Communication while on tour - cell phone, e-mail, etc.



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F

Frank Krygowski

Guest
So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!

I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better than
anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?

And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
taking along? How does all that work?

Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
not appeal to me. Any advice?

--
Frank Krygowski [email protected]
 
D

Dave Thompson

Guest
It seems your first order of business would be to go to a 'cell phone carrier' like ATT and tell
them what you want and see how much they charge. Also see Verizon, Sprint and others. Make sure they
cover the areas you plan on being in.

It can be a little confusing until you get comfortable. By asking the same questions of different
vendors, you can do comparisons.

When you start getting into mobile e-mail service, the bucks start to grow.

"Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?
>
> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
> taking along? How does all that work?
>
> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
> not appeal to me. Any advice?
>
> --
> Frank Krygowski [email protected]
 
D

David Reuteler

Guest
In rec.bicycles.misc Frank Krygowski <[email protected]> wrote:
: I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
: than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?

a lot of the providers have plans with nationwide coverage, included long- distance and no roaming
fees (i use voicestream, but at&t and sprint pcs as well).

: And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
: stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
: taking along? How does all that work?

$$$. SMS or text-messaging may do it. there's definitely an email to SMS gateway but i'm not
sure about the other way (from your phone to an email address). if you have friend with SMS tho,
there ya go.

: Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
: not appeal to me. Any advice?

i had my phone while touring last summer and found it .. sometimes useful. mine was pretty damn
small (an ericcson t28), had it been bigger i would have pitched it. the converage was better than i
expected (i mean it didn't work in the middle of south dakota or wyoming but it did in a lot of
other rural areas of larger states. if you have a dual-band phone (analog and digital) you may have
more luck with analog service (you'll have to pay roaming -- roaming on my provider is included only
when digital -- but you may not care in an emergency).

i sure saved on long distance, tho. and the voicemail was a lifesaver for getting a hold of people
up the road.

i nearly always had the phone off. when i left it on it kept ringing. besides it saved on the charge
and since i camped a bit i wasn't always able to get a charge. get a phone with a good battery.

and turn it off. i didn't learn to love my cell until i realized that you do that.
--
david reuteler [email protected]
 
G

Gary German

Guest
"Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?
>
> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
> taking along? How does all that work?
>
> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
> not appeal to me. Any advice?
>
> --
> Frank Krygowski [email protected]

Long distance charges can be pretty steep on most cell phone plans, even when you're not paying
roaming charges.

One way to circumvent the long distance charges is to purchase a cheap prepaid phone card. I've
found some for less than 5 cents per minute. To place a long distance call from your cell phone you
call the toll-free 800 number that's on your phone card, enter your phone card's PIN, then the
number you want to call. The phone card can also be used from pay phones, hotels, etc.

The only downside is that most pre-paid cards "expire" after a period of time (usually 12 months),
so it's "use it or lose it".

GG
 
D

Dan Gillette

Guest
If you have a Windows CE or Palm handheld, you can probably get a modem for
it. A few years ago I did the ride from Canada to California with an HP PDA with a built in modem.
Most of the state parks down the coast had a modem line available free for use if dialing a
local or 800 number, which my ISP had. Now, due to a business need, I have a cellphone and a
modem card to connect my PDA to my cellphone, which would be the easiest way to go, but the
cards to make the connection to the phone cost around $100, which may not be worth it just for a
tour. Also, this setup only works when there is digital phone service and its pretty slow (it
could be faster, but that costs more -- right now I just dial my ISPs phone number as if I was
using a normal modem over my standard rate service). I think that these days modem cards for
PDAs are pretty cheap and would work wherever there is a phone line.

- Dan

"Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?
>
> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
> taking along? How does all that work?
>
> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
> not appeal to me. Any advice?
>
> --
> Frank Krygowski [email protected]
 
G

Golightly F.

Guest
All mobile companies have "national plans" (no roaming no ld). Take a look at T-Mobile. I have a
national plan and email access to all my pop accounts and IMAP. I have their 1 MEG plan for $2.95 a
month. From there it goes to $10 and then to $20 a month.

I seldom use more than 1 meg on the phone. It's nice to be able to check your email from anywhere.
Sending is a bit slow... as you must type using the phones number pad.

