Three MiFi - Freedom Is Easy

Last week I travelled from Edinburgh to Prestwick Airport by means of public transport. Along the way I took my trusty Asus EEE PC 900A netbook a Three UK MiFi as well as the rest of the luggage I was taking to Italy for my spring holiday.
On a train, using my netbbok and MiFi
My netbook is currently running a beta release of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. This version of Ubuntu has drivers built in to use all the most popular mobile broadband dongles and usually there is no need to load additional software to use them. I have tested my netbook with my Three UK mobile broadband dongle and with my T-Mobile one (both are made by ZTE but run on different chipsets).

For this trip, I was not going to be taking any dongles to connect to mobile broadband though. Recently I won a competition organised by Three UK and was sent a Three MiFi device. The MiFi is a portable WiFi hotspot, that lets up to five WiFi devices connect to mobile broadband through it.

The MiFi is great if you are travelling and using a netbook on the go. Rather than have a dongle sticking out of the side of your netbook, you can have the MiFi in a pocket and use WiFi to connect to the internet through it. I can think of three main advantages of this:

  • Not having a dongle sticking out of the side of your netbook reduces the risk of accidentally damaging both your netbook and/or dongle. Think about it - if your netbook were to slip/fall or lean on the dongle, leverage could damage both the dongle and the netbook's usb port. (I have had this happen to me once... RIP Acer Aspire One ZG5)
  • Using a MiFi your netbook's bettery life should be better. This is because your netbook is not powering the USB device that is connecting to the mobile broadband, you are just using WiFi. The MiFi is powered by its own internal battery, and recharges using a standard Micro-USB connector. This is useful to me because both my mobile phones use the same charger format, so when away (as I am now) I only need to take one charger with me for three devices.
  • You can connect up to five devices to the MiFi at once. I did connect more than one device while sitting in the Costa coffee bar in Glasgow Central Station. Both my netbook and my HTC Desire were using the MiFi while I was using Gwibber and downloading a podcast to listen to on my flight. I didn't really perceive any slower network connection while doing so.
Having a hot chocolate, using the MiFi and netbook as well as my HTC Desire.
When I got my first broadband dongle and was using it on Linux (at the time Ubuntu 9.04 and Mint) I had to add drivers and go through a long set up process to make it work properly. This was usually quite a hassle, but was made  relatively easy for me thanks to posts by Liam Green-Hughes on his blog. Those days seem to be gone with Ubuntu 11.04 as dongle support is much better. To tell the truth I wish that back in the day I had had a MiFi. Messing around in terminal windows and adding repositories was fun, but a MiFi would have made life so much easier.
I used the MiFi for most of the trip while I was in the UK (on buses, trains, in stations and airports) and had no problems with reception along the way.  I was happily able to use my netbook and still had enough battery life to watch a couple of episodes of Mostly Photo on the flight.

I'm currently in Italy enjoying the spring weather and time with my family.

Just a quick disclosure at the end of the post: I did not pay for my Three UK MiFi device or the mobile broadband sim card with 12 Gb of data on it. This was my competition prize and I was not remunerated by Three UK or any other entity for writing this post. Hopefully this disclaimer avoids any Mike Arrington incidents...

Please feel free to leave questions/comments. Any feedback is appreciated!