Scripting News for 3/4/2007

Today’s links 

Thanks for all the great advice about EVDO and the MacBook Pro. It seems a tossup betw Sprint vs Verizon, there are advantages to both, but I’m leaning toward Sprint.

Part 3 of the Frontline News War series is now on BT.

Jeff Ventura: “Now that Winer has moved off the fence, we can expect incredible new portable Apple gear any day now.” I had the same thought.

Scott Rosenberg is speaking at the Hillside Club (5PM today, $10 admission) on his new book about the Chandler project. Panelists: Eric Allman, Chad Dickerson, Lisa Dusseault and Jaron Lanier.

MP3 of this evening’s Cybersalon.

Movie of the panel at this evening’s Cybersalon.

Thanks to Google I am now on the record with my experience using Affordable Water Heaters. It may not be typical of the company, I hope they treat most of their customers better than they treated me and the reporters who were tracking down complaints about the company from customers and competitors. This new system, also known as Web 2.0 (some people just call it the web) enables customers to help each other — we are no longer at the mercy of companies who push us around.

Archive.org has an API. Must look into this more closely.

In February there was a lot of buzz about Pipes, Yahoo’s construction kit for feeds created from other feeds. A few weeks later it seems a good idea to ask how’s it doing?

Click here to add Scripting News to Netvibes. Screen shot.

Uncle Davey’s new laptop 

Yesterday, I had had enough hand-wringing over the decision to get a new laptop or wait for Apple to announce its new line of computers, so I got in the car and drove down to the Apple store in Emeryville, and bought the computer I had been dreaming about.

I was so on the fence about this, it was totally not an impulse decision, I almost turned around a few times on the ten-minute drive to the store. But I didn’t, and now I have the computer, and I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a luxurious upgrade from the Blacmac, which is now going to be my stereo’s computer, playing music and soon movies (when it gets its own screen).

So the next step is to get EVDO. That’s one reason why I upgraded. I had had a $39 per month plan with Tmobile for wifi access at Starbuck’s and SFO, and wasn’t using the service enough to justify it. I figure for not much more I can have broadband access pretty much everywhere, avoid the $10 per day fee charged by many hotels, and not have to wait for all the wifi carriers to get their roaming agreements together. Everyone else is having fun with EVDO, I want in on the party too!

So now I’m starting to get educated. Sprint or Verizon? Should I wait for an Expresscard version like so many people are? I already have a Cingular Blackberry, so does it make more economic sense to stay with them? I don’t see too much talk about their wireless broadband, though, most of the buzz is about Sprint and Verizon. I saw this update come through a few days ago, now it’s beginning to make sense how things fit together. What are your experiences?

24 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Dave:

    I’m on the rev 2 (and much quieter/faster) MacBook Pro. I’ve been reasonably pleased with the Verizon EVDO Expresscard that I’ve had since last fall. Their coverage is quite good around the country. However, upload speeds are pitiful (I’ve sent a letter on this oversight to the Verizon honchos) and service can be spotty during rush hour at places like LGA.

    Enjoy….

    Reply

  2. Steve Rubel via email: “Get Verizon. I did a few weeks ago. They have a new flavor called “Rev A” that is wicked fast in certain cities, soon all. There’s a map on their site. However, there’s a catch. The card they sell that will go in your Mac does not support Rev A. So you will need to the USB720 modem (Sprint sells this too and is competitive on speed) and will need to dongle it.”

    Reply

  3. Dave, I’ve been a Verizon EVDO user for over a year now, and have to say on the whole, I’m happy. Speeds are GREAT in certain places. At my kitchen table, it’s faster than my cable modem, but in many buildings, I’m stuck at 150-200k.

    The service from EDOinfo.com, who rep both services, I believe has been extraordinary.

    And as another commenter says, uploads are a joke…119k.

    I too dropped my T-Mobile WiFi in favor of the $80/month EVDO.

    Reply

  4. Revision A for EVDO is rolling out for both Sprint and Verizon. Verizon is market by market rollout, Sprint is nation-wide rollout at least in the past, but both have markets with EVDO rev A already. It depends on the markets you need to have revision A in.

    Currently there are many cards that support Revision A, and I know for a fact that Sprint does sell them (we’re testing the markets with them). Verizon does too. I would recommend Merlin’s since in the past, they’ve had better speeds.

    Reply

  5. Dave, we LIVE on EV-DO to blog on our mobile tech site. Few points: both Sprint and Verizon are rolling out the faster Rev A. of EV-DO. Sprint’s network has more coverage currently, but Verizon is catching up. Check out http://www.evdomaps.com which is a Google map mashup of user-reported EV-DO speeds and coverage.

