April 20, 2010
Aluratek USB Cellular Router review
It's the end of the day and I thought it would be nice to work on the picnic table outside of our office. It's just far enough away that our Wifi doesn't quite get there, so I'm using a neat little device that arrived in the mail last month. A PR person had (I guess) seen my blog posts about the FJ Car Computer project and the wireless access point I had in the back and offered to send me a new device to play with. (Disclaimer - it was a freebe but if I didn't like it, I wouldn't be mentioning it here.) The device I'm using is a CDM530AM and it sells for $100.
The device is a 3G Portable Wireless USB Cellular Router from Aluratek. To use it you need a USB wireless modem from Verizon or other carrier.
As you can see in the picture, it really is wireless. It has a rechargeable battery in it which is enough to power the device and the Verizon modem for a couple of hours. You can also plug in the power cord and run indefinitely.
There are a couple of things that are nice about this device. One is that it looks like a Wifi hotspot, and more than one person can use it at a time so you can share your wireless modem. The bottleneck will be with the wireless modem, so you won't be able to put lots of users on it, but it is a nice feature.
It also bypasses the need to start up the modem software, dial up and connect. I just turn it on and 30 seconds later my laptop and mobile phone has a wifi connection. Because they both think they are on the same network, I can transfer files and sync between the two devices which I couldn't do as easily otherwise.
Setup was pretty easy, and it is a one-time thing involving hooking up the device to the laptop with an included network cable and running a setup wizard. I had a glitch in setup (it was pre-release firmware) but tech support figured it out quickly and the new firmware release worked just fine.
One thing to be aware - it's only going to be as good as your cellular modem connection. If it isn't reliable, then you may experience drops in the connection. If that happens though, the device handles reconnecting without you doing anything. I've been able to write this, while keeping up with email and having a couple of IM sessions with no trouble at all, and no drops.
This device is a lot cheaper and easier to set up than the Kyocera that I wrote about here. And not everybody has 120v AC in their car, which this device doesn't need if you're only going to be on line for a couple of hours. It doesn't have the Ethernet ports that the Kyocera has, but I found most people riding in the FJ were content to connect to my hotspot wirelessly, so I won't miss the Ethernet connections. :-)
I was just about to wrap this post up when it occured to me to do another test. We're now live on Microsoft Communications Server 2010 at Gold Systems. The product won't be available until later this year, but it's been announced and some partners are using it. I just IM'd someone inside the building and it all worked as expected. What was unexpected was that we were able to elevate to voice and we had a 20 minute conversation with perfect voice quality and NO glitches. Let's let that sink in a bit - Voip from my laptop, to the Aluratek wireless router, out the Verizon USB modem, onto the internet, back across our SIP trunks in the public phone network, to a desktop computer with a USB phone connected to it. It. Just. Worked. We decided to get a little crazy and did a whiteboard share - it worked. We transfered some files back and forth. It worked. We even went to video and - it worked as designed. We were able to do video but the connection just wasn't fast enough so we saw frames being dropped but the picture quality was great and the voice quality was rock solid throughout.
Next I did an internet speedtest, while still talking over OCS. Here's what I got:
Next I dropped the voice call and did the test again.
We were talking during the first test, but it doesn't show any difference. It's also interesting that I'm here in Boulder, Colorado and Speedtest thinks Denver is 1,000 miles away. Who knows how that call actually routed, which makes it all the more amazing that it worked so well.
I first played with VoIP in 1997. I'm stunned at how well this worked, and how far the technology has advanced. Wow. Over a slower wireless connection no less.
One last photo - while we were talking and playing with the whiteboard feature, Ned drew this picture of the mountains. Notice how some of the trees even have some beatle kill damage.
Ned could actually hear the birds around me and the airplane that flew over. Cool!
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