Let's face it. There will come a time when you need a network connection and you can't find one. And you know it's going to happen at the worst possible time. What will you do when that network connection is critical, but there's no usable connection in sight? Well, I have a few options for you. Not all of them are free, but they're all possibilities in one situation or another.
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1: Tether with PdaNet
PdaNet is an application that is required to be on both phone and PC. It's simple to use and has a free version, to boot. The only drawback is that the free version will block secure Web sites. You can still browse, but any site that is secure will be locked out. This software supports Android phones, Palm/Treo phones, Blackberry devices, Windows Mobile devices, and iPhones.
2: Tether with Easy Tether
EasyTether is the Android-only version of PdaNet. This solution works only with Windows 7/Vista/XP. Like PdaNet, the free version will block secure Web sites. One nice EasyTether feature is that you can use it to tether your Xbox, Wii, or PS3 to your PC using Windows ICS.
3: Tether with Verizon Wireless Access Manager
Verizon Wireless Access Manager is the official Verizon Wireless tool to help tether your phone to your PC. This tool supports Windows and Mac and will soon support Linux. It's simple to use and closely monitors your usage so you don't rack up a HUGE overage bill on your data plan. Probably much smarter (if you are using a Verizon phone) than using either PdaNet or EasyTether.
4: Get a phone that works as an access point
There are a few phones available that will serve as a wireless access point. Verizon has the Palm Pre Plus and Sprint will soon offer the EVO. This is probably a better option for those who know they will be sending and receiving more data than the limited 5 GB.
5: Use a portable wireless access point
Instead of wasting precious phone time, you can purchase one of the many (mini) wireless access points. They are a dime a dozen these days. I have personally worked with the Verizon MiFi (which I really liked), and Sprint has its own MiFi. What I really like about these devices is their simplicity and ease of sharing a wireless connection with more than one user.
6: Use an aircard
The aircard is becoming a bit of a dinosaur these days. Why? No one wants a USB dongle hanging from their laptop now. It seems so... '90s. But if that's your only option, go for it. Aircards work as well as MiFi, but you won't be sharing the connection out and they aren't nearly as easy to set up. So if you prefer the old school look of something hanging out of the side of your laptop, and you don't want to share your connection with anyone, this is your best bet.
7: Use your 3/4G phone
Today's smart phone is fast. Very fast. I have been playing around with the Verizon Incredible and I am amazed at the speeds of the connections and of the devices themselves. The only drawback is the size. I personally HATE typing on those tiny screens. But when push comes to shove, and you need to Google which ports QuickBooks Point of Sale needs to see through, your phone might wind up being your lifesaver.
8: Use your iPad
The iPad is all the rage now. And if you can afford one with a 3G plan, you have your own little network connection right in your lap. You can browse (so long as you don't need Flash) and even use a VPN or LogMeIn to do remote administration. Tablet PCs just might catch on. And if they do, let's hope they ALL have 3/4/5/6G connections built in.
9: Hop from coffee shop to coffee shop
Sometimes, that laptop is the only way to go. You can't do too much typing on a phone, you can't really send much data through your tethered modem, and your iPad doesn't have Flash. So when you need a good ol' fashion network connection, there is nothing wrong with sitting down to a nice cup of java and your laptop to get that emergency admin task out of the way.
Incidentally, if your coffee shop of choice happens to be Starbucks, remember that its wireless is not free. You must have a current Starbucks card to subscribe.
10: Cache off line
No matter how many tricks you have up your sleeve, sometimes a connection just isn't available. In those situations, you need caching applications that can sync when a connection becomes available — tools like Dropbox and the Read It Later extension for Firefox. It's not ideal. But in a pinch, tools like these will get you through.
So there you have it: 10 ways to get your network on. There's almost always a way to get a connection when you need one. Have you ever come across this issue? If so, how did you make do?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.