    Sprint does indeed sell an Express Card EV-DO modem: look for the Merlin EX720 ExpressCard which is generally around $180 w/contract. It’s backwards compatible with the prior EV-DO network (Rev 0) as well and as you mentioned, Apple provided a SW update for it about a week ago.

    Expect to pay $59 a month for the broadband service with a voice plan; $79 a month without. That generally holds true for Verizon as well. I personally tether a smartphone with EV-DO (Rev 0) to my devices because the data plan is only $45 that way. The downside is using a USB cable to tether since BT tethering chokes the thoughput.

    Last thought: I’d estimate that 90% of the blogging that James and I do at our site is done through EV-DO since we’re always mobile. At wireless speeds around 1 Mbps down and half that up, you can be productive and on the go. Best of luck and ping me with any questions.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Simon Hamilton-Wilkes on March 4, 2007 at 8:09 am

    I second everything Steve Rubel said, except Verizon do sell the USB720 now.. I have Verizon Rev 0 built into my Thinnkpad and am dying for the Rev A internal cards to be launched so I can swap out. I had a Vodafone external UMTS USB modem for 6 months in Europe recently and it was awesome – 2 meg down in major cities, EVDO is getting closer gradually. Don’t consider Cingular, EDGE i dog slow.

    Reply

  7. Posted by John Day on March 4, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Hi, Dave.

    I’ve been using the Verizon version of EVDO for about a year and it’s worked quite well all over the SF Bay Area, and certainly better than I’d expected.

    At the time I bought a Kyocera card specifically because Kyocera had announced a SOHO router that would use the Kyocera EVDO card as its uplink and WiFi (or even wired ethernet) to share the EVDO link with your cohorts around you who don’t have their own EVDO.

    I never actually got around to buying the router, but thought you’d be interested in the capability. Kyocera router described here: http://www.kyocera-wireless.com/kr1-router/ Perhaps other readers will have experience with it.

    John Day
    Gilroy, CA

    Reply

  8. Uncle Davey, what does that new laptop weigh? (I realize you’re stronger than I am, but it’s a consideration for my next notebook; have seriously been thinking of a Mac this time.)

    Reply

  9. Heh. Actually, just another point since it sounds like these guys aren’t part of the telecom industry as I am. Cingular actually has HSDPA rolled out in a couple markets in test.

    HSDPA itself is very comparable with revA in speeds. That’s coupled with UMTS which is what Europe is currently on right now.

    I believe last time I heard, Seattle was a HSDPA market, but I don’t remember since I don’t work in the GSM side of things.

    Reply

  10. Stick with T-Mobile. They’ll have a high-speed EVDO competitor that will knock Stinkular on it’s backside in a couple more months.

    What do you think they bought all that bandwidth last year for? :-)

    Reply

  11. Verizon for sure – they have much better coverage than Sprint. If you ever decide to go on another road trip, you’ll be very glad you chose them. I got a V640 ExpressCard with my MacBook Pro and it has been working great. I like ExpressCards much better than USB ones, which are just way too big when they’re plugged in. I’d wait another month for a Rev A. ExpressCard if I were you. Avoid Cingular, which has essentially no 3G coverage (only edge).

    Reply

  12. Get Verizon. I did a few weeks ago. They have a new flavor called “Rev A” that is wicked fast in certain cities, soon all. There’s a map on their site. However, there’s a catch. The card they sell that will go in your Mac does not support Rev A. So you will need to the USB720 modem (Sprint sells this too and is competitive on speed) and will need to dongle it.

    Reply

  13. Posted by James Prudente on March 4, 2007 at 9:59 am

    I’ll chime in for Sprint. Ony $60/month without voice service (Verizon is $80). And the biggest reason to avoid Verizon is that their “unlimited” is very limited. Check http://evdoforums.com for countless stories of Verizon dropping people for watching videos and other high bandwidth usage.

    “Verizon terminated my service”

    http://www.evdoforums.com/thread2366.html

    I’ve been evdo only for a year now, and would never go without again.

    Reply

  14. I’ve been very happy with the original Verizon EVDO service (on a Windows laptop). Rev A (a significant improvement) is now available, and Sprint seems to be ahead in terms of actual rollout. The chips are all made by the same manufacturers, so the question is whether you have (or will have) Rev A coverage in the places you’re most likely to be.

    The cool thing is driving from SF to Fresno and being able to work online the whole time while my wife or daughter drives to a horse show.

    WiFi, however, is still faster over the air, assuming the same bandwidth behind it. If you are doing bandwidth intensive stuff (e.g. video), you will notice the difference.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Tim Towtdi on March 4, 2007 at 10:54 am

    A book?

