Make a Powerbook in to a Wi-Fi access point!
by Phillip Torrone
November 21, 2005
Editor's note: This How-to was originally posted in the MAKE blog.
In Make volume 03 we showed you how to make a "StompBox" - a device that uses a high speed EVDO wireless access card and Wi-Fi to create a mobile wireless access point. The StompBox centered around a 12VDC-powered embedded computer, but if you have a Mac Powerbook with PC card slot and a EVDO card, you can make the same kind of thing, broadcasting free Wi-Fi for anyone around! Here's how...
What is EVDO?
EVDO is a wireless broadband service, broadband internet access through the newest-generation (3G) cellular network. It aims to provide Wi-Fi-like speeds over cellphone-like geographic coverage. I've been traveling a lot lately, so I recently started subscribing to Verizon's EVDO network, NationalAccess, and picked up their high-speed EVDO access card. Just pop it in a Mac or the card slot of a PC, and you're off. This card lets me access the web without needing a Wi-Fi hot spot, usually at speed of around 400-700kbps.
From EVDOinfo.com- EVDO or Evolution Data Only, Evolution Data Optimized, often abbreviated as EVDO, EV-DO, EvDO, 1xEV-DO or 1xEvDO, is a fast wireless broadband access (3G) without needing a WiFi hotspot (a common misspelling is EDVO). You are the hotspot. You can have fast internet access, anywhere. No need to find a hotspot. For example, get high speed internet access in a car, train, clients, anywhere you can open your laptop.
Also, 1xEVDO is based on the 1xRTT standard. 1xRTT is basically available wherever cell phone coverage is and can give you 2-3 times dialup speed (both Verizon and Sprint offer this). Typical speed is 60 - 100K upload and download speeds. So, even if you are NOT in an EvDO area, you can still access the internet (learn more about 1xRTT vs. EVDO).
Here are the specs on my Verizon/Kyocera card, shown above. (I wish it didn't have a picture of some corpo ENRON looking fellow on it, but anyway...):
Kyocera KPC 650 Passport 1xEVDO PC Card (KPC650)
- KPC650 is a next-generation 1xEVDO PC card
- High-speed wireless data access of up to 2.4 Mbps
- Dual-band receive diversity and high-performance antenna design allows for higher data rates and improved coverage
You see, I was getting really tired of paying for four different Wi-Fi accounts, and airports/other places always having ones not on my "partner list," and therefore still having to drop $4 to $5 for a quick dose of access. The service for the EVDO card ranges from $50 to $80 month. Corporations often have employee deals, so if you can get it through where you work, you might hit the $50/month range. You can buy the card itself for as low as $20 from the EVDOinfo.com folks-- I haven't used them, but this is what it says on their site:
$19.99 (after $100 rebate) for PC Card, and Activation Fee: $20 for 2 year or $35 for 1 year contract. Monthly Fee: $79.99.
As for the coverage, so far it has been great too-- but I also mostly travel to the major cities, where EVDO coverage is better. In areas where you don't get full-speed NationalAccess EVDO, the service uses the slower Quick2Net, which provides 14.4kbps connectivity-- good for email and some browsing. Here's a NationalAccess EVDO coverage map (and more info):
So far, it's been amazing. I now bring my laptop everywhere, and I'm even getting a lot done in the car! The time before a flight, taxi and bus rides from the airport-- I'm really getting a lot done.
iChatting and Skyping, while stuck in traffic.
Testing the EVDO card on a tiny Sony Vaio.
In MAKE volume 03, we showed you how to urn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot, then use GPS and webcam input to map your current location online and auto-generate a photo travelog. It's a fun project, so if you like this how-to, you might want to check the StompBox article out as well.
If you subscribe to MAKE you can view this right now for free in our digital edition here.
Another way to parlay your EVDO service into your own mobile Wi-Fi, Ethernet or other LAN is through this cool box, from Junxion.
