Tag Archives: internet

How to use a prepaid SIM card for Internet access overseas

2017-08-29

Every freelance writer, digital nomad, or remote worker who is traveling overseas will need Internet access – sooner or later. If you are working and traveling, you will need it the moment you arrive in a new country. No problem, many people think, I’ll use the hotel Wi-Fi, free access at McDonalds, or Wi-Fi hotspot at a nearby café. Sure, if you know what you are doing, because recent news reports showed us that multiple hotel Wi-Fi networks in Europe and Middle East were infiltrated so that hackers could collect guests’ banking and other passwords.

What can a traveler do to have an Internet access overseas that doesn’t cost a fortune and that is reliable and secure? The answer is to purchase a prepaid SIM card with a data plan in each country you visit.

three prepaid sim cards
The objective is to use a prepaid SIM card on a smartphone, or on a 4G router. You can use as much Internet you want without having to worry about paying more than the price of the data package you have paid for. Better yet, you can turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot and connect your laptop or tablet to the Internet via your personal hotspot.

In many countries, a prepaid SIM card is easy to get. Find a mobile network operator’s retail shop, a mobile phone store, an electronics store, or in some countries, a kiosk that sells SIM cards. Choose the initial amount of data that you want (often starts from 1GB), and make sure you get the information on how to top up more data (if you need to). In some countries, there are no formalities – you just pay and that’s it. In other countries, you have to show your passport (the salesperson may have to copy it), and fill in a form.

Turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot

creating Wi-Fi hotspot on Android smartphone
Your SIM card is the key to establishing Internet access, but some technical stuff has to be maneuvered before it will work. If you only want Internet access for your smartphone, turn off the phone, remove the current SIM card from your phone, insert the prepaid card, and start the phone.

An advanced solution is to turn your phone into a WiFi access point for your other devices. Here is how to establish your own Wi-Fi hotspot:

1. Insert the prepaid SIM card into your phone, and start the phone.
2. On an Android device, tap Settings -> Mobile hotspot and tethering -> Mobile hotspot.
3. Tap the Mobile Hotspot switch to set it on. If this is the first time you are turning you phone into a Wi-Fi access point, change the hotspot name and password to your liking. This is the Wi-Fi network name your other devices will connect to and the password you have to enter on those other devices. Anyone within the Wi-Fi signal range can detect your hotspot and try to connect to it, so keep that in mind when choosing the password.

establish Wi-Fi access point for mobile devices
Depending on your phone’s Android version, the described process may vary a bit. Once completed, the phone’s Wi-Fi signal is reserved for connections to the hotspot (your phone), and your phone’s mobile network connection (it doesn’t matter if it is 4G or 3G, the only difference is the speed) provides access to the Internet for all devices.

Now, connect your laptop, or other device to the new hotspot you just created by entering the hotspot password you specified.

If you regularly need a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, get a dedicated 4G router

People who travel and work want to ensure they have the tools and connections everywhere they go. Assuming that you already have a SIM card with a data plan that you can use in a country where you have arrived, the best product to have is a Mobile Wi-Fi/4G router. The router connects to a 4G or 3G mobile network for Internet access, and provides Wi-Fi signal for your devices to connect to.

Having a dedicated device for Internet access lets you use your smartphone’s phone number for phone calls and messages, and save its battery.

Huawei 4G Wi-Fi router for mobile internet access
The Wi-Fi/4G product category doesn’t have a self explanatory name, but for instance, this Amazon search lists plenty of products. The key things when choosing a product are:

The product is battery powered for mobility.
It is unlocked, and accepts any SIM card you insert into it.
4G is the fastest mobile data connection type at the moment, but as a backup connection, 3G works as well.

I have been using a Huawei 4G mobile router for a couple of years – sometimes continuously for months – without problems in many countries and on many networks.

When you get your router, connect your laptop to it. Login as admin, and change settings if you have to. This is important: save the router’s local IP address and admin password into your password manager, because you will have to access the router admin panel sooner or later. For instance, some networks send text messages to the phone number associated with the SIM card, and the only place where you can read them is the router’s admin panel.

The nice thing with prepaid SIM cards is that they work as a backup connection if your main Internet access point fails, and you can use it when on the road – without having to spend hours looking for a Wi-Fi signal.

This is why digital nomads, remote workers and everyone who travels must rely on offline tools

2017-03-02

Traveling professionals, digital nomads and remote workers rely on their computing devices to get the work done. One key thing workers take for granted in an office – Internet access – is not always available on the road. Once a nomadic worker realizes what it really means to be disconnected for a few critical hours or even for days, it becomes clear that the whole computer setup must be prepared for travel. It is a setup that relies on offline tools.
laptop on office desk, woman reads newspaper
If you stop for a moment and review all the applications and online services you are using, you may discover that being without an Internet connection makes up to 90% of your tools redundant. A vital application to get a job done becomes completely useless if you can’t access the Internet. This is a common situation for everyone who is traveling, settling into a new place, or is having problems with telecommunication connections.

