[lug] Wide-area wireless (shaggytech).

Sean Reifschneider jafo-nclug at tummy.com
Wed Sep 25 15:21:40 MDT 2002

As many of you know, I'm kind of a junkie on wireless net connectivity.
It's freeing to be able to go around and do whatever I want, while still
having connectivity if I need (or as is more likely the case, want) it.

Until recently, we had CDPD, which has allowed us to connect in from
various inconvenient locations and fix client emergencies.  However, it's
just insanely slow -- 9600bps.  Recently, I've found that when I connect
the connection is often just swamped with DNS traffic for the first 5
minutes and not usable anywa.

For interactive traffic, CDPD is marginal at best.  The thing that it
really excelled at was sending/receiving e-mail via UUCP (yes, UUCP is
still useful).

I finally canceled the CDPD last month because it seemed like more trouble
than it was worth.  And also because it was starting to get to the point
where it was almost more convenient to get to a close 802.11b public access
point than dork with CDPD.  Between our house down south and a few
different places up north in Fort Collins, we were never really more than
10 minutes away from one, often much closer.

The real prompting for this, however, was that Sprint just recently
announced a flat-rate CDMA service.  While there have been other CDMA
services available from VoiceStream, AT&T, Verizon, and more, they all have
been "pay by the megabyte" services.  With rate of $4/MB, I just couldn't
talk Evelyn in to the idea of getting a service that we could fairly easily
run up $100 in charges if another nasty Winders worm got out, etc...

The CDPD was $70/month flat-rate, so the Sprint service at $100/month flat
rate wasn't a huge leap.  They also have cheaper service, starting at
$30-ish a month, that has limited usage and metered usage after that.
In fact, when I called AT&T to cancel my CDPD, they offered to switch me to
CDMA.  "Do you guys have a flat-rate plan?"  "No, all the CDPD people ask
that."  Here's a clue...  Take two, they're small.

I got the Merlin C201 card, and after some experimenting I've gotten it
working under Linux fairly well.  It's "only" going at around 88kbps (10x
faster than CDPD).  Apparently under Winders it will do a fair bit faster
than this, but I haven't seen that.  Apparently I don't have my Winders
setup configured properly or something.

I am *TOTALLY* happy with the CDMA at 88kbps though.  I'm currently up
camping near Winter Park, in the shagginwagen, and have quite reasonable
net access.  Latency averages around 500ms, swinging between 250 and

Really, it's not much worse than a regular 56k modem, but with a bit worse
latency.  Pulling big images or files goes fairly fast, and I've been able
run rsync backups of my laptop to the server back home.  It's been quite

That said, there ARE some problems.  One is that it seems that the card
won't talk to me again once I've made a connection unless I reboot.  Ugh.
I've just finished a 1.5 day session with it though, and it just seems to
work great.

Another nice benefit of it over CDPD is that the CDPD coverage never got
any better.  We had good coverage along the front-range and on I-70, but in
the 3 years we had it there was never a new service area added.  Going
north there's *NO* coverage, going south I think the next closest CDPD
coverage was Las Cruces, NM.  Going east I thin it was Chicago, but I
couldn't get it working there...

CDMA coverage is pretty good -- similar to CDPD on the front range and
I-70, but there's also coverage in Winter Park and from Steamboat to Craig.
Hence my taking a working vacation up here...  There's coverage in Omaha
and most of the way down to Cruces (important for Kevin who goes down there
fairly often).  No real coverage going North from Fort Collins, but that's
ok...  At least I have some hope of them adding more coverage areas.

Thanks to Mike Dwyer for mentioning that they have a 14 day "trial period".
That was really what made the decision to try it easy.

On the web at http://www.shagginwagen.com/
 Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That
 way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
Sean Reifschneider, Inimitably Superfluous <jafo at tummy.com>
tummy.com, ltd. - Linux Consulting since 1995.  Qmail, Python, SysAdmin

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