    Good idea. Collect your thoughts on those topics and try longer essays. Some themes will emerge, for sure. The world changing effects of empowering users, for example.

    “Creating The Programmable World”

    Yeah, I can see that as a “next act”. Hopefully, not a final act.

    Reply

  16. Posted by mc on March 4, 2007 at 11:05 am

    If you have Cingular, I’d stay with that. I have a Samsung A707 with Cingular (in Boston), and it does 300k _symmetrical_ on my macbook (over bluetooth). Always nice to multitask with a single device. I think Cingular has phone handsets that will do 1.2M symmetrical (!) as well, possibly the Mot A3xx. Of course, you’d have to be in a Cingular HSDPA area for that.

    Reply

  17. @James Prudente: I agree. After reading blog posts about users not receiving “unlimited” use with Verizon, I decided to go with Sprint. My next step is upgrading to an Ovation U720 USB Modem (USB Adapter, EVDO Rev. A) to connect with my Mac and have the added benefit of connecting to any other laptop regardless if it is an express card slot or not.

    Reply

  18. Consider Cingular HSDPA/UMTS (what they call “3G or BroadbandExpress”, especially since you’re already with them. Speeds are faster than EVDO, their coverage is much better than people think it is (20 major cities and growing, fallback to EDGE everywhere else). It might save you from entering into a two year contract with Sprint of Verizon. FWIW, I just dumped Verizon for Cingular for the faster data of HSDPA. I dumped T-Mobile for Verizon two years ago to move to EVDO. Whoever has the fastest wireless data gets my money. :-)

    If you do stick with EVDO, I suggest going with Sprint. Their prices are much, much lower than Verizon. They also offer speedy Rev. A.

    T-Mobile has already long since lost the 3G race. They don’t offer anything faster than EDGE right now, and the only technology they could offer that would be faster than EVDO or HSDPA is WiMAX, and there’s no way they’re going to get WiMAX hardware on all their towers anytime soon, plus there aren’t any WiMAX capable phones on the market or on the horizon.

    Enjoy your new MBP! I just got one for work, and it’s the nicest computer I’ve ever used. :-)

    Reply

  19. Thanks so much for the great advice!

    It seems to be a tossup Sprint vs Verizon, there are advantages to both.

    Right now the table seems tilted in favor of Sprint. I don’t see too many road trips in my future, and it was a PITA last time I did it, but then again, that was three-four years ago, and the scene at hotels has changed radically, it was changing even as I was taking the trips. Today, wifi access is a given at all the hotels I’d likely stay at while traveling. And I have a Blackberry for emailing during the day, and my guess is that works in most reasonable-size towns across the country. And I seem to have the road trips out of my system for now, a clue is that I just bought a house last year. :-)

    I think Kevin Tofei’s setup is the closest to the one I should get, esp given that I’m pretty unknowledgable right now about this stuff.

    How do you guys feel about buying from EVDOINFO.Com? They say they do all the setup and they love to support Mac users. Do you think I need the extra support? I do have a Windows laptop around that I could use to set it up.

    Reply

  20. Posted by steve gelmis on March 4, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Dave, I’m a little surprised that in all the comments made before mine nobody has raised the question of international access.

    Verizon and Sprint use CDMA technology. And CDMA doesn’t use SIM chips. Nor is it compatible with GSM networks. That’s a deal breaker for me. Here’s why:

    CDMA service is available in no more than a dozen other countries, and because you can’t stick a local carrier’s SIM chip in your data card, you can only buy connectivity at international roaming rates even if you happen to be in one of those few countries.

    If you stick with either T-Mobile or Cingular in the US, you can get roam with your data card in over 120 countries. And if you get your card unlocked, you can buy much cheaper local service if you happen to be staying for more than a few days.

    Yes, T-Mobile doesn’t have the high-speed protocols in place in the US yet, but it’s coming soon. WHen their EDGE data service got bumped up last summer from $20/mo to $30/mo (with the mandetory Wi-Fi hotspot subscription bundled in), it fell off the value equasion for me too. However, my response was to change my line over to their $5.99/mo T-Zones service which works just as well and just as fast. The only change is that you have to reconfigure your handset and or laptop to connect through their VPN proxy server. It’s very straightforward.

    If I really had a problem living with unlimited 100kpbs for $5.99/mo I guess I’d go to Cingular. But CDMA is a fully locked-up silo. Just doesn’t make sense given the alternative.

    Last point. To keep my overall recurring service cost low, I have only one T-Mobile line for both voice and data, but I have serveral devices to move the chip to depending on what I’m doing. So the data service really is only $5.99 on the margin.

    Here’s a couple of instances: When I’m just out for the day, I may just bring my Sidekick PDA, which is tied into my company IMAP, has Google reader mobile as its IE homepage…packs everything I need in my pocket.