I learned all this the hard way. I can still remember how it felt to land in a city where I had never been before, hire a car (without a navigator), and drive to a nearby city where a hotel room was waiting for us. Finding the right direction on the highway was easy by following the street signs, but when it was time to open the navigation application on the smartphone and get detailed instructions for finding the hotel, it didn’t work. The smartphone navigation app didn’t work because it required Internet connection. It was night already, and we were completely lost. In the end, helpful police officers showed us the way to the hotel.

Another painful lesson was during a customer project that I had started before traveling to another country. I had saved the project documents in Google Drive because I had used Google Docs for taking notes and drafting the material. I had reserved two days for finishing the project. I had the time, the tools, but no documents. Internet connection in the place I had rented for a month didn’t work. I contacted the agent who hired the place to me, but because it was weekend, she was off duty. No help. Those two days were lost in frantic search for cafés with Internet connection and prepaid SIM cards. In the end, I managed to buy a prepaid SIM card. Two days were completely lost, but the acquired SIM card proved valuable: it saved me from the same problem later.

So, perhaps contrary to the popular opinion, I am arguing that digital nomads, remote workers and anyone who needs to travel must give up Google Docs, Office 365 and similar cloud services if they are using those services for work. People on the move must rely on offline tools.

Essential offline apps

Here is a brief list of common apps that you must be able to run without Internet connection.

Word processor (for instance, Libreoffice Writer, Word or Pages)
Spreadsheet (for instance, Libreoffice Calc, Excel, or Numbers)
Notes / Journal / Editor application
Maps (Maps.me which runs on tablets and smartphones, but not on PCs is a good choice)
Navigation (Maps.me has been designed to run offline, which is why it is far more reliable and faster than running an online navigation app, like Google Maps in offline mode)
Password manager
Contacts
Calendar
Ereading software and ebook library (for instance, Bluefire Reader or Fbreader)
Photo editor
Dictionary

How to test that your key applications run without an Internet connection?

1. Disable Wi-Fi and mobile data on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
2. Start every application, one app at a time, that you absolutely need on the road, and try out if you can use it without hindrances.

Using a smartphone for communications even when there is no Internet access

compose text message on Android smartphone
Just a reminder that even when you are offline, you probably have a smartphone that can connect to a mobile network. You should activate roaming for phone calls before leaving your home country. If you don’t’ answer phone calls or make phone calls yourself, you don’t have to pay any extra (to be sure, check with your telco). When roaming for phone calls is activated, you can also send and receive text messages (SMS) that are a low-cost way to communicate even overseas.

Do not activate overseas data roaming for your smartphone, unless you are absolutely sure what you are doing. Usually, it means that either you have a special overseas data package, or you have a EU mobile subscription and you are roaming in the EU region.

Minimum set of cloud services

Once you have secured Internet access, it is time to connect with the employer, clients, audiences, friends and family. The minimum set of online services a traveling professional needs:

Email
Cloud Backup
Social media
Skype or other teleconferencing and messaging service

What does the sharp separation of offline and online tools mean in practice?

Having a large selection of offline tools always available means that it has been possible for you to be productive during those periods without Internet connection. Once you manage to get your computing devices online, you have text documents, messages, photos, spreadsheets and presentations ready to be shared with your employer, clients or audiences.

Which online services are the best for a traveling professional?

The best ones are those cloud services that let you have full control over the access and access rights of your account. It may mean you have to pay for your email service and backup space in the cloud to ensure you truly own full control over the account and the data you have stored into the account.

Popular free services, like Gmail and other Google and Yahoo services are extremely risky for travelers. These services have full control over your account and data. It is their decision if they let you access your data or not. A login attempt – even with the correct credentials – from a new place is a red flag for the services, and they may lock you out from your account. Read more about the risks of Google and Yahoo services for nomadic workers in the article Why I quit Yahoo and Gmail when I started traveling.

Being offline isn’t the end of the world for a traveling professional who relies on computers and the Internet to get the work done. When you are prepared, you can keep working offline until you manage to secure access to the Internet. The fruits of those productive offline hours – or even days – can then be shared with the world.

Egranary Provides a Chip-Size Information Library for Regions without Internet Access

2015-05-28

In many countries, Internet access is such an elemental part of daily life and business that people couldn’t live without it anymore. Yet, more than five billion people go about their daily businesses without Internet access. Widernet organization is building an ambitious program called eGranary whose objective is to bring the wealth of information stored on the Internet to people without Internet access.

egranary pocket library

The eGranary concept has two key elements:

1. Collect relevant information from the Internet into pocket libraries. They are focused collections of documents and ebooks tailored, for instance, for education, nurse training, and agricultural information. Pocket libraries are stored on an eGranary device.

2. Make the information stored on an eGranary device (or memory card) easily shareable. For example, children at a school may have mobile phones or a nurse training class may have tablets or PCs for accessing the information on the device.

The eGranary houses 32 million documents including the entire Wikipedia website and materials from the Khan Academy. The material consists of entire web sites, ebooks, textbooks, videos, podcasts, radio shows, and applications. The goal has been to include information on practically every topic under the sun. All material has been selected and curated so that the information can be trusted and it doesn’t have unwanted side-effects of wild and free information on the Internet.

Widernet is raising money for the next step of the program: making the system work on a SD memory card.

Actualitte reported.