South Africa 2008 - Limited, Ahem, Connectivity
It's always a challenge when leaving home to find connectivity. We've got Fiber Optic to the house in the states (20Mbs/20Mbs) and unlimited nu3G tethering via phone while roaming. Even then, there are SO many open WiFi spots in the states, it's easy to get connected when away. Frankly, the only place in the states that has horrific connection speeds are hotels!
Speaking of hotel connectivity, recently in New Zealand was I charged US$25 for 50 megabytes (total transfer!) per day. I wasn't able to even start sync'ing Outlook with that cap.
The last few days here in South Africa I've been trying to figure out how I am/was going to transfer my 100-300 megabyte audio files for the next three weeks of the Hanselminutes podcast.
I went to a local mall and used their internet cafe and while it was reasonably price at 10 Rand (US$1) for 15 minutes, the maximum GET or POST was 2 Megs. I couldn't even download my favorite FTP program, much less upload a few gigs of audio over the next month.
My new friend Mario from the SADeveloper helped me get connected without breaking the bank. We started with a Huawei E220 HSDPA USB Modem. It's a real basic modem, but like most 3G modems, it has the software you need on a flash disk inside the device. You plug it in, it's recognized as a disk. Then you run the setup, and the software handles dialing and connectivity.
But, I've gone too far ahead already. The modem doesn't include a SIM card. It has an empty slot for one on the side. You can get a Vodacom SIM Card for 1 Rand (10 cents US) pretty much anywhere. We got it at a bookstore. Then, we went to a Vodashop and had the guy behind the counter activate the SIM with his phone.
The trick is that you buy minutes then convert the minutes to pay-as-you-go data on a non-contract data plan. You can add minutes two ways. There are some places that can push the minutes into your SIM without a phone which is the situation I'm in. Or, you can use any phone, put your SIM it in and dial *111#. You'll get a menu that will let you purchase data plan megabytes with your minutes. I was able to buy 3 gigabytes of transfer for about US$60. Not cheap, but not oppressively expensive.
I've turned off the Windows Update service as well as images in my browser. I've also switch to mobile versions of some sites like Twitter or CNN, to save bandwidth. Perhaps that's penny-wise, pound-foolish, but that's me.