Saturday, May 10, 2008

Can you connect to me now? Good.

Got a new toy.

Okay, I didn't get a new toy. I just found a new use for an old toy. Which is just as good.

I've dealt with a couple of different cell phone providers over the years: Alltel, T-Mobile, Verizon ... and others that are no longer in business or have been absorbed by others. Currently, we're using Verizon. Service is mostly good. Most of the time, in our travels, we find good to excellent reception.

Anyway, last summer, I got a MacBook. And, after some initial issues with the hard drive, it's been a good computer.

One problem, though. There aren't a lot of places where I can get on the Internet easily.

Sure, when I'm at home, it's easy to get on the Internet. We have a wireless network set up. I can get on with my MacBook. The Wife can get on with her Dell notebook.

But, what about when I'm away from home?

Some restaurants have free wi-fi access. Burger King in downtown Columbus, for instance. And the Subway downtown.

The McDonald's downtown says they offer it, but they don't. It don't work, anyway, and the folks I speak with there about it are totally without a clue.

The mall has connectivity, but it's through Wayport, who wants a monthly fee. Not a bad deal, either: $10 a month is cheap enough. But only a few places here use Wayport. There's the mall, and ... well, Wayport says McDonald's, but the mascot isn't the only clown there.

I've been thinking about an iPhone. That'd be cool. But AT&T is the only provider there. That's not a problem, except that I'd have to switch the phone in the car back to a prepay package through On*Star, or do without; Verizon is the only provider that works with On*Star, or so Verizon and On*Star say. And I believe them.

The only other thing about an iPhone is the ease of use. I like to use a computer, not something the size of my iPod. Something with a real keyboard.

Verizon offers a USB attachment that will work with PC or Mac. And I nearly bought one of those.

Then, Will at the Verizon store in Peachtree Mall in Columbus told me about another route available to me.

Will told me that my phone, an LG VX8300, can be used as a broadband modem.


This little phone I've been carrying around for nearly two years?

Yep. I can connect it via the Verizon Mobile Office Kit (regularly $40, but on special for $10; less with my corporate discount).

Which means that, if I'm, say, at a baseball game, and I want to get on the Internet ... I can.

Heh. I'm liking that idea.

So, I got it. And added the broadband access to the plan. Which, because we didn't need to make any major changes, did not require any change to our plan. We aren't tied to it for two years, for instance; we can drop it when we want.

And I went home happy last night.

Didn't stay happy long, though. I couldn't get it to work.

Rather than play through all the sordid details, here's (briefly) how it played out.

Verizon took two customer service reps to finally decide that I didn't have the proper modem script for my phone. I was told I needed to get that from Apple.

Apple, on the other hand, said they didn't make scripts or drivers for phones. They said I'd need to get them from Verizon.

So, this morning, I got Verizon on one phone, Apple on another, and the MacBook on the other.

Everyone finally decided the other was at fault.

Except that Alex, the guy from Verizon, wanted me to go away happy. The others, I suspect, just wanted me to go away.

So, Alex got on his computer, suggested some things I could look up on mine (remember, I'm trying to get my phone to work as a modem, but still have access via my home network, if desired), and we went to town on it.

Alex found a couple of settings to try with the modem drivers and scripts that Apple supplied with the computer (despite their statement that they didn't). And, after several instances that included the phrase, "Hey, y'all, watch this," we finally got it working.

Then, he agreed to stay on the line with me to get the phone to work without the cable; yes, a Bluetooth connection is possible with my phone. And we got it working.

All the folks at Verizon ... all five of them, last night and this morning combined ... attempted to be helpful. All wanted to do more. And the last, Alex, actually got it working.

Apple? The place with the geniuses? Not so helpful. I guess all their geniuses had the day off, and I ended up with the second string. One said he couldn't help me, that no one could, and didn't seem too eager to go above and beyond. The other guy at Apple was much more willing, but no more helpful, in the end.

Kudos to Alex at Verizon Wireless technical support for helping me get my broadband phone modem working. And kudos to Will at the Verizon store for directing me to the way that was most useful for me, even though it cost him the sale of a piece of equipment, since I was able to use existing equipment to connect.

Verizon? Can you hear me now? You done good.

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