EDGEing out satellite

My list of challenges with DirecWay internet service is well known to regular readers. Over the last several years I've had occasion to do the drive to the office on several extra occasions simply because it is not practical to do the work I do over a DirecWay connection. The speed is acceptable but the latency issues of satellite combined with DirecWay's broken proxy servers preventing XML-RPC calls make work impossible.

Not long ago a colleague asked about cellular-wireless connections. Having had decidedly mixed results using the Treo in this capacity I recommended against it. "It is more hassle than it is worth," I told my colleague.

When I began looking again at what was available I saw the Sierra Wireless AirCard 875U has Mac drivers out there. An express card was a consideration but that would work with only one laptop where the AirCard can go into any of the computers I have or use.

Visiting the AT&T store I confirmed that my part of the world has only EDGE networking and not the speedier 3G wireless. Having heard over and over about how the iPhone is "crippled" by EDGE I was leery and left the store disappointed. In the car a change of heart sent me back in to confirm that I have 30 days to return the card and I put down the cash. Suffice it to say that the first 15 minutes with the card, on the EDGE network, proved that it won't be going anywhere.

For the first time since moving to Southern Nevada I can do things like remote desktop from home. SSH sessions are no longer an exercise in frustration. Uploads run about the same speed as satellite. Downloads are slower for large files but are still manageable and major downloads can always come when we're connected on a 3G network. I can even run MySQL queries without growing measurably older while they execute. EDGE may not be as good as 3G but a reliable EDGE connection beats satellite any day. It remains to be seen whether we'll keep the satellite for the always-on multi-computer aspects of the service and the occasional large file download. Time will tell.