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Navigation, MiFi, BlackBerry tethering

The Gulds address questions concerning smart phone vs. GPS navigation; laptop for Internet and travel; and the best Internet connection for motorhoming. They also receive a recommendation for tethering a BlackBerry device.

Smart phone or GPS for navigation?

Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:

I'm either going to upgrade my phone to a smart phone or buy a GPS with trucker features to keep us alerted to roads that we should not be on with our rig. We used verizon VZ navagator on my cell last summer. It has a a truck mode. I want to upgrade to a bigger screen.

What I want to know is, which units will get the best signal -- a GPS or the Verizon phone? We lost the signal three times when traveling last summer and using the cell GPS.

Thank You.
Chuck

Chuck, the decision is clear.  Do both.  Don't forget the paper maps, too.
 
A smart phone with navigation is a great idea. I might wait a bit to get a smart phone, though. There will be lots of 4G (faster Internet) phones out this
summer.  We love our Droid phones and use the navigation feature often. We have a Garmin GPS navigation system on the dash that is easy to move to the car when the RV is parked.  

Battery life is an issue, so I keep everything plugged in. The phone is always with you. If we lose cellular signal, we lose navigation with the phone. That is not a problem with a dashboard GPS. The maps are built-in. They do need to be kept up-to-date, though. And you can get a larger-screen GPS, which is easier to see than screens on most phones. They both do a good job reading the turns and directions out loud and clear.
 
I find dashboard GPS units and smart phone navigation best for point-to-point routing, mostly to local and single destinations at a time. 
 
We do our route planning on a laptop using MS Streets & Trips. We love the big screen. There are millions of Points Of Interest (POIs) included in the program. Download the free POI Megafile, which offeres lots more info of particular interest to RVers.

Keep in mind that maps  both electronic and paper can easily be out-of-date. Road construction is ongoing. We use Microsoft Streets & Trips, a Garmin Nuvi GPS, Google navigation on the Droid smartphone, and paper maps and atlases. We prefer to do our planning on the big screen and use our Garmin GPS and Droid for local directions and quick Points Of Interest.

Planning is the key to a stress-free day of driving.

— Jim Guld


The best Internet connection for motorhoming is ...

Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:

What is the best solution to get the Internet in my motorhome? I have in-motion" Dish TV. Seems like the same type of setup should be good for Internet access. An air card may still be a good solution. I would like a fast connection, on the go, without much expense for equipment or monthly chargers. Ideas?
Steve

Steve,

This has to be our most often-asked question.

The answer is getting easier. Get a Verizon MiFi. It is a 3G cellular modem (air card) and Wi-Fi hotspot that allows you to connect up to five devices wirelessly. Verizon has the best overall nationwide coverage. The MiFi is small, portable, and setup is simple.

The MiFi can be free with a two-year contract. Virgin Mobile offers a MiFi contract-free using Sprint cellular service , but you must purchase the MiFi. Expect to pay between $30 to $80 per month for service, depending on data use.

There is no in-motion satellite Internet for consumers. Cellular is so far the only wireless Internet that works going down the road.

— Jim Guld


Laptop advice

Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:

I have a lap-top but need guidence on what to buy so I can use the Internet on my laptop while traveling.
Harry

Harry,

The decision you make will be based on how much you need connectivity and where you plan on traveling. Weekend trips or extended/fulltime RVing? There are three basic ways to connect as you travel: cellular, Wi-Fi, and satellite.

The default today is a cellular connection, either with a dedicated card or tethering a smart-phone data connection to the laptop. Verizon has the best nationwide coverage. We currently tether our Droids to our laptops for connectivity as we travel. We are seriously considering a 4G card for our travels this summer.

Wi-Fi is available in many places, often free or reasonably priced. Sometimes it can be the best. At other times, not so much. Wi-Fi is easy. We use it when it is good, and only pay for it when it's really good.

Satellite Internet connectivity is relatively expensive, but it is still the only thing that works nearly anywhere. We started with a MotoSat DataStorm system. Now our travel rarely takes us out of cellular signal and we have discontinued the service.

There are many articles on our Web site about all this.  www.geeksontour.com/wifi-home.cfm.

— Jim Guld


Tethering BlackBerry device

Dear FMCA Computer Geeks:

I see you get a lot of questions about tethering. I use my BlackBerry to tether my PC to the Internet. It works flawlessly. There is a one time charge. It

uses the data plan of the BlackBerry. It is also available for Droid phones. If you haven't heard of it, check it out at (www.tether.com).
Al

Al,

Good to hear from you.

Tethering is indeed a popular topic. We use another product called PDANet from www.junefabrics.com on our Droids. There are versions for BlackBerry, Droid and iPhone. It sounds pretty much the same as your recommendation. I'll take a look at it. Thanks.

— Jim Guld

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