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HOW TO: Pimp your Ride or how to make your car truly wireless
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 22.08.05 - 20:48:29 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 22589x
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Ok, there is nothing more boring than sitting in the car while in a traffic jam without a high-speed connection, that's wasted time. Sure you can have your Notebook with a 3G/UMTS PC-card with you or (if you are lucky) your HTC Universal, also with inbuilt 3G or - if you are not that lucky (but lucky enough) - you have your GPRS connected Pocket PC with you but why not making the whole vehicle truly wireless?
I did - with O2's Surf@home box I'm calling from now "Surf@Autobahn". I've previewed O2's Surf@home a while back; it's basically a W-LAN access point with an interface to O2's UMTS network instead an interface to a DSL-modem which means, you can use your W-LAN equipped devices (Pocket PCs, Notebooks, Smartphones) to surf with UMTS speed, even if these devices aren't UMTS enabled and you don't need a dial-up connection at home anymore (for sure it cannot replace a DSL connection).

So listen "West Cost Customs", here comes my "UMTS-pimped" Audi A4! ;-)

All I had to find was a nice place for my "Surf@Autobahn" box and the corner in rear trunk was just perfect since I also had a spare power connector nearby:

The original Surf@home box (before it became the Surf@Autobahn box) is using a 5V DC, 2.8A input so it wasn't a big deal to reduce the 12V with some equipment from the electronic shop to 5V only. The box itself was fixed with some double faced adhesive tape on the back only.

That's it - ready is your very own, rolling hotspot! :-) Connected to the UMTS network with up to 384 kbps, even if the UMTS connection in my underground garage is way slower but at least I still have connection:


I faced some minor problems which I either worked around yet or I have to workaround soon, with some tweaks:

  • Since O2 is using a kind of geo-lock for all their Surf@home USIMs, I had to replaced the standard Surf@home USIM with a Surf@Autobahn USIM (which is basically my O2 USIM card) which is better anyway since I have a volume plan with my standard USIM while - right now - Surf@home is available with a time-based plan only. Anyway, now I can use my Surf@Autobahn box all over Germany.
  • There is no user interface available to change between the bands - unfortunately we don't have a nation-wide UMTS coverage yet but only the metropolitan areas are UMTS covered. So yes, within Munich the Surf@Autobahn box is working well, but as soon as I'm too far away, it loses the UMTS coverage/signal and the box isn't doing an automatic handover into the GPRS network.
  • The current Surf@home web-based user interface isn't designed to work with Pocket PCs since it uses some Java Scripts and pop-up windows 8O which isn't working with Pocket PCs. So either you press the connection button on the box or you have to tweak a little bit through the menu. Not nice and also a real problem to use Surf@home at home on the couch. I hope O2 will fix it sooner or later.

But beside the problems above, the box is working well and provides me high-speed in-car connectivity and even better - I can take my hotspot with me, as long as I find a parking lot near the bar, restaurant or wherever I go. I got a W-LAN connection up to around 30 meters from my car only, no wonder with all the steel around the box which also makes the UMTS connection a little bit weaker. So the next investment might be an external UMTS antenna (even if it is hard to get UMTS car antennas today) as well as a external W-LAN antenna plus booster. ;-)

While others install GPS devices into their cars, I prefer to have a UMTS enabled car - makes more sense for me. ;-)

Cheers ~ Arne


 
Related Links

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Comments
Posted by ordxpres on 22.08.05 - 21:58:53

Guten Abend Arne,

I was just reading your article on UMTS and noticed something that may be an issue.. The screen capture on your PPC shows UMTS speed of 80.2 kbps obtained through the mobile internet meter.  I am getting to conclusion that this is an innacurate source - I live in the US in Chicago where we don't have UMTS yet, but T-Mobile secretly started rolling out EDGE, which of course is not UMTS.  I just bought Nokia 6680 two weeks ago and "secretly" am enjoying EDGE on it.  Just a few minutes ago to my surprise i ran mobile internet meter (merkab.it website) and guess what... on EDGE i get 80.2 kbps - EXACTLY the same speed as you get on UMTS.  Not too long ago i was getting 106 kbps at work (by O'Hare airport in Chicago) and another morning i got a WHOPPING 160kbps speed at home... so as i said above I don't think that website is very accurate.  When I use Opera on my nokia I get even different results so something must be wrong with it.  I'm not sure how to attach images with this posting so if you're interested I can e-mail them directly.


Matt

Posted by Thomas on 22.08.05 - 22:10:21

Hallo Arne,

I hope you´ll park your A4 as near as possible to the restaurant on the 10th next month wink

This is way the coolest I´ve read for a long time, and I´m really excited to see it Live.

T.

Posted by Stephman on 23.08.05 - 16:49:36

Hello Arne,
Is that a Wizard you're holding up in the pics?  Are you holding out on us?  wink
Do you plan on doing a preview/review of the Wizard soon?  ....PLEASE do a preview/review of the Wizard soon!
Also, very cool what you did in your car with the portable UMTS "router"

Posted by Arne Hess on 23.08.05 - 19:01:41

ordxpres wrote:

Guten Abend Arne,
I was just reading your article on UMTS and noticed something that may be an issue.. The screen capture on your PPC shows UMTS speed of 80.2 kbps obtained through the mobile internet meter.  I am getting to conclusion that this is an innacurate source.

Guten Abend Matt! smile
You are right, it looks incorrect but always keep in mind that this speedmeter only provides a snapshot. Testing IP-speed is always dificult and even more on mobile devices like Pocket PCs, Smartphones and Symbian devices due to the more limited browser implementation. With the same link, I also reached 360 k in the past, when I've tested other devices but I agree that this source can't/shouldn't be the only one to trust!

Stephman wrote:

Is that a Wizard you're holding up in the pics?  Are you holding out on us?
Do you plan on doing a preview/review of the Wizard soon?  ....PLEASE do a preview/review of the Wizard soon!

What, a Wizard!? Who put this Wizard into my hands! wink Yes, it's a Wizard which is damn cool and the preview is coming (soon).

Posted by stephman on 24.08.05 - 15:44:34

Well it can't come soon enough...look forward to reading it, you're the man Arne!
I'd like to ask if you could report on a few things in your preview if you haven't already.
-Performance of the Wizard while playing full screen video
-Comments on how one handed operation of the OS has improved since WM2003SE
-Is the operation of MS Voice Command possible now via BT headset.

Thanks much Arne!

Posted by Kim Tonny on 12.09.05 - 13:38:59

Hi Arne.

This is one of the coolest things i have read in a long time, every other car gadget fades compared to this.

I want one very soon, I am in Zürich and hope that the Surf box will be available here soon.

Keep up the good work, we need this to push the limits.

Best regards

Kim Tonny

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