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February 4, 2012

Tireless and Wireless

I have really got to give praise to Verizon Wireless for being everything that AT&T doesn't want to be: flexible. I'm verily sure that today's post would not exist if the folks at VZW were as strict and as whitebread as the Big Blue Deathstar. Let me explain.

Today's post is about how to use your Android phone to connect to tether to the Internet as well as using it as a wireless hotspot without giving Verizon an extra $30 per month when you're already paying an extra $40 for wireless Internet features on you phone. The pitfall is that unless you signed up for a smartphone plan sometime before July 7, 2011, which is when Verizon stopped offering unlimited data plans to smartphone customers, you will need to monitor how much data you use. Anyone who established a contract with Verizon prior to July 7, 2011, is protected by a grandfather clause and thusly can still use wireless data to their heart's content. Just don't brag about how you can do this to anyone who works for Verizon. It would be like telling a SOPA supporter (i.e. RIAA or MPAA) how much you like using BitTorrent for file sharing.

Lucky for me, I am covered by the grandfather clause. I even went ahead and upgraded my phone recently from the original Motorola Droid to a Droid Bionic. This renewed my contract but it still meant I was covered the grandfather clause. So, I'm pretty much good to go. To my knowledge, Sprint is the only provider left, as of this post, that still offers unlimited data contracts to new customers. I'm not sure what their policy is on tethering and wireless hotspots, but I would imagine it is similar to that of AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, as well as the discount providers like Cricket, US Cellular, or MetroPCS.

Before I begin explaining the various methods, under US Copyright Law 1201, I am within my right to explain these methods. So any request under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 2000 (DCMA) to take down this post is prohibited by US Law and protected by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. Furthermore, by following these methods, should you chose chose to execute them, I am not at all responsible if something breaks (which it shouldn't), gets you arrested (which I'm verily certain that it won't), or drives up your phone bill (which I've already explained how this can be avoided).

As much as I would love to root my cellphone, which is highly unnecessary even if it is a means to remove the bloatware apps that are stuck on some phones, I tend to like any method that does not involve rooting, especially if you don't own more than one phone should things go bad from tinkering with it during development of your own software or hacks. I also prefer using unrooted methods as it is easy for folks who are fortunate enough to have enough computer knowledge to find the power button to turn on the computer. While I do have a BSCS, I like to explain methods that even a person who barely passed with a GED can comprehend.

So if by some reason, you still don't understand how any of this works, and your cellphone or computer explodes and burns down the house--which is practically impossibly unless you still have a Dell computer with a recalled faulty battery that you didn't return--everything in this post should be safe, legal, affordable, and rediculously easy.

PDANet

First, let's start with older phones, particularly Motorola Droid through the latest devices as of this date. As tempting as it to use Bluetooth Dial Up Networking (DUN) or Bluetooth Personal Area Networking (PAN), there aren't a whole lot of apps that you can use without rooting your phone to connect to the Internet. Secondly, Bluetooth is a lousy way to connect to the Internet. It's great for connecting your phone to your wireless headphones or a PlayStation Sixaxis controller, but for wireless tethering, it is about as enjoyable as taking a bath in hydrochloric acid. As much as I applaud the efforts by the folks at June Fabrics for creating PDANet for incorporating Bluetooth DUN as a wireless tethering alternative, you are better off using PDANet with your phone and your computer connected via USB cable.

PDANet also has some flaws if you like to do more than use the Internet browser. For instance, you can't use PDANet with Linux, UNIX, or BSD. For the most part, PDANet is designed for folks who use Windows and who use Internet Explorer as their browser. And from what I have continued to state on this website is that using Internet Explorer is not ideal. Even IE9 can't render HTML5 elements properly, which I found out from a recent interview when the potential employer printed out a page from this site and the last page had the footer section rendered as if it was encapsulated in an <h1> element. (That text should be smaller than if not equal to the height of the LinkedIn icon in that section, but I'll explain with greater detail some other time.) Secondly, PDANet, no matter if you use the regular program or the one meant for tethering to a tablet, will not signal to the other applications that you are online via the program. And lastly, if you like to use things like SSH, FTP, or a Proxy service, PDANet won't let you use these things, not even if you properly configure port forwarding.

EasyTether Pro

It is for these reasons, that for any Android powered phone wishing to use wired tethering, I recommend EasyTether Pro. EasyTether supports virtually all Android phones from Android version 1.5 on up. There is support for Windows, Mac OS X, and the Linux distributions Ubuntu and Fedora, but I am certain other Linux, UNIX, and BSD variants could also use it. Older versions of EasyTether required that you type in two commands in two different terminal console windows (at least on Linux from my experience). But the latest version has since resolved this issue and has made connecting to the Internet an easy three step process.

The new process is so easy, I think I'll explain it in this paragraph right now. First, connect the phone and the computer together via USBcable. Enabling USB debugging mode is recommended with EasyTether, not that you'll ever need to use it. Secondly, assuming you've downloaded the EasyTether app or the EasyTether Pro app (which I recommend), open it up and check the "USB" checkbox. Finally, assuming you've installed the EasyTether software for the computer, opening up a terminal console (on Windows, type Window Key+R for a Run prompt then cmd.exe; Mac and Linux users should find a terminal emulator available on there system using an application search), type in easytether connect. You should now be connected to the Internet. EasyTether Pro users will have access to HTTPS and other ports.

FoxFi (Beta)

The last program I'd like to share was posted on the Market about a couple of days ago. I found out about it this afternoon, and have so far enjoyed using it to upload today's post. I learned about it when I was writing up my review for PDANet when the word "FoxFi" appeared in a post by one of the commentors for the PDANet app. At first I thought it was a typo and he meant to say "Firefox". But sure enough, FoxFi is a real app and it has opened the door to anyone who bought a newer cellphone with Wireless Hotspot capabilities but found out that it came at a price through your carrier.

FoxFi takes down this barrier. FoxFi likely uses the same WiFi methods that EasyTether does, but completely free! I wish they had a website, and I hope the open source this program although I doubt that will happen. But if the folks at FoxFi Software do, it would mean there is an app that does what EasyTether does, wirelessly, and without paying $10 for the full version like PDANet and EasyTether ask for.

FoxFi offers wireless freedom at last! It is about as easy to set up as Linksys router. Just download it, open it up, name your network and set up a password, turn it on then use your computer to connect to it like any password protected WiFi network.

I'm pretty sure that you can connect your WiFi tablet to the FoxFi wireless tether and finally use your tablet computer the way it was intended without incurring any extra cost. (You may have read recently I was experimenting with Cyanogenmod for the HP Touchpad. It appears the dreaded WiFi bug has occurred to my device and I am currently resolving that situation. I'll post an update about that later.)

So in conclusion, FoxFi and EasyTether are your best bets for Wireless Hotspot and Wired Tethering, respectively. Assuming your phone provider doesn't censor the Android Market, which they had in the past for just about every carrier trying to control how users use their cellphone (which in these days in the age of Social Networking and Hacktivism is a major faux pas), you should probably keep in mind that just because you have unlimited data access, you should still conserve data. Sure, go ahead and watch Netflix for hours on end. Why else would there be a Netflix app for Android? All I ask is for users to not abuse this service so that one day newer users can one day enjoy the same unlimited access that older users have.

Enjoy your new freedom, but don't use abuse it at the cost of others!

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