In Part 1, "The Alternatives," I shared my experiences and thoughts on options I've explored for Internet access away from the office. At the end of Part 1, I described my switch to Verizon Wireless' broadband wireless service and related how the Palm Treo 700p raised my hopes from using only pre-paid Wi-Fi remote access at Barnes & Noble to convenient Internet access everywhere.
In this Part 2, I'll step you through a setup for Internet access that connects the Treo 700p and a Mac laptop via Bluetooth. Using Bluetooth to connect the laptop to the Treo 700p enables you to have a truly wireless experience since you'll be able to access the Internet when your Treo 700p is in its belt clip holster, charger or briefcase. Internet access is via Verizon's BroadbandAccess EVDO service.
Now, since we know what's in store, let's get started.
Step 0: Background material
To find out more about the EVDO services, explore EVDOinfo.com, EVDOforums.com, and Booster-Antenna.com. EVDOinfo and EVDOforums have a similar look, and may even be the same site, since both provide pseudo-news coverage of Verizon and Sprint EVDO.
Information is posted on these sites, and as I said before, we can all benefit from sharing notes. For example, users on EVDOinfo.com and EVDOForums.com shared stories on how they were able to subscribe to the BBA CONNECT UNL Service (which I'll deal with later in Step 2).
Step 1: Get a Treo 700p
The "rectangular-hockey-puck" Treo 700p combines Palm Organizer, a mediocre camera (1.3 megapixel), an awkward-to-use MP3 player (because of the step-up adapter required to plug in headphones) and a phone that's well integrated with Palm's software organizer. The Treo 700p may sound like a "train-wreck on the function express," but I'm realizing as I use it, that it's an awesome value with some great features in addition to its ability to get online anywhere.
The 700p is based on Palm software, and in the 5 years since I last used a Palm device, Palm has worked out a lot of bugs. Today, Palm's improved synchronization works without duplicating the contacts and appointments every time. A 5-way button and a keyboard merged with the Palm interface makes the 700p simple and familiar to interact with.
Because I could use either the touchscreen or key commands, I often find that I take my stylus out, but don't use ita flashback to the simpler days of Lotus 1-2-3 when user interfaces were 100% keyboard driven, and my fingertips"knew" the software.
For those who listen to Audible books, the 700p integrates beautifully with Audible's Palm software. When I'm listening to a book and the phone rings, the 700p pauses the book, and lets me answer the phone without my having to fumble to shut off the Audible player first. Though the feature seems simple, my previous generation Toshiba 2032SP Pocket PC phone did not link the Audible and telephone functions.
Step 2: Get Verizon Wireless' EVDO and Tethering Service for Your Treo 700p
Although they are unlikely to let you walk out their doors with the 700p without the EVDO access turned on, your challenge is in getting Verizon Wireless (or Sprint) to turn on the Tethered Modem BroadbandAccess Connect option. In Verizon Wireless' "It's the Network for business" brochure, the service is listed on page 9, row 7 as being available as an option; so, when you're in the store, ask the salesperson to sign you up for this $15/month package.
Why? Because the extra $15/month enables you to authenticate your account so you can get your laptop on the Verizon EVDO network using a 700p. Without this service package, you can try to dial in, but you will not be able to authenticate and get on the network.
If you are reading this paragraph and are already out of the store, you can still login to Verizon Wireless and send an email to technical support, asking them to sign you up for the BBA CONNECT UNL Service for tethered broadband access. This approach worked for me.
Others at EVDOinfo.com and EVDOForums.com reported success in subscribing to the service as well; they called customer support for the phone at Verizon Wireless and carefully read the BBA CONNECT UNL Service description to the service agent. When the agent looked up the description, he or she found it, and were able to supply the answer, "Oh, yes, that's what you want."
Step 3: Get a Laptop
For this project, I decided to use my MacBook even though the Mac isn't supported by Verizon Wireless. As crazy as it sounds, the Mac platform not being supported by a big slow-moving bureaucracy isn't a handicap. For example, I was able to connect my MacBook without any company-provided software.
A Small Wireless Networking Rant: Big companies are "supporting" us by providing software packages that do the same things as Microsoft, only in a slightly different way, and unfortunately, none of their utilities are actually easier to use than Microsoft's wireless user interface. Gateway, HP, Dell, Broadcom, and other companies, which provide 802.11x software to help us, are complicating our setup, since we'll have to learn a new user interface every time we set up wireless on a laptop, instead of just having to learn the one (Microsoft's). Consequently, 802.11x wireless setup on Windows has become a "Tragedy of the Commons." Quoting Aristotle, "That which is common to the greatest number" [Microsoft's 802.11x user interface] "has the least care bestowed upon it."
Fortunately, Mac users are ahead in the game since they don't rely on the big companies that support only the dominant computing platform. Instead, Mac users have tinkered, tricked, experimented, and tried, and come up with procedures to get Powerbooks, MacBooks, iBooks, and MacBook Pros on the Internet using the Treo 700p. Then, the tips, tricks, and traps have been shared on the Internet.
Lately, some big companies are beginning to recognize the Mac as a growing platform. Palm.com provides instructions similar to the step-by-step that follows. Palm's instructions are generalized across carriers, but the instructions are excellent, and if my step-by-step does not get your connection working, try theirs.