Monday, July 25, 2005

Cell-band in Russsia: iBook, Mac OS X, Motorola v551, Beeline, Bluetooth, GPRS -- connecting to the Internet by mobile phone

Cellphones that seem cheap in the US are, in fact, worth less: they are locked, with something called a "subsidy password", making your phone only work with the SIM card you bought the phone with.

For some reason, of the two Motorola v551's with me (one is mine, one is my wife's), one phone is locked, and one is not. Just my good luck, I suppose, or maybe I'm part of somebody's experiment. These phones sell in Russia for 6,000 rubles just now, or about $200.

I went to Beeline, the most pervasive cell phone company here, and who's network my phone found immediately. I bought a SIM card, which fits under the battery. You pay into the SIM card's services ahead of time, like a rechargeable phone card.

Luckily the Motorola v551 GSM does work in Russia -- in fact the signal seems much stronger than Cingular's in the US (for comparison, I'm taking the I-5 corridor in the Pacific Northwest in the US, from Eugene to Seattle, against the Moscow-Tver corridor ... )

Beeline also has a pay-ahead internet connect option, and it uses a system known as GPRS. On the v551, at least, you can talk and stay connected at the same time. Just don't flip the phone closed ... this closes the connection for some reason.

Since I have an older iBook, I also needed to buy a bluetooth USB dongle for it ... the Motorola data cables are available nowhere ... even in the US I found dealers who didn't have them -- "too expensive", they said -- and no one, certainly, has them in Russia. But electronics stores do have bluetooth dongles.

Beeline's GPRS guide, which is in Russian, didn't have instructions for Mac OS X ... so that's why I'm including them here. It took an awful lot of experimentation to figure this out.

One thing: you'll need a Motorola Mac OS X modem script called "Motorola CID1". Nothing seems to work without it. It's available here. Put it in your Macintosh HD->Library->Modem Scripts directory.

On the iBook:
1. Put in your Bluetooth dongle. It should autodetect, and be ready, on MAC OS X -- I'm using the 3.9 version of Panther.

On the Motorola v551:
2. Click your 'menu' button (top middle).
3. Click the 'tools' image (Settings)
4. Click Connection
5. Click Bluetooth Link
6. Click Setup
7. If power is off, change power to 'on'.
8. Click 'find me' You're discoverable for 60 seconds. Run back to the iBook.

On the iBook:
9. Click the bluetooth symbol on the top bar
10. click "Set up bluetooth device ..."
11. the setup assistant starts. Click 'continue'
12. click 'Mobile phone' then continue
13. When it finds your phone, click continue.
14. It shows you a 6-digit passkey on the screen, run back to your cellphone

On the Motorola v551:
15. it says 'Bond with your computer name'? Click yes.
16. It says 'Enter Bluetooth passkey'. Type in the passkey, click OK. It says 'bonded'.
Nothing else to do here, but leave the phone flipped open.

On the iBook:
17. It gets some more info from your phone. Then it asks if you want GPRS. Make sure it's clicked, and click continue.
18. Bluetooth Mobile Phone Setup values:
username: beeline
password: beeline
GPRS CID String:
Modem Script: Motorola GPRS CIR1
Check 'Show bluetooth status in the menu bar'.
Click continue
19. Click Quit
20. Open System Preferences. Click Network. If you haven't already, create a new location, say, "GPRS Beeline".
Under TCP/IP:
Select "Using PPP" but also use these DNS Servers:
Under Bluetooth Modem:
Check everything
make sure Motorola GPRS CID1 is selected
Under PPP
Account name: beeline
Password: beeline
Telephone number:
(... and that is not a typo)
PPP Options:
I checked everything, except the top three options.
20. Click "Dial Now ..." this opens up the Internet dialer.
All the settings we've typed in should be in place. Click "Connect".
21. At some point, a blank terminal screen comes up. Click "Continue"
22. After a minute or so, some send/receive bars should show up. You're connected!

The big surprise is that only step 20 gets easier, unless you know applescript. Still, it works! Fast enough ... dial-up speeds.

A note on the Motorola V551 -- not my favorite cellphone. The little plastic tabs on the back are terribly made, and will fail if you change your SIM card too often. And there are definitely times when you have to power down, and back up again, in order to connect with bluetooth. On the other hand, the bluetooth setup assistant also has a tendency to crash, with the spinning pinwheel of death.

A note on the iBook ... my favorite mac notebook ever. It's very sturdy ... as opposed to the Powerbook's 'titanium' shell, which seems to carry a light current all the time when plugged in ... I don't know if this is an artifact of using Russian power ... perhaps the power transformers aren't as clean as they could be ... but it definitely 'buzzes' when plugged in. I'm in a village (a poor one, yet it has cell coverage) and the humming powerbook on recharge seems to attract more flies than either I or my cup of tea ... I guess flies like that sort of thing. The Powerbook has more sleep mode failures than the iBook does, and the Powerbook's bottom gets more overheated ... and yet it costs more. I'm talking about the model that came out earlier this year.

Note that both the iBook & the Powerbook can get damaged in travel ... the notorious 'keys-through-the-screen' problem. Buy a hard notebook case that does not let the computer torque at all.


Post a Comment

<< Home