dial-up (charged per min) through the phone and the newer GRPS (charged by kb) which is default on all the phones they sell nowadays but can be easily changed back to CSD be accessing a “hidden” menu on your phone. During the past summer, my wireless internet service (Motorola Canopy system) was down for two days so I relied heavily on an improvised set-up similar to what you described. The difference is that I used my Samsung E715’s data cable with my desktop. The nice thing though is that my calls are free from 9 pm-7 am so I was using GPRS in the morning and CSD at night. Although it does not come close to the convenience and speed of “regular” internet, it was amazingly reliable. It brought back memories of 28.8 kbps access!
    Ah..out reliance on technology.

  2. Striver Says:

    As-salamu alaikum
    True GPRS rules! Its pretty cool. Can take it wherever you want. But it costs a bomb dont it?

  3. Ameen Malhas Says:

    Awesome experience, I like the fact that you mentioned hotspots, I always feel cool whenever I’m at Starbucks in Tucson chatting on MSN with people in Amman, London, and other various locales around the world. This definetly trumps my own ‘claim to fame,’ which is parking outside a starbucks at night after my net connection went down.

    As for your battery woes, may I suggest the appropriate vehicle (my own) a Toyota Matrix.

    My next cross-atlantic flight will definetly be on Lufthansa, and then I will regain my bragging rights, surfing the net from 30,000 feet. :)

  4. nasimjo Says:

    about the “so-called slow” connection … U can resolve iot by having another mobile ….... ok ok ,, dont shout ,, I know its new …!

    its just that some other mobiles give U the full capacity of 44 kbps of GPRS ,,, & dont 4get the new EDGE phones that soon will give U that awesome transfer of over 100 kbps ….. up to 240 kbps even ! with compressed packets transfer …..

    I still wonder what does this old SAMSUNG 2100 doing in my pocket !! :P

  5. Ahmed Says:

    Wireless is awesome saves me some money in the long run!

  6. Lawal olasukanmi Says:

    I’ve sagem my x 7. With gprs but i want to use it with my desktop computer

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