Ramblings of a Techno-Viking

Connecting to the Internet

At home, in my sticks (no bricks) house, I've got a bunch of computers, all running Debian Linux. My current Internet connection is Speakeasy SDSL 384kbps. That's pretty slow by todays standards, and it's expensive, (about $100/month) but it includes two static IP addresses and Speakeasy has better support, including Linux, than most other ISPs. At the time I upgraded from ISDN, the local phone company wouldn't even try a DSL install, since I was near (but not over) the maximum distance from the local central office. The cable company was also not offering Internet at that time. In general, I've gotten good service from Speakeasy, with the exception of a few months when they honored their guarantee and didn't charge me. Speakeasy does offer Internet connections where there are few other options. (In the unlikely event you decide to go with speakeasy, please tell them blarson sent you so I'll get the referral credit.)

The static IPs allow me to run my own mail and web server at home. Since I'm not going to have a full-time Internet connection in the near future, I needed an alternate solution. Housing a server at a collocation service is not cheap. What I wound up doing is getting a VPS (Virtual Private Server, aka vhost (virtual host)) where a portion of one of their servers acts like I have a computer that I can install my own software other than the Linux kernel. This is running at RamHost, where I'm paying $5/month for one of their cheapest plans. This has a static IP, limited but fairly high traffic on their high-speed Internet connections, limited memory and disk space. The memory limits were a problem when I tried setting up a mysql/php blog package, but when I reconfigured Apache and switched to IkiWiki it no longer seems to be an issue. If this site gets really popular, I may have to upgrade to a more expensive plan. The main problem I've had with RamHost is finding a time when they weren't sold out of VPSs so I could order one. I'll be moving my other domains to the same VPS in the near future.

With that solved, I need a portable Internet solution. I was about to order 3gStore's no-contract Verizon 3g solution, but it was discontinued. While Verizon reportedly has the best coverage in out of the way places, I wanted to avoid a long-term contract. Eventually TechNomadia mentioned Millenicom that offerers no-contract service for $60/month, with a 10GB usage cap if you buy the modem (or 5GB if you don't). These options use the Verizon network in most places, and there is no charge for in-US roaming. (As with other Cell phones, you need to be careful about roaming near the Canadian border.) Their "unlimited" plan isn't, and uses the Sprint network, but there is no over-usage charge.

The Millenicom modem needs to be actived on a Windows or Macintosh computer, but after that can be used from Linux (with no usage display or ability to turn off roaming). The only documentation it came with was on the included 2GB micro-SD card in the modem, and that didn't cover the Novatel usb760 modem, a current version of Linux, or not running it under KDE. Instructions I found elsewhere were missing the wvdial.conf file. My first working attempt connected at 9600 baud -- slower that most dialup connections. Eventually I found the needed magic in the wvdial.conf file, and I now have a working 3g modem that is faster than my home SDSL. My current plans are to discontinue Speakeasy and use the 3g modem for my home network.

Here is my working wvdial.conf (the username and password are ignored):

 [Dialer Defaults]
 Modem Type = Analog Modem
 ISDN = 0
 Init1 = ATZ
 Init2 = ATZ
 Init3 = ATE0V1&D2&C1S0=0+IFC=2,2
 Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
 Phone = #777
 Username = user
 Password = user
 Stupid Mode = yes
 Baud = 460800

 [Dialer usb0]
 Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0

 [Dialer usb1]
 Modem = /dev/ttyUSB1

 [Dialer usb2]
 Modem = /dev/ttyUSB2

 [Dialer usb3]
 Modem = /dev/ttyUSB3

For phone service, I'll be using my current prepaid cell phone. T-Mobile offers a cheap prepaid plan for those of us who don't use the phone much, $100 for the first year ($25 card every 3 months) and any additional card (even a $10 one) every year after that. The minutes don't expire as long as you renew before the deadline. While the minutes aren't cheap at about $0.10 each, the savings on the monthly charges more than make up for it for someone like me. At the time I signed up, they included a $25 card with the $30 phone. (Their offers change occasionally.)