I’m travellin’ down that open road, Highway 95 in this case, just south of the Lynard-Skynard Line that separates the Rock states from the Southern Rock states. We’ve left the land of Bruce Springsteen behind some days ago, and are swinging south through Virginia toward the land of .38 Special. Strangely, I’m typing this on a laptop from the passenger seat while the car flies down the road at 65 miles an hour, with the Tom Tom GPS guiding the way toward tonight’s destination in Chapel Hill, and a steady internet connection provided by a fabulous little device called an iBox2Go.
We discovered the iBox2Go about a year ago when we were searching for a way to avoid paying outrageous internet connection fees when we go on the road to trade shows. Normally, 4 days of internet in a convention hall can run well over $1,000 — for a wireless connection!. Additionally, you’re expectetd to shell out another $100/computer for each additional computer that wants to be able to access the net simultaneously. Since we normally go to shows with at least 5 machines, it can add up to a heck of a bill.To avoid this, we’ve tried everything from PC laptop cards to phone or wireless tethering, usually with terrible results. Then we discovered the iBox2Go and our trade show life got a heck of a lot better.
The iBox2Go comes in a little aluminum spy-style case containing the various parts. Basically, it’s a wireless router (with 4 wired connections as well) which uses a USB wireless modem to connect to Sprint’s high speed network from anywhere in the country. Setting up the thing couldn’t be easier: we just plug everything in, stick the included extension antenna someplace, and we’ve got an instant wired network with internet access at near-T1 speeds from most places we’d ever need to exhibit. Flip another switch in the back, and we can extend the network to be wireless as well, letting us share with WEP or WPA security with our laptops. It works like a charm at trade shows, and the $299 we paid (plus $59.99/month internet charge from Sprint) is more than paid for in a single use.
Since we didn’t have any shows coming up on our calendar, I thought I’d borrow it to take along on this trip. Any email, blogging, or forum posting you’ve seen from me in the past two weeks has been thanks to this device. Until now, however, it’s mostly been from hotel rooms–I never tried using it from a moving car until just now when I passed the keys to Carolyn and decided to try catching up on some work while she drives.
Since Neil’s been using his laptop in the back seat to pass the time, this was also the first time we tried plugging in both laptops and the iBox2Go at the same time. Word to the wise: don’t do this–at least not while using the little Black and Decker power inverter we had on hand. The load of two powering-up laptops immediately blew the inverter’s fuse, leaving us with no way to plug in the iBox2Go (which uses a conventional power plug–not an auto-style DC plug).
As a long shot, I tried grabbing the iBox2Go’s USB modem out of the router and plugging it directly into my laptop. I knew that even if it did function as a standalone modem, there was virtually no chance of it working, since my laptop didn’t have the necessary drivers. Best case, I figured, was that I could get back to my hotel room where I could plug it in properly, download the right drivers from the internet, then transfer them to my laptop for later use. But what the heck, let’s try it anyway…
To my astonishment, the iBox2Go’s modem also acted as a USB drive, carrying the proper drivers for installation! Whoever thought of doing that over at Novatel, drop me a note and I will definitely buy you a beer–that was great, great thinking!
So yes, the iBox2Go gets my strongest possible recommendation. I know there are other ways to accomplish some of the same tricks, but the iBox2Go just plain works. It’s been a lifesaver for our company at trade shows, and for this vacation, it’s a real highway star.