Monday, October 30, 2006

Sprint EVDO and Macs - November 2006


This is an update on Sprint Support for Mac users - as of November 1, 2006 things have gotten much worse!

Sprint is in the middle of moving their product line to EVDO Rev A, but as they move forward they are leaving more and more Mac users behind!

Last week Sprint released firmware that allowed their Rev-A compatible cards to actually use Rev-A towers that started turning on in San Diego (and now in other cities). One of the unfortunate side effects of this upgrade to the S720 firmware, is that they broke our hack that allowed the card to work with PowerBooks! Currently, there is NO way to revert the firmware and many Merlin S720/PowerBook users are dead in the water.

Neither of Sprint's newest EVDO Rev A Cards (Merlin S720 & AirCard 595 & Pantech PX-500) are compatible with Mac OS X 10.4.8. We have a hack that explains how to get the S720 working with your PowerBooks, but this is only for customers that are comfortable making the changes documented on our web site, and only for cards that have not been updated with the newest firmware.

Sprint STILL does not offer an ExpressCard, which is the kind of port that every MacBook Pro has (Verizon offers the Novatel V640 ExpressCard). Sprint certified the Franklin USB device on their networks back in August, BUT since the Novatel USB modem is just around the corner, Sprint crippled the success of the Franklin CDU-550 by limiting the sales to only businesses (or at least only offering the $150 service credit to corporate accounts, individuals pay full price). The CDU-550 does work with Macs, it is an EVDO Rev 0 device, BUT having a Windows computer around, can be important (or required) to complete some updating and provisioning. The upcoming Merlin U720 USB Modem will be available to individuals and businesses, but Mac compatibility is uncertain at this time.

Sprint doesn't support Macs directly and chooses to rely on Apple to provide device driver support. We are waiting on Apple's next OS update (Mac OS X 10.4.8 and EVDO?) to see if any of the new EVDO Rev A Cards are supported.

Until Apple does provide more device support, what choices are available to Mac users who have to use Sprint?? Some companies are pushing the AirCard 580 but thats a Rev 0 card (which Macs support) and with Rev A turning on in more cities each day, buying a Rev 0 card on any contract is a bad decision. Other users will consider the Franklin USB option, but it too is only a Rev 0 device, and has occasionally required a Windows PC for secondary provisioning.

Some people will find a way to jump to Verizon - simply because Verizon readily supports PowerBooks and MacBook Pros, in some cases both natively with Apple drivers and through VZAccess Manager connection software as well.

Everyone else has to wait for Apple to provide more drivers, or for Sprint to provide a native Mac OS X version of the Sprint Connection Manager! Currently, Sprint's Mac support is a 2 page PDF - that is it, PLUS, that document only supports older Rev-0 cards that are no longer listed in Sprint's online store and that have or will soon be, discontinued. No native Sprint PCS Connection Manager software. In order to get up and running with the few cards that do work - Sprint requires that you activate them in a Windows PC before they will work in your Mac. You cannot upgrade firmware in a Mac, or update the PRL, so having a Windows PC around is just about required. That really isn't Mac support.

Note to Apple: Please deliver a Mac OS X update to support the Merlin S720 and the upcoming Novatel U720 USB Modem.

Note to Sprint: Brilliant decision to provide zero support for Mac users. Verizon thanks you :)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thank you Cisco... Finally!


Back in August, folks with a MacBook Pro and Verizon's V640 ExpressCard started to notice issues using the Cisco VPN Client. Many of them discussed their dismay on this EVDO FORUMS thread. A Cisco employee reported that the bug was found and fixed in early September, and yet the official release of the update just occured October 23rd.

Though it took over two months to get the fix out the door... all is well. Users of the MacBook Pro and the V640 can relax. Early reports are that the update has in fact fixed the issue with PPP connections.

So... Thanks Cisco... FINALLY!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sprint S720 Rev A Firmware Warning

Warning: Upgrading your S720 Firmware May Disable EVDO

We were very excited about the Sprint EVDO Rev A announcements today. They actually started last night as Sprint released the EVDO Rev A firmware that is required to enable your EVDO Rev A card to work at the faster speeds.