Before T-Mobile I used ATT. I never had a problem with either in terms of coverage. Note; the
further away from cities the more likely you are to lose coverage. Hills and mountains don't
help either.

hth

"Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?
 
M

Matt O'Toole

Guest
"Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...

> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently,
we've got one
> cell phone, which somehow seems to offer very spotty
coverage - as in,
> no service when we tried to use it just south of Cleveland
Ohio on the
> turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans,
etc. Is there
> anything markedly better than anything else? How do you
avoid
> exorbitant roaming charges?

For coverage, Verizon are the champs. They have the best peering arrangements with the other
providers. So if there's any service in the area at all, you'll get it no problem. That's assuming
you get the right plan. Go for the national one. It's the same price to call anywhere in the US,
with no roaming charges ever, and both digital and analog service. Many other plans are
digital-only, which may be useless outside big cities. I travel a lot, and I have yet to find a
significantly large hole, except behind the occasional mountain. But my friends with other providers
have many tales of woe.

Unfortunately, you'll be locked into a year contract when you sign up for the first time. However,
if you need a cell phone anyway, a national plan lets you use it for all your long distance instead
of your home phone. This can defray the cost somewhat.

I don't think Verizon's pre-pay plans are national -- they have roaming charges no matter what. I'm
also not sure if they're both digital and analog. But the higher cost per minute may still be
cheaper than being locked into a year contract you don't need or want.

Also be careful of the phone you get. They vary a lot in their ability to pick up a signal. Those
little Nokias everyone thinks are so cute really suck, while my crusty old Star Tac seems to pick up
a signal anywhere.

> And a related question: It would be nice to have
occasional e-mail
> access, too, other than by stopping when we happen across
a library.
> Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
taking along?
> How does all that work?

A couple of ways. First, some phones are web and email capable, with little built-in browser
screens. However, this usually costs extra per month. Second, there's text messaging (SMS), which
you do with your phone's keypad (yuck). It costs 10 cents a message to send or receive. Third, as
long as you're on a digital circuit, just connect your phone to your laptop or PDA, and it becomes a
digital modem with 14.4 kb/s speed. It's billed as regular airtime minutes, with no extra charges.
This is perfect for email. AFAIK, Verizon is the only one who does this.

If I sound like a Verizon commercial, it isn't the first time. Last time someone told me that, I was
checking my email while lounging on a sailboat, anchored in a quiet cove in the San Juan Islands. A
perfect Wired magazine cliche.

> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and
vacations, so
> high-budget solutions may not appeal to me. Any advice?

I don't work for Verizon, they've just worked well for me.

Matt O.
 
G

Gary Mishler

Guest
"Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?
>
> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
> taking along? How does all that work?
>
> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
> not appeal to me. Any advice?
>
> --
> Frank Krygowski [email protected]

I've the best go of it with Verizon national calling plans - no roaming charges, no long distance
charges, excellent coverage and fantastic customer service. Get a small tri-band phone (I have the
Motorola V60i) and you're all set. My phone will send and receive 160 character emails in addition
to voice mailbox.
 
M

Matt J

Guest
Frank Krygowski <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
We recently switched to Verizon from Cingular, and I have to say the coverage is much better. I'd
sugegst Verizon, and you can get pretty basic e-mail through the SMS (small message service), your
email is simply the 10-digit number @vtext.com. You can also send email from their phones, but it's
kind of a bother to type everything. It costs about 10 cents to send a message and 2 to receive, I
believe. Someone else mentioned a modem for a handheld - that would work nicely, as it's small but
offers greater typing opportunities. Good luck! Matt

> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
> taking along? How does all that work?
>
> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
> not appeal to me. Any advice?
 
K

Karen M.

Guest
Frank wrote:
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?