But now, if you have a Powerbook with a PC card slot, you can do the same thing. Just get the EVDO card, load the software and share the connection with the people around you.
Sharing your connection is not only a lot of fun, but extremely useful. I was traveling with my wife last week, and she was able to play Second Life, check email, and use my connection from her Windows machine, just like any other Wi-Fi hot spot. We're both paying for my EVDO service, so why should she have to buy another Wi-Fi account just to log on?
It's also really useful for public transportation. If you have a long daily commute on a train or bus, you can get everyone you're traveling with onto the internet. There have even been a few newspaper stories on people sharing their connections on trains. Be the hero!
Originally, this was going to be a slightly complex HOW TO, but just as I was writing the original version of this article (August 2005), Verizon released EVDO network drivers for Mac OS X. As a result, the process of turning your Mac into a Wi-Fi access point is now quite simple. In fact, for old Mac pros, the procedure is just standard internet connection sharing-- in other words, super easy.
Previously, you needed to "hack" the drivers to swap out vendor IDs and rebuild the kernel extension cache to get this card to work on a Powerbook. If you're interested, the HOW TO for that is here.
There's no reason to use this method now, since Verizon has Mac-specific drivers, but it's still good info. Also, you don't need to use the specific EVDO card I use, the Kyocera KPC 650 Passport. But all my EVDO geek friends said it was the best.
The old way... no longer needed.
[Note] Windows also internet connection sharing, but I haven't had much luck getting to work. So for now, this Mac-based HOW TO is what I could write up. If anyone can confirm that you can also do this on with a Windows laptop, let me know.
The only bad news is that the Mac version of VZAccess Manager doesn't have the built-in text messaging like its Windows counterpart. But I have yet to really need that.
Ingredients for this HOW TO
- Apple Powerbook 15" or 17" (with PC Card slot)
- Verizon EVDO card (I use the Kyocera KPC 650 Passport 1xEVDO PC Card)
1. Install and launch VZAccess Manager software (EVDO drivers for Mac OS X)
Assuming you already have the card and service, download the Mac OS X drivers from Verizon from here. You'll need your assigned phone number.
Install the software. Here are some of the screens you can expect to see:
The software can detect and use other wireless devices on your system, such as an Airport for Wi-Fi. I'm not sure if it's required, but I chose the last option (detect both Wi-Fi and EVDO).
Interesting, it detected some driver differences (I had hacked up the old drivers). But I just OK'd and it still worked.
Both networks work. The slower Quick2Net kicks in when there isn't NationalAccess.
Once the card is installed, network build-out updates (from any new towers) will download automatically.
And press connect! We're on!
Here's a what the VZAccess Manager's UI looks like. The Web tab opens Firefox for me, and the E-mail tab opens mail. But the only thing you really need this application window for is signing on and off.
To test my connection speed, I went to Speakeasy's Speed Test site and ran their test. Here are the results:
Not too shabby! This is in Seattle, WA.
2. Share the connection
Now it's time to share this connection!
Open System Preferences and choose Sharing, under Internet & Network.
For some reason, I had to click the "Share your connection from" pull-down menu twice before AirPort appeared, but it did. Check AirPort.
I named my network exactly what it was, "Free Wifi enjoy!"
Under the Firewall and Services tabs, I turned on Personal Web Sharing.
3. Join in!
Now that I'm broadcasting my wireless, I can hop on any other Wi-Fi enabled device, Mac, PC, or Linux.
Hey, look-- free, open Wi-Fi!
This is a smart warning. I could easily be logging packets, and so could others. In fact, a mobile hotspot like this is a good honey pot to set up if you want to steal private information.
And lastly, another test. I get the same speed on this machine that I did from the access point.
Here we are at the airport, sharing my connection. My wife was able to play Second Life perfectly.
EVDOInfo is pretty much one of the best and only places that has all I needed to get going. Post up any others in the comments too.
Verizon support for the Kyocera card.
You must be logged in to post a talkback.