    If I will be taking my laptop along, I will also pack a handset which can give the laptop a data connection via bluetooth, which still being available for voice calls.

    Off-hours on overnight trips, when I might be sitting at teh laptop for an extended period in a hotel room, I’ll move the SIM chip into a PCMCIA GSM EDGE card and shove it into the laptop for best connectivity, and let any stray voice calls go to Vmail (forwarded to my office system, not T-Mobile’s) which will send the message as an email attachment.

    Given that this level of flexibility exists, I don’t know why anyone would limit themselves to networks which prevent you from swapping your method of connectivity around.

    Reply

  21. Dave,

    Though theoretcally I’d have faster access with a USB cable, I hook my MacBook Pro up via Bluetooth to my Treo and Verizon’s EVDO network. It’s easy and fast.

    Here’s my experience with it at 80mph: http://www.iconnectdots.com/ctd/2007/02/internet_access.html

    Here I am iChatting with my bride at 75mph: http://www.iconnectdots.com/ctd/2007/02/ichat_at_75mph.html

    Last-but-not-least, some commentary on hotel wifi speeds on my 2,000 trip from Fort Lauderdale to Minneapolis: http://www.iconnectdots.com/ctd/2007/03/2000_miles_of_w.html

    Ubiquity with my wireless connection is imperative though I always carry a couple of spare batteries for my Treo as a Bluetooth connection just sucks ‘em dry.

    Reply

  22. Posted by heavyboots on March 4, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Late to the comment party as usual, but congrats on the 17″ monster! My boss at work has a Powerbook variant and basically supplanted all her other computer with it. As for people joking about the new one being imminent…

    [1] They’ve *almost* got all the bugs worked out of the MacBooks gen1. Who knows what new bugs will arrive with gen2?

    [2] MacBooks are theoretically processor upgradeable again iirc, so unless they introduce some crazy new technology that makes all computers before it defunct, you’re likely to be within striking distance of the new model for some time to come.

    Reply

  23. Dave,

    I bought the exact same C2D MBPro model back in November and haven’t been happier.

    I’m getting my EVDO through a Palm 700p with Sprint (Costco has good deals) and unlimited data service (extra $50/month). The new Merlin EVDO cards are just trickling out, but they’re pretty bleeding edge. Personally I’d wait until Rev. 2.

    I’ve been told that Sprint in the Berkeley area is already up to Rev A. I’ve maxed out at 900 Kbps while working at the downtown Berkeley library, connecting the 700p through a retractable charge/sync cable. Upload speeds are pretty slow though (max 100K so far). As for coverage, I had pretty good luck with Sprint in southern Marin and pretty much anywhere on the Peninsula. There are a few dead spots in Berkeley around Spruce and Rose and way up in the hills near Grizzly Peak, but other than that, it’s pretty decent. All I can say is it’s great being untethered.

    Regardless of who you go with (Sprint or Verizon) or phone vs. plug-in card, I highly recommend setting up a VPN, either through your home router or going with a public VPN service (I use PublicVPN.com for about $60/year). It slows the throughput a little, but adds a measure of safety. Also good to have when going through open WiFi at coffeeshops and hotels.

    Since the MBPro is not a super-lightweight machine, I also suggest getting a good carrying bag. Timbuk2 (http://www.timbuk2.com) makes reasonably functional ones for the big 17″ models that can be carried like a satchel or as a backpack.

    Best of luck. If you want to trade notes on the EVDO/Macbook Pro setup, feel free to drop me a line.

    Reply

  24. Posted by Alvin on April 3, 2007 at 11:23 am

    I will put my two-cents into this discussion thread… I am a VERY HAPPY Sprint EVDO user with the Novatel Wireless Merlin S720 card for my laptop. I travel weekly between Dallas and Houston and the REV-0 network is good, but when my travels take me to the Northeast (e.g. NY, NJ, DE, etc.) I get to experience REV-A in its full glory…!!! :-) Wow… what a difference…!!! Just waiting now for Sprint to rollout REV-A in Texas. According to various websites, Sprint will have REV-A rolled out across the country by 3-Qtr. 2007 (I suspect sooner if they continue to feel the heat from competitors like Verizon). Something very cool happened this past week while I was in NC (Hillsborough / Chapel Hill area). I was connected on Wednesday and Thursday at REV-0 speeds and on Friday I was connecting at REV-A (very cool to experience a “live” cutover to REV-A in a market first hand…:-).

    Whether you are a MAC or PC user, you can find a suitable Sprint EVDO REV-A capable device (PCMCIA, USB, or ExpressCard).

    Think you will be VERY HAPPY with Sprint….!!!

    Reply

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