Depending on where the tour is...I would start with checking national carriers' coverage maps
(available on their websites). For more realism, deduct 10-20% around the perimeters. Different
carriers focus on different locales. F'instance, here in metro Detroit my ATT phone has excellent
coverage out past Ann Arbor or north to Flint, but by the time I get to K'zoo I'm ROAMING. If you
get a couple different carriers you'll increase the chances of service. Someone started an
entirely new thread about Nextel. The walkie-talkie feature is useful and productive in large
workgroups in good-coverage areas. However, no towers, no service; I wouldn't bother with it on a
bike tour. (A couple of years back my company was contracted to them, and they demanded that we
all have their service. But we were working to get new towers in areas where there were none--did
this make any sense? Nope. A co-worker and I couldn't talk to each other even in consecutive cars
at a traffic light. On a site walk I got better results by shouting.) Look at their coverage map,
full of holes. It's lousy in the area where GOBA went a couple of years ago: nothing southeast of
Columbus. Also, there are federal regs about coverage "bleeding" across state lines. If you're on
the Indiana Turnpike, you're likely to have decent service, but if you go north a couple miles
and hang out near the Michigan line, you may as well shout. If family contact is an issue, nail
down an itinerary and let your loved ones know that small town police can be a big help in
relaying messages. (Also, officials at bottlenecks. One year on Shoreline, a family needed to get
a message to someone driving the tour in an RV. They left a message with the Mackinac Bridge
Authority, and the tourer received it.) Also consider the pertinent details involved in being
completely available. Several times I've had to consider whether the business trip I'm on is of
greater importance than rushing home *after* someone who's "expectant" has gone on to Mister
Rogers' new neighborhood. Do you really want to know that the cat died, or a thunderstorm hit, or
someone had a fender-bender?

> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
> taking along? How does all that work?

Don't waste your money, carrying capacity, or GVW. Libraries have excellent super-fast
connections and typically several terminals, even in the kids' section. They also have printers
in case you need a hard copy of a route look-up. And it's a nice way to meet locals. If you stay
at private campgrounds, they sometimes have internet cafes set up, as do coffee bars, even in
small towns. My local paper (www.freep.com) has a technology column with all kinds of enticing
gee-whiz reviews about wireless technology. But consider batteries (and charging them), rain,
dust and dirt, and sharing among users. Yeah, it seems like it'd be cool to spend a rainy day
lying in a tent surfing the web, but wouldn't you rather be riding than trying to type posts to
r.b.m. on a tiny keyboard while your pards time your session? HTH --Karen M.
 
D

Dane Jackson

Guest
In rec.bicycles.misc Matt J <[email protected]> wrote:
> Frank Krygowski <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
>> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
>> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
>> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
> We recently switched to Verizon from Cingular, and I have to say the coverage is much better. I'd
> sugegst Verizon, and you can get pretty basic e-mail through the SMS (small message service), your
> email is simply the 10-digit number @vtext.com. You can also send email from their phones, but
> it's kind of a bother to type everything. It costs about 10 cents to send a message and 2 to
> receive, I believe. Someone else mentioned a modem for a handheld - that would work nicely, as
> it's small but offers greater typing opportunities. Good luck! Matt

ObDisclaimer: I work for Verizon Wireless.

SMS is really pretty nice, it's work well for intended purpose (short messages to other cell users -
including other carriers phones), and can be useful as a phone->email dodge. I believe it's possible
to do SMS on a prepay plan (the national one (freeup?)). I can't tell you for sure because my job is
so far removed from sales it's not funny.

For the wireless data, Verizon offers something called 1XRTT (2.5G wireless data). This allows up to
a 144kbps connection from your phone (70-80 is what you'll see typically, YMMV, void where
prohibited, don't go in thebiggreenglowinthedarkhouseuponthehill, etc.) The coverage for this is
better in urban areas, you'll drop back down to 14.4 kbps in a non-XRTT market. You would need to
get a phone that supports 1XRTT and if you're using a laptop - an adapter for that. I think the
marketing people call 1XRTT "Express Network".

Of course one route to go is to get one of the PDA phones with 1XRTT, but I don't know if we have
any reasonably priced ones you could use.

>> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
>> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
>> taking along? How does all that work?
>>
>> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
>> not appeal to me. Any advice?

Depending on when you're trip is, you might be able to get Blackberry service with Verizon.

Blackberry (SMS, email, etc). http://www.blackberry.net/index.shtml

(This is partnership announcement, I don't know what the real street availability date is).
http://www.blackberry.net/news/press/pr-18_03_2003.shtml

Actually the more I look at it, the more Blackberry looks like what you might want. There are are
different models for different carriers. So you can see which carrier/plan/HW might work for you.
Drop me an email if you have any questions you think I can answer.

