Tech Note: Verizon MiFi

I recently switched my broadband data service to Verizon and go a MiFi 2200. This is quite a neat little device. Instead of just giving your Internet from anywhere on your computer, it also acts as a WiFi hotspot and allows you to connect up to 5 other devices wirelessly, with no config. So for me, that means that iPad, iPod Touch, etc can all be connected to the Internet without having to pay for data service for each device. The device is about the size of a deck of cards (sans card box), and runs for about 4 hours per charge. When you have it plugged into your PC, it acts like a normal USB-style data card and tethers for Internet access to your PC only. When you unplug it, the wireless access point lights up and you can connect yourself and 4 friends. The wireless mode has lots of settings that allow you to be secure, etc.

Here's the interesting side note (honestly, only if you're me, but I needed a place to write this down). You can only charge this thing via the special wall charger Verizon sends. I hate taking extra cables on my trips. Everything should be able to connect to my PC and charge via USB. However, if you connect MiFi to your PC, it will only charge when you have it in tether (not wireless) mode (and ON!) You can't run it in wireless mode and have it charge. Nor can you connect it to external charging sources (like a USB-converter wall plug or an external battery source like Major Mojo Juice, which I highly recommend to recharge your phone, iPod, and other elctronic devices while on the go). So that really limited me if I wanted more than 4 hours of Internet away from a wall plug and standard charger. Kind of defeated the purpose of having the thing to begin with.

After hunting around, I found a forum where a guy explained that MiFi uses nonstandard connectors, blah blah blah. Then he explained how you could chop up your USB cable and make a charging cable out of it. For anyone with MiFi, it's worth a read. For everyone else, the net is that I now have a slightly scarred USB cable that can charge MiFi no matter where I'm at, and I can have Internet for 5 devices everywhere I go.

For what it's worth, I was just a little worried about taking some dude's advice from a random forum and resplicing a USB cable and plugging it into my electronics. I had visions of sparks and a 19-year-old guy laughing at me from the other side of the world because I was dumb enough to take his advice. Happily, that worry was unnecessary. Guess that means everything on the Internet is true.

I'm saving money and device sprawl, and the service has worked well. I recommend it if you're in the market for a mobile broadband data card. Warning, though. Verizon limits you to 6GB per month (no unlimited plans available). All the other carriers are going that way as well, though, so it's not really a standout disadvantage. Just don't download big movies and you're fine.


kevandcan said…
Great post. Yea, proprietary charges tick me off.

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