Tag Archive for ‘Personal Hotspot’

Living on Cellular

My wife and I closed on our new house late last week. There’s still a great deal of unpacking to do, but most of the work that needed to be done — plumbing, tree removal, and electrical — are completed. We couldn’t be happier in the new place, its quickly starting to feel like home.

One utility that we wanted to get taken care of as quickly as possible was our home internet connection. Behind running water, heat, and electricity, internet access is our most important service. The vast majority of our communication and media is delivered through the internet. Living without access, for even a few days, would be a dreadful experience.

Luckily, earlier this year, my wife and I switched to a cellular data plan that allowed us to use Personal Hotspot on our iPhones. This served as a functional stopgap while we waited the four days for Spectrum to send a technician to run a line into our home. Relying on Personal Hotspot for four days turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag, though.

I was able to connect an Apple TV and my iPad at the same time, which let us watch television while I browsed the web and checked Twitter on my tablet. The speed was quite good, too. Our cellular connection was able to sustain download speeds around 30Mbps — much faster than the 5-10Mbps I typically see while I’m at work, which is only about three miles away from the house.

But using Personal Hotspot became a chore. After some period of inactivity, iOS automatically shuts the feature off, even if you’re iPhone is plugged into a power outlet. This means I regularly had to toggle the feature back on in Settings, even if I was only away from my devices for a few minutes to grab a drink or run to the bathroom. You forget how convenient always-on internet connections are until you don’t have them.

And then there are all the modern conveniences that require a home internet connection to function. Plex being the perfect example. My wife and I use Plex to watch all of the content we own, whether it be movies and TV shows on DVDs that we’ve ripped or the iTunes purchased content that we’ve stripped the DRM from, Plex is an essential part of our entertainment setup.

We often watch episodes of Boy Meets World or King of the Hill through Plex before we fall asleep. But Plex doesn’t work without an internet connection. Even if the client you’re using and the Plex server are on the same network. I suppose I could have connected our Mac Mini, which runs Plex, and our Apple TV to my iPhone’s Personal Hotspot. But that’s an awful lot of rigamarole just to get our Ben Savage fix. We usually just ended up watching Property Brothers on Hulu.

The last major annoyance was controlling our HomeKit devices. We have an iDevices Switch in our bedroom connected to a box fan. We run the box fan at night for the white noise and the air flow. Surprisingly, HomeKit devices don’t seem to need access to the internet to function, but in order to control them from our iPhones, we have to be on the same network. That means we had the extra steps of toggling Wi-Fi on, before interacting with the HomeKit switch, and toggling Wi-Fi back off afterward so that we had access to the internet. It doesn’t sound like much, but it probably would have been easier to just get up and slap the button on the side of the switch.

After four days of this dreadful, home-internet-less lifestyle, a Spectrum technician finally came to our house and ran a coaxial line into our office. It took him all of fifteen minutes to install and we were up and running. It was probably the most pleasant experience I’ve had dealing with someone from a cable company. The guy knew what he was doing and placed the line exactly where I told him to.

Now I’ll be able to turn our office closet into the heart of our home network. It will house our modem, Time Capsule, HDHomeRun, and Mac Mini — which acts as our home server. And I couldn’t be happier to have internet access on all of our devices again, without having to fuss about on my iPhone beforehand.