--
Dane Jackson - z u v e m b i @ u n i x b i g o t s . o r g "Consistency is the last refuge of the
unimaginative." -Oscar Wilde
 
J

J. Bruce Fields

Guest
In article <[email protected]>, Frank Krygowski <[email protected]> wrote:
>And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
>stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
>taking along? How does all that work?
>
>Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
>not appeal to me. Any advice?

For email, I'd think the obvious solution--depending on public libraries and net cafes and
such--would work fine. Cheap, lets you travel light (no equipment needed), etc. The only preparation
required might be to set up a some sort of free web-based email so you could still access it from
braindead web-only kiosks.

--Bruce F.
 
M

Mark

Guest
"Frank Krygowski" wrote ..
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?
>
> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
> taking along? How does all that work?
>
> Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and vacations, so high-budget solutions may
> not appeal to me. Any advice?
>
> --
> Frank Krygowski

The prepaid cell phones are nice- per minute call costs are a bit high, but if you don't use the
phone much it doesn't really matter. The nice thing about pre-paid is that you do not have a fixed
contract, you just buy the cards when you need them. AT & T has a plan that will give you nationwide
coverage with no roaming charge, long distance is the same price as local. Their phones also will
send and receive text messages and e-mail (160 characters). This is not an endorsement of AT & T;
from reading what other posters have to say it sounds like Verizon would be a good deal too.

The nice thing about libraries and internet cafes is that you don't have to lug a computer around
when you're not checking your e-mail or sending e-mail....

--
mark
 
C

Chris Breen

Guest
"Matt O'Toole" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
>
> "Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
>
> > So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently,
> we've got one
> > cell phone, which somehow seems to offer very spotty
> coverage - as in,
> > no service when we tried to use it just south of Cleveland
> Ohio on the
> > turnpike!
> >
> > I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans,
> etc. Is there
> > anything markedly better than anything else? How do you
> avoid
> > exorbitant roaming charges?
>
> For coverage, Verizon are the champs. They have the best peering arrangements with the other
> providers. So if there's any service in the area at all, you'll get it no problem. That's assuming
> you get the right plan. Go for the national one. It's the same price to call anywhere in the US,
> with no roaming charges ever, and both digital and analog service. Many other plans are
> digital-only, which may be useless outside big cities. I travel a lot, and I have yet to find a
> significantly large hole, except behind the occasional mountain. But my friends with other
> providers have many tales of woe.
>
> Unfortunately, you'll be locked into a year contract when you sign up for the first time. However,
> if you need a cell phone anyway, a national plan lets you use it for all your long distance
> instead of your home phone. This can defray the cost somewhat.
>
> I don't think Verizon's pre-pay plans are national -- they have roaming charges no matter what.
> I'm also not sure if they're both digital and analog. But the higher cost per minute may still be
> cheaper than being locked into a year contract you don't need or want.
>
>
> Matt O.
>
I have a Verizon pre-paid account and have been told that as long as you are in a Verizon covered
area the cost is the same wherever you are in the country. I don't make many calls and buy the least
amount of time I can ($30, I think the daily cost of a call is ~10c minute, plus you get more
weekend minutes) this lasts for 60 days, therefore ~15$/month, this was the cheapest I could find
and you don't have to sign up for a long term contract. You can buy more time and I believe the cost
per minute drops the more you buy. You do have to buy the phone, or at least you did when I got
mine; it was ~$65 for a Kyocera phone, that I have had no problems with. Apparently you can set up
the phone to get email and use as a browser, I've never done it so can't comment how it works in
practice.If you are going to make a lot of calls this is probably not the best plan for you, I have
been quite happy with it so far; ~1.5 years.

Hope this helps, Chris.
 
D

Douglas Landau

Guest
Leave the phone at home. Send postcards.

dkl

Frank Krygowski <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike! ... Naturally, I'd prefer to spend my money on bike parts and
> vacations, so high-budget solutions may not appeal to me. Any advice?
 
T

Tim McNamara

Guest
In article <[email protected]>, "Gary German" <[email protected]_NOSPAMX_.net> wrote:

> Long distance charges can be pretty steep on most cell phone plans, even when you're not paying
> roaming charges.

Long distance is included on my plan (Sprint PCS)- $40 per month, 2000 night/weekend minutes plus I
think 800 business-time minutes.

