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Using GPRS Wireless With Windows XP
By Chris De Herrera
Revised 8/23/04

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Introduction

Did you know that you can connect your Smartphone 2002/2003 (Motorola Instructions and driver for the MPX200 are available here) or other cellular phone to your Windows XP, Tablet PC Edition or Windows XP notebook to access the internet?  Well you can and it works at similar speeds and experiences to using a modem connection (about 40k bits per second).  During my recent vacation to Orlando, Florida, I used GPRS as my exclusive method of accessing the internet.  The concepts discussed here can be used on any network connection (including dialup modem) to improve performance.

Optimizing Your Connection

Here are my thoughts on how to optimize your Windows XP's connection to the internet:

  1. Disable/enable pictures, video and sound downloads.  You can turn these off in Internet Explorer using Tools - Internet Options - Advanced and uncheck the options you want.  To make this quick and easy check out the No Flash freeware which allows you to control pictures and videos by pressing F8 to turn it off and on by pressing the F-8 key.

  2. Ideally Microsoft should require 3rd parties such as Shockwave to support the ability to temporarily disable the download and playback of their files.  This is a huge drain on a slow speed connection.  No Flash offers users the ability to disable the downloads of Flash files easily as well.

  3. If you have installed Windows XP, Service Pack 2, turn off Popups.  This will reduce the amount of data you download since most Popups are advertisements.

  4. When setting up the internet connection for GPRS carriers such as T-Mobile do not require a username or password.  Well to avoid entering data into the username and password screen store a blank username and no password.  Also, you can uncheck the option to display the name and password or prompt for phone number such as the screen shot below:

Recommendations for Microsoft

  1. Ideally users should be able to optimize the picture and sound settings based on the connection that is attached to the internet.  IE:  If I use GPRS or a modem I don't want these features while if I use Ethernet or a Wi-Fi network I do.

  2. Encourage developers to provide just the bits that have changed with their updates.  Examples of long downloads include lengthy downloads for Shockwave or the Norton Antivirus updates via GPRS.

  3. Explain to users what to do when they don't need a username or password such as when using T-Mobile GPRS.   Ideally provide standard connectoids for T-Mobile via SmartPhone/Pocket PC as well as 3rd party phones.  I had to setup a dummy username that was a space and store it to avoid seeing the username/password screen.

  4. I was unable to easily see whether a new modem has been plugged in via USB.  The connection reverts to other modems in the system instead of staying with a specific selected modem.  Ideally modems that are plugged in via USB should be shown in the Taskbar with the Safely Remove Hardware icon like other devices.

Conclusion

Overall I was pleasantly surprised at how well e-mail via smtp/pop3 worked and how fast the internet can work if you turn off the pictures and sound and disabling Flash downloads.  And also when it comes to hosting colocation hosting can provide you the greatest flexibility.  I would recommend that users consider using GPRS for internet access whenever they are unable to access high speed internet.

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