How to share a mobile broadband connection

With the increase in mobile broadband technology, many people are increasingly turning to mobile dongles (like the ones here) at home instead of traditional connections, which cuts out the need for a fixed-line. However, with mobile broadband there are certain problems that can arise, the most obvious being that of sharing your internet connection with another device.

An O2 dongle pluged into a laptop

A USB dongle – used to remotely connect to the internet

However, that needn’t be something that you become overly concerned with, as these days there are a variety of ways to share your mobile connection.

Most of the top providers are now offering technology to allow you to do this, such as 3 Mobile’s MiFi. With this you simply purchase the 3 MiFi and you’re away. It works pretty much the same way as a dongle, with one difference.

With a dongle you have to plug it into the machine, with MiFi you don’t, and can therefore connect to multiple devices at the same time. The devices themselves are small and easily portable; however, as is often the case with mobile broadband, internet speeds can be a little slower than hardwiring or even traditional Wi-Fi.

This doesn’t just mean you can connect to another Wi-Fi enabled laptops, games consoles or mobile devices, but also other Wi-Fi enabled devices including cameras, such as the Nikon Coolpix and the Kindle, so with MiFi and similar technologies, you can connect any combination of these, up to five devices. You can follow this link for more information on 3’s MiFi device.

A portable Wi-Fi router is another option for sharing the net. These are now relatively inexpensive and quite straightforward to use. You simply connect to a mobile network and share with other devices. However, do shop around before choosing one, as some are better than others.

Internet connection sharing is another option. By connecting a laptop or PC to the internet, you can then share its connection with other devices. For example if you’re running windows 7 this can be done through the network and Sharing Centre, but can be quite complicated  to carry out so is really only useful for advanced users or those who have the time and patience to hit the forums and get step by step instructions.

With different operating systems it works slightly differently so you may have to look up how to do this on yours too, this can be something of a headache.

If you have a 3G enabled phone, you can connect to the 3G broadband connection and then share with other devices. So as long as you have a signal, you can connect to your laptop or another device. However, download speeds are often reduced and quite often you can’t get unlimited data, so if you are sharing a connection you could quickly reach your limit.

The new iPad will allow you to do the same thing, however, despite the device being initially offered as 4G, this technology isn’t yet available in the UK. 4G uses the old terrestrial TV signal waves and widens the spectrum for mobile broadband.

However, Ofcom will be auctioning off the spectrum later in the year and this should be available in 2013 with the top mobile operators and will give even more options for mobile broadband.

Could Google’s Project Glass actually work?

Once again science fiction is turning into science fact. This time, it is Phillip K. Dick’s story, “Minority Report,” and the movie that followed. In this story as a person moves around the city, they receive instant advertising and information tailored directly to them.

Google's hi-tech futuristic glassesGoogle has now taken a step in this direction with the Google Glass Project. Using mobile broadband and miniaturized hardware, the Google glasses will allow a wearer to access any information on the fly and have it project in front of their eyes as they move.

The glasses will tie into the GPS system and cell towers so the glasses will always be able to tell the wearer where they are and where they need to go. The glasses will also work as an MP3 player, cell phone, e-mail reader, and personal data assistant, and with no keypad, everything will be accessible by voice command.

Google has released a video demonstrating what their glasses will do and the video is very impressive. Of course the video is no different than the concept cars that every auto company releases in time for the annual shows, and whether or not the glasses actually make it to market is anybody’s guess.

Much of the technology is already available, especially the networking and computational tools. Already all smart phones will tell their users they are and where to needs to go, and the same smart phones have more computing power than a top of the line desktop computer had ten years ago.

As for the voice command technology, as any iPhone user will attest to, most of the capabilities of a smart phone can be accessed with the spoken word alone.

The camera on the Glasses is small, but no smaller than any other phone camera, and the capabilities of those are fully proven as well.

The most likely stumbling block for the glasses will be in the heads-up display technology. HUD, as it is commonly known, is not a new technology, the military has been using it decades now in both planes and tanks. What would be new would be the miniaturization of the equipment. The average HUD a pilot uses is incorporated into both the helmets and the plane itself, and the technology does not work outside of the plane. Google may have overcome these problems, but that will still be a very big hurdle.

Ask anyone who has attempted to use an LCD screen in the bright sun, and they will complain about the difficulty. There is no evidence that that problem has been overcome yet, but perhaps Google has solved that as well.

Finally there is the issue of distracted people. The dangers of texting or phoning and driving are evident, and a quick search on Google will show many videos of people who are unable to walk and text. The Google Glasses will take distraction to another level with people tripping everywhere.

There is no doubt that the Google Glasses or something like them is coming someday, but the question is when. Most technology experts are convinced that the video Google released is just hype and that the glasses are at best two years away and possibly even longer.

Problems with online anonymity

The internet probably knows what your favourite shoes look like. How you may ask? Your data is being monitored through your PC without you hearing as much as a peep about it. Private firms can spy on users from the comfort of their own computers.

The FTC has recently handed in a report advising private firms to be more open about their data collection practices. New laws regarding user privacy are also currently being worked on.

Users who want to preserve any semblance of privacy left are looking into do-not-track tools. Some suggest adding a do-not-track option directly into browsers, while others are in favor of different software that can curb data collection altogether.

With regular website cookies come other tracking cookies that help the sites we’re visiting identify our user pattern and collect our data. Current data collection practices aren’t transparent, so we have no idea what these sites are up to once they have what they need.

Failure to comply

The universal do-not-track button goes as far as requesting a website that a user’s information not be tracked as they browse a site. However there’s no guarantee that the site will comply with the request.

This option does close to nothing in terms of blocking the websites access, largely because it can’t. Google’s recent fine for lifting data from open Wi-Fi connections without user permission and Facebook’s accessing people’s texts on app user’s cell phones is proof that firms don’t always adhere to the norms of privacy – and those are two really big firms.

At best a do-no-track tool will lull you into a false sense of security where in reality you have more than one front to protect yourself on. Large private firms aren’t the only ones stealing data; there are numerous other threats which one needs to take into account.

Monsters beneath your bed

Fighting against tracking cookies alone is as much the same as looking for the monster in the closet without realizing what’s hiding under your bed.

Options such as AVG’s Do-Not-Track or DNT+ will only go as far as the do-not-track button is meant to. However, PC monitoring tools and other forms of spyware could already exist on your system – granted the data would be going to a person and not a company.

Most computer monitoring software is wired to record your browsing history. Whether or not you’re deleting your cookies becomes irrelevant here. The same is the case with spyware or malware that you mistakenly download by clicking on obscure links or opening spam emails.

No free lunches

Free Wi-Fi is a real treat till you realize that there’s a chance it’s been decked up with computer monitoring software which can record every move you make on your browser. Software such are Firesheep and Wireshark can easily make their way into your system if you’re on a network that has them preinstalled. The Wi-Fi owner has no need to break into your system manually or be anywhere near you to figure out what you’re using the Wi-Fi for.

The WiFi LogoThat’s if you’re using someone else’s Wi-Fi. However even if your own Wi-Fi is open you’re in danger of being attacked. During 2010 reports that Google was lifting private data through open Wi-Fi’s first surfaced, and regardless of how apologetic Google was, it never stopped the practice.

Even with new laws in place for the preservation of user data and more transparency as to what cookies are infiltrating user systems, there’s still a large potential for data collection against a user’s will.

The best idea would be to take a holistic approach to your browsing experience and stay safe from all sides – after all don’t-track-tools are only one a small aspect of online safety, not the key.