Cheap MiFi

OK, so I really am a cheap bugger sometimes, but what annoys me is that I pay NZ$90 a month for my cell phone plan, and I get 3GB of data on it, but I usually only use about 250MB or maybe even 300MB on a bad month mainly because most of the places I go also have pervasive wifi. So I waste 2.5 GB of data I’ve paid for on my 3G connection. I can’t just buy a MiFi or another 3G USB modem and hook it up to my cell phone plan, they all want extra money as they wont share my phone data plan.

So, how to make the most of my 3G connection? I need to make my own MiFi!

What you Need:

iPhone (or similar) on a plan allowing tethering.

Laptop with bluetooth and Wifi, (mine runs Linux Mint 9)

Other wifi clients wanting to use the connection.

How to set it up

I actually couldn’t believe it was this easy, especially getting an iPhone to talk to GNU/Linux, but thanks to standards, this all works out OK.

  1. On the iPhone, open the settings app, go to General, and turn on bluetooth, and then Tethering.
  2. From the laptop, make sure the bluetooth radio is turned on, then go to the Bluetooth preferences Panel, set up a new device, pick the iPhone, and pair it up in the normal way.
  3. Then in Network Connections you should now see the MAC address of the iPhone as an available connection. Connect to it and make sure you can get to the internet.
  4. Open the Network Connection control panel, and select the wireless tab.
  5. Add a new connection. I called mine MyFi. Set the Mode to Ad-hoc, then select the IPv4 Settings tab. Choose Method: Shared to Other Computers. Probably best to set some security options on the Wireless Security tab too, you don’t want someone else leaching your 3G
  6. Then connect to MyFi – this turns it all on.
  7. On the clients, connect to new wireless network, you should see MyFi as an available SSID. Connect to it, and you should be up and running.

Now this is in no way a fast connection, my testing seemed to put this somewhere between dialup and DSL in performance, and did seem to be very glitchy, but that may have been my 3G connection more than anything, which was only a couple of bars. But it worked, I did some facebook, connected up my Mac to test it out too.

This will also work if you get an ethernet connection to the net, so you can save on having to carry around another MiFi, or Airport express or Access Point when on holiday. Very happy with 20 minutes of hacking 8)

Update: – I can now skip the whole laptop part.

Apple have now released iOS 4.3 and one of the new features is a wireless hotspot.

Simply go to settings, Personal Hotspot, and set a private password, or use the random one offered there already. Turn it on.

This will drop the phone of any existing wifi connection and onto 3G, and instead just offer an SSID of the phones name (mine just picked what I called it in iTunes, I don’t see a way to change this yet).

Connect a client to it using whatever method you need to in the OS, and use the password set above. Viola, you are connected!

My testing so far, this link is much faster than the bluetooth teathering I used to use, and is faster to set up and tear down as I don’t have to go and turn bluetooth on and off, and dig through the Network settings on the phone to turn it all on and off.

One word of caution though, I have found Chrome can cause the phone to crash. I don’t know exactly why yet, but sometimes after five or ten minutes browsing with chrome, the link stops, and I have to reboot the phone to get it back on the network.

I have not yet had it crash with Firefox.

Note: when using Windows and USB tether, I have also had the phone simply crash and reboot itself a couple of times using chrome or Safari, so it may be a webkit issue.

Otherwise, I am very happy, and I look forward now to getting my wifi only iPad2 8)

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