I would add, however, that Sprint's coverage sucks even within the metro area where I live
(Minneapolis-St. Paul). If you're 1/4 mile off the highway, your phone likely has no coverage. These
things are explicitly designed for people to use while driving. I have a dual band phone, but get
charged when I have to use analog to get a signal.
 
M

Matt O'Toole

Guest
"Chris Breen" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...

> I have a Verizon pre-paid account and have been told that
as long as you are
> in a Verizon covered area the cost is the same wherever
you are in the
> country.

That's the key, "Verizon covered area." Once you're out of range of Verizon's towers, you can still
make a call, but there are roaming charges.

With a national plan there's no difference. Verizon has deals with these other companies to let you
use their networks. Verizon has to pay for this, and that's why national plans tend to be a little
more expensive, in a strict $/min sense.

Matt O.
 
D

David Reuteler

Guest
In rec.bicycles.misc Tim McNamara <[email protected]> wrote:
: I would add, however, that Sprint's coverage sucks even within the metro area where I live
: (Minneapolis-St. Paul).

i had a sprint phone when i worked in the wtc downtown saint paul and the damn phone never worked.
ironically sprint had an office on one of the floors of the building and we'd joke with the sprint
employees about the lack of signal. my phone worked just as yours: in the car between home and work
and almost nowhere else (i lived in south minneapolis, 3 miles from downtown mpls and nothing).

aerial/voicestream/t-mobile is pretty good in mpls.
--
david reuteler [email protected]
 
R

Ray Heindl

Guest
Frank Krygowski <[email protected]> wrote:

> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!
>
> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?

There was an article in Consumer Reports within the last few months, telling a lot about different
cell phone options, and rating the different services. Well worth a trip to the local library.

--
Ray Heindl (remove the X to reply)
 
D

David L. Johnso

Guest
On Fri, 28 Mar 2003 00:24:08 -0500, Dave Thompson wrote:

> "Frank Krygowski" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
>> So, three of us are planning an extended tour. Presently, we've got one cell phone, which somehow
>> seems to offer very spotty coverage - as in, no service when we tried to use it just south of
>> Cleveland Ohio on the turnpike!

All cellular networks have blank spots. You learn to live with it. Usually, freeways are the most
likely to have coverage out in the country.

Lots of deals are now available with nationwide long distance. You may get stuck with a 1-2 year
contract, though.
>>
>> I know next to nothing about cell phone coverage, plans, etc. Is there anything markedly better
>> than anything else? How do you avoid exorbitant roaming charges?

Don't use the phone...
>>
>> And a related question: It would be nice to have occasional e-mail access, too, other than by
>> stopping when we happen across a library. Are any gee-whiz, compact portable e-mail devices worth
>> taking along? How does all that work?

I had a PDA with wireless access (Palm VII). Royal pain in the butt. The network was very iffy -- no
service even in my home, 10 miles from the center of Philadelphia. And even when I had service, it
was dreadfully slow. The service is very expensive as well; the minimum contract is a year often, at
$30-$50/month.

Last year, I switched to a PDA that accepted a modem (Zaurus) or LAN device. Worked much better
when I was in motels for the night. Some of their charges can be rip-offs, too. Next time I will
sign up for a 800-type ISP to avoid hotel charges, which apply even to local calls over 30
minutes. I managed to teach an on-line class while on tour, but I would spend evenings on-line.
There is a wireless cellular connection for that, but my previous experience suggested it would
not be worth it.

Some cell-phones now do their own e-mail. You need to be kind of geeky to type a message using a
telephone number-pad, but it can be done. They have some word-recognition that helps, but it is not
a real keyboard.

If e-mail is all you want, thay may be the way to go. For things like Web access, you'd need to
basically do what I did. Taking a portable computer is IMO not a good idea. I have done that, and
even the very light machine I took was too much weight, too much hassle, and not enough benefit. A
PDA and a cell-phone is enough.

One possibility is the Treo. It does PDA stuff, I think there is a version which _is_ a cellphone,
and it does e-mail, with a real-ish keybpoard. Not as powerful as the Zaurus, and probably no
phone-line connection, but it might be a good all-in-one solution. About $400 plus a cellphone
contract, probably.

--

David L. Johnson

__o | "Business!" cried the Ghost. "Mankind was my business. The _`\(,_ | common welfare was my
business; charity, mercy, forbearance, (_)/ (_) | and benevolence, were, all, my business. The
dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
--Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"
 
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