After performing the upgrade, we noticed a very disturbing "feature". Our office has had EVDO Rev 0 for many many months and we had a very strong signal. After performing the upgrade, we were no longer able to connect at EVDO, only 1xRTT. So instead of getting the 400Kbps - 700Kbps (or 1Mbps) average download speeds, we were stuck at 50Kbps - 100Kbps speeds. We tried the trick to lock in EVDO and that didn't work either.

We encourage everyone to read the EVDOforums thread below for the latest information BEFORE upgrading:

S720 Connection Manager 3.7.5 - ISSUE After Upgrade - EVDOforums.com

Sprint Launches FIrst EVDO Rev A Network

Sprint has announced that 21 markets will get EVDO Rev A by the end of 2006. The first city that has it right now is San Diego. In order to get EVDO Rev A speeds, you need an EVDO Rev A Card with the latest firmware upgrades. The next cities to get it over the next few months at:

  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Hartford, Conn.
  • Kansas City, Mo.
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Milwaukee
  • New York City
  • Newark/Trenton, N.J.
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Providence, R.I.
  • Sacramento, Calif
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington, D.C.
The EVDO Rev A Sprint cards are: Merlin S720, Pantech PX-500, AirCard 595 and the soon to be released Novatel U720.

Sprint Launches EVDO Rev A Network - Discuss on EVDOforums

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sprint Releases EVDO Rev A Firmware

If you have one of the new Sprint EVDO Rev A PCMCIA cards from Sprint (Merlin S720, Pantech PX-500, Aircard 595), we have good news for you. Tonight, Sprint released updated Connection Managers that update the firmware of these EVDO Rev A cards to actually go faster when in an EVDO Rev A area. Sprint started shipping the EVDO Rev A cards with EVDO Rev 0 software, but now with the latest firmware updates released, your Sprint cards can go at the faster EVDO speeds (only when in a newer EVDO Rev A City).

To Download the latest updates visit:

http://www.sprint.com/downloads

If you would like to discuss the latest updates, visit the following threads on EVDOforums.com:

New S620/S720 Connection Manager 3.7.5 Released
New Pantech PX-500 Connection Manager 3.2.19 Released

New AC595 Connection Manager 3.3.10 Released

Also, for the latest reports of EVDO Rev A Cities, see:

Sprint EVDO Rev A Coverage Sightings

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Franklin CDU-550 Supports Linux

Franklin Wireless announced that their CDU-550 USB Modem now supports Windows Mobile and Linux. This allows a single EVDO device to support just about every major operating system currently available.

Apple built support for the Franklin CDU-550 directly in Mac OS X (EVDO support started with 10.4.7). Of course, the Franklin Connection Manager that is included with the CDU-550 supports Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Many Linux users have struggled to get other EVDO cards working, but the CDU-550 is the first EVDO card that actually embraces Linux users.

Directions to use CDU-550 with Linux
Order a Franklin CDU-550 with Sprint Service

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sprint EVDO Rev A Hidden GPS

We decided to play around with the Merlin S720 Rev A Card from Sprint and we noticed a pretty cool built-in (but hidden GPS feature). We are wondering what cool features Sprint has coming down the road for us.

To see the hidden GPS dialog, do the following:

- Make sure you are disconnected

- Put your mouse over the plus (+) sign on the upper left of the Sprint Connection Manager Windows (don't click).

- Type in ##GPS

- Now you should see the following dialog box:


We have found, you can now Establish Data Connection and Activate or Start GPS. It looks like there are some tie-ins with Google Earth and other mapping sites.

So, what exactly does Sprint have coming for us? Either way, it looks like it will be fun.

Discuss the hidden GPS feature and latest on EVDOforums.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Locking on to Verizon EVDO only

Recently had to help a frustrated customer resolve a situation that has happened too often not to blog about it. The customer appeared to have been equi-distant to two strong signals, one was EVDO and one was 1xRTT. Because of this, the card he was using would constantly switch signals, which resulted in sometimes fast, sometimes slow connection speeds. Very bad.

Adding a Booster Antenna wasn't going to help because it would have boosted both signals. Sure, using a directional antenna might have fixed the problem, but this customer wasn't willing to go through a process to figure out where the EVDO tower was.

