2010
Nov 
19

Telecommunications in Morocco

Filed under: Morocco — Tags: — Russell @ 8:27 am  

We had a good experience in Italy using a Vodaphone cellular modem.  The one challenge was that we couldn’t share the connection between our three devices (laptop, Ipod Touch, BlackBerry).  So I bought an unlocked Huawei E585 on Ebay.  This is a cellular modem that retransmits the signal as WiFi so it can be shared by up to 5 devices.  The common name for such a device is MiFi.  It arrived while in Rome but I couldn’t get this to work using the Italian Vodaphone data SIM.

In Morocco, we had better luck.  We bought a data SIM from MarocTel.  For 200 DH (about 20 Euros) we got one month of unlimited 3G service.  We hooked it up to the MiFi with the following settings:

Connection Number: *99#
User Name: <none>
Password: <none>
Authentication: NONE
APN: Dynamic
IP Address: Dynamic

It worked well in Marrakech and Rabat.  I would pop in into my bag when we heading out of the day.  As we walked around we were surrounded in our own cloud of private WiFi.  It would last for about 5 hours and could be recharged using a USB cable either from the laptop or the Blackberry charger.  This made it easier to navigate or check restaurant reviews while out for the day.  We also got very good Skype performance and were able to make good quality phone calls.

Unfortunately, the Blackberry doesn’t work very well when you don’t have data services.  I had hoped that the combination of a voice SIM and WiFI would make the Blackberry a good travel device but it was not to be.  Without a cellular data plan, email, facebook, podcasting and the app store stopped working.  The browser, Twitter and BlackBerry maps continued to work.  Some third party apps like the Globe and Mail are fine.  Surprisingly, Google’s email app won’t work without a cellular data plan.  This is not to say that these application won’t use WiFi if it is available, just that they check for a valid wireless SIM and refuse to operate if you don’t have a data plan.  BlackBerry also doesn’t support Skype which is the best way to make calls when traveling internationally.

Has anyone tried travelling with an iPhone or Android phone using a combination of a voice plan and WiFi?  I’d be interested in knowing if this works.  The alternative seems to be carrying multiple devices like a cheap Nokia phone, an iPod touch and perhaps a MiFi.

When we got to Moulay Bousselham the cellular data coverage was not good.  There was a slow connection in the center of the town that fell off as we moved to the edge where we were staying.  After a few days we found a nice café with an expresso machine and a terrace that had a good view both of the coast and the local cell tower.

2010
Sep 
8

IP Prejudice

Filed under: Paris — Tags: — Russell @ 2:49 pm  

While we travel our Internet addiction continues unabated.  The combination of travel and the web brings up some interesting challenges besides just finding an open hotspot.  Lots of Internet sites and services like to guess where you are and treat you differently based on the country.  Sometimes this is useful such as when you get local news and weather.  Sometimes it is a way of charging you more money or denying you service.

Facebook

Changing countries makes Facebook very suspicious.  They will throw extra challenges at you to make sure you are really a person.  Surprisingly, they don’t ask personal questions to ensure you are who you claim.  More than any other website, Facebook is in a position to provide real challenges.  As it stands this is a reasonable precaution on their part and not too onerous.

Sony

Sony’s ebook reader store will let you make purchases provided you have a credit card number on file.  If you neglect to provide a card number before leaving the country, as I did, you can’t buy books from their online store.  So you can obtain thousands of pages of classic literature but not trashy novels for reading on the beach.

Online Media

Lots of TV networks will allow viewing of recent shows on their website.  However, this typically only works if you are in the same country as the network.  This is frustrating for Canadians who can watch American shows on TV and cable but not on the web.  Of course, watching the latest episode of House should be the least of your worries when experiencing the larger world.  Still, it is not a bad antidote for home sickness.

Online travel booking

My friend Elizabeth relates a story of finding a flight on a website in Asia for $50 and calling her Dad in Canada to book it.  He went to the same website and the same flight was $150.

Faking an Internet Address

Luckily, it is possible to fake an internet address.  If you are of a technical mind this article from Lifehacker shows how it can be done.  This also has the additional advantage of protecting all of your browsing from prying eyes.  For the less nerdy there are several commercial services that will help.  See this article for a description of the Hotspot Shield product from AnchorFree.

We are using the ssh strategy shown in the Lifehacker article.  This works for all the problems listed above except Sony and Hulu.com which somehow knows we are not in the US.  We are still looking for solutions.