Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hurrah for the cheapasses of the world

A month ago to be precise, DSL internet was abandoned at this location, eliminating a monthly expense of some $55, mostly in anticipation of a truly mobile lifestyle, in the forthcoming School Bus Home. The experiment (for it has been an experiment) has been a rip-roaring success.

Around October 19th a Straight Talk MiFi pad was picked up from Walmart and $40 paid for 4GB of data. Connecting solely when a connection was needed, data usage has been minimal. The $40 card was good for 2 months before any remainder expired. At the one month mark, just a hair under 2 gigabytes of data have been used. The MiFi pad cost $80 and data usage has been running, based on the sample, at $20 a month. It can therefore be projected that it will be quite likely that the MiFi pad will pay for itself, assuming nothing changes, in about 3 months.

Interestingly, in the location where the School Bus is parked, the data connection to the cellular telephone can be described as downright miserable. That cellular telephone currently has a Family Mobile sim card (The sim card can be changed easily as the phone was purchased independent of a network). The MiFi pad has no problems connecting. That probably runs on Sprint's CDMA service which is unavailable to the cellphone.

Nowhere in South Carolina has the 3G service for Family Mobile (which is what's costing $46 a month) been visibly available. Certainly, 3G is available in Georgia because the 3G notation pops up to replace the H for high-speed data (which is only marginally faster than the more common E for extended service). Straight Talk has a cellular phone sim card running on AT&Ts network. It sounds well worth switching as there are strong rumors that AT&T actually works in the area where the bus is parked. More interestingly, the Straight Talk price is $1 less than Family Mobile. Incidentally, Family Mobile runs on TMobile.

The fact the MiFi pad running on Sprint works well is surprising since Sprint powered the Virgin phone that was in use here for about 9 years. Virgin got dumped even though the service was $25 a month for unlimited talk, text and data purely because standing right beside the phone mast at my workplace there was no reception at all around Christmas - every year - and reception elsewhere was spotty at best.

Rumor has it that Verizon has the best coverage though sadly at a high cost and as it's a CDMA service, probably isn't available for the current cellular telephone.

Incidentally, in terms of cost, communications here have been $55 a month for DSL and $45 a month (approx) for cellular telephone. Now, the telephone had to be purchased and that wasn't cheap but it has lasted well over a year so far. In fact two newer editions have come out since this phone was purchased. Even adding $20 a month for the phone to the connection, it still works out cheaper than the phone companies contract phones. And what's even better is there is no contract and hence no records, which is very desirable in today's over-data-shared world.

Just because most people in the Southern US believe in cheap houses with no insulation worth mentioning and certainly not the six to twelve inches recommended in most of Europe, most people pay $300 - $600 a month to keep their houses warm or cool. A typical summer electric bill here is $23 - $26. A typical winter bill is up to $55 but no more.

The overall plan is to move into The Bus and to run the electrics off solar/wind power. Photos and updates of the bus conversion project will be on The Bus website. For the moment, it's a self congratulatory pat on the back for discovering how to use the internet in a more cost-effective way. A cynic might say "but you get 5GB of data with your TMobile connection and can use your phone as a hotspot". That's absolutely true. However, the connection is appalling where the bus is located and not that great elsewhere in South Carolina. Also, when the 5GB is up, there's no more for the rest of the month. Data usage on the phone averages 2.8GB a month. This is, of course, where Straight Talk with 3GB of high-speed and unlimited slow speed data comes in handy with the cellphone, on paper.

What will happen in the future is unknown. It looks that a transfer to Straight Talk and the AT&T sim card looks likely. Inexpensive options are always welcome and any way of cutting expenses is welcomed. As far as uploading photos is concerned, there's no problem uploading from the cellphone - they upload automatically every time WiFi is available. What would be ideal is for a camera to upload pictures via WiFi, automatically. Currently there are very few that will do this which is of course why people prefer cellphone photography to using dedicated cameras.

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