The customer's request was simple: "Can't I just lock on to only EVDO signal?"

Simple enough, right? Sprint customers have been able to do this for a while now (Merlin S720 Allows EVDO Locking) . But this customer had already tried Sprint service in his area and was unimpressed by its top speed. It never switched back and forth between slow and fast, it was just not fast. The coverage in his area was just not good enough, so he canceled the Sprint account, and decided to test Verizon.

He loved the top speed of Verizon's connection, when he got it. He just wanted it all the time. Some customers are finicky like that.

But Verizon, in all its wisdom, decided to remove the ability to lock onto EVDO-only signal many moons ago. Nothing currently available from Verizon will let a customer lock out 1xRTT and lock only to EVDO signal.

Now comes the happy ending.

Remembering that at one time, there was a way to do this with Verizon, we dug up an older (PC5220) sold it to him with Verizon service. The customer had already reviewed this article on EVDOinfo.com - Sniffing Out EVDO Towers - and was willing to see if the solution would work for him.

The night the customer got his delivery, he anxiously started following the article's instructions, and was overjoyed when he got his wish! EVDO ONLY! No more switching back and forth between slow and fast. Oh Joy!

Needless to say, we really like happy customers :)

Hey Verizon - if you like happy customers as well, why not update your current hardware/software offerings and give your customers the option to lock on to EVDO-only signal!?! For those customer directly between a fast BroadbandAccess and NationalAccess tower, you will give them an option that they do not have now (perhaps you will get less returns and cancels too).

Canceling Sprint Service - Gotcha

So, you got a new Sprint Mobile Broadband card and decided to give it a spin. For whatever reason, you decide it doesn't meet your needs and you call Sprint to cancel your service. You think you have no problem, because you are within your 15 day trial. Here is the big gotcha, when you call Sprint to cancel, the Sprint phone rep will make your cancel effective at the end of your current billing cycle. This may be too late and you may get stuck with having to pay a $200 Early Termination Fee, even if you called within the trial. Ouch!

The simple way around this, when calling to cancel, say, "I want to cancel my Sprint service immediately".

We don't believe this is a smart practice and hope that Sprint will change their ways.

Discuss on EVDOforums.com

Friday, October 06, 2006

PX-500, an EVDO Rev A PCMCIA Performer

The Cheap Card, finally hasn't missed the boat :)

The first cheap EVDO Card was the PC5740 and it was the only EVDO card without an antenna port. This meant that if you are in a "signal challenged" area, you have no options to add an external antenna or amplifier. We gained many customers who returned their PC-5740, canceled their Verizon or Sprint service and purchased an EVDO card that supported an external antenna.

Now we have a new "cheap card" (get it for free), and this time they added an external antenna port, (along with a flip up antenna). The antenna port allows you to hook up antennas and amplifiers.

So, what is missing with this card?

We have found that it performs incredible well and get this, it even comes with a leather carrying case. This card currently doesn't work in Macs or Kyocera KR1 or LinkSys WRT54G3G. The card includes support for EVDO Rev A, so when Sprint starts firing up the EVDO Rev A towers, the performance of this card will increase.

The Pantech PX-500 is a great entry level PCMCIA Card that supports 1xRTT, EVDO Rev 0 and EVDO Rev A.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hell NO, Helio

Haven't heard about Helio yet? You're probably better off.

Helio is an MVNO (they use Sprint's Mobile Broadband Network) like ESPNMobile is/was, but with recently announced EVDO data service for $85/mo. They'd like you to believe that they are a good choice because they have a neat gimmick: a PC card that handles both EVDO and WiFi.

Their actual EVDO Service is likely to be as good as Sprint/Verizon, and will depend on coverage and connection strength.

So what's the problem with Helio?

Their version of "unlimited" bandwidth is only 160mb per month!

Outrageous really, since software updates can be that large all by themselves.

Lots of people are already dissing Helio... There are just too many unknowns -- like EVDO Rev-A compatibility, quality of support, and mostly... If these guys are even going to be around to see 2007!

You can read more about Helio's TOS and see what others have to say, right here:

Helio Offers EVDO Card, $85/month - EVDOforums.com