Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The benefits of a WiFi-Ethernet bridge

Because today's wireless data speed is even faster than cable, it is time to use it as your home or office broadband. You may simply use an Android phone directly as a hotspot, but a WiFi-Ethernet bridge offers many benefits.

There is already a WiFi access point, router or gateway in every house these days and you don't need to change your current system setup. All you need is a WiFi-Ethernet bridge to connect it to an Android phone like this:

The bridge connects to the phone wirelessly and then plugs into your WiFi router or your current network. You need to disable DHCP server on the router though, because the phone already has that and usually cannot be turned off.

Usually a phone's WiFi power is not strong enough to get your house fully covered. This is pretty much the #1 reason to use a bridge and a normal WiFi router other than just the phone as a hotspot.

Furthermore, there is no wire between the phone and the bridge; so you can put the phone at the best spot for the best reception possible in your house. Mobile data speed is hugely related to the signal level; the better the signal, the faster the speed especially uploading.

Usually an Android phone is limited to allow only 5 to 10 devices. This comes to another big benefit of using a bridge: such limit is entirely removed by the bridge. The phone's built-in hotspot won't see any device connected to it. Note: this "feature" may not apply to a third-party hotspot app such as WiFi Tether Router.

The bridge I use is a Linksys WET610N, a used one cost  about $15. It has been working perfectly for more than a year now. The only glitch is: I must use WPA instead of WPA2, otherwise it disconnects and reconnects to the phone every now and then. I think this issue has something to do with WPA2's periodic key renew scheme.

You can easily switch back and forth between this newly added wireless connection and your old broadband. You don't need to change WiFi password on your devices, they connect automatically to either. So this is also a good way to add a backup to your existing broadband, not necessarily a replacement.

I have tried some 3G routers including MiFi in the past, none of them worked well. They are incompatible to many phones and dongles and they are not reliable and dependable. My above phone + bridge + AP system almost never need a reboot for weeks after weeks. An Android phone is also far more flexible, you can do many things on it, such as VPN.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reveal more network modes on Verizon phones

In the past two years or so, I only buy and use Verizon LTE phones for myself, because they are unlocked global phones that do both CDMA (EVDO) and GSM (WCDMA). You can use them in virtually anywhere on this planet.

By default, you can have only three selections:

If I leave a foreign SIM card in the phone and use Sprint or Verizon in USA without a LTE service, the phone keeps looking for LTE. Very annoying.

Is there a way to disable LTE or force CDMA only?

For Samsung phones, you can simply dial ##3282#:

If ##3282# does not work, then you need to edit the /efs/carrier/HiddenMenu and change "OFF" to "ON".

Although the latest ROMs still have this ##3283# menu, the phone seems ignore my selection. Furthermore, LG phones such as G2 and G3 do not have this hidden menu at all. Then we have to use Xposed, and I have found two modules, Intelli3G and GravityBox, tested to work on my G2:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PagePlus ESN Change

So you just got a new phone and need to transfer your PagePlus number from your old phone. There used to be many websites that do it for free, but no longer. I tried ebay $0.99 sellers, big waste of time and patience, still waiting for my refund.

Turned out the best way to do it is PagePluseCellular's Live Chat. Just give them your current phone # and old and new ESN or MEID, or IMEI without the last digit, they'll do it within a minute or two. No any hassle, and free.

A typical chat for your reference:

pp: How may I help you?
you: Could you please do an ESN swap for me? Phone #: 9908908989, old ESN: 99000090909090, new ESN: 99000089898989.
pp: Do you have a SIM card for your phone?
you: No.
pp: Do you plan to use 3G on this phone?
you: No, just for voice calls and I use WiFi for Internet.
pp: As this is a 4G phone, you need to ask a dealer to program it. Do you still want me to swap the ESN?
you: Yes, please.
pp: Will be done in a moment.
you: Cool.
pp: It's done, anything else?
you: No, thank you!
pp: You're welcome and thank you for choosing PagePlus.
(Chat closed)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hanghouts voice is not dependable

Sometimes, the app rings but the call is already disconnected when you pick up. This is especially guaranteed to happen in the morning on the very first call of the day. Not something new though, I have seen such behavior on other VOIP apps, such as Acrobits and Talkatone.

There are quite some VOIP apps for Android, but most of them have another big problem: they prevent your phone from sleep - your phone runs hot and battery drains quickly. Acrobits (newer versions), CSipSimple and Bria are such examples.

Sipdroid is the only Android app that does not have those issues, because it is all written for native Android, all new from scratches. It really idles, allowing the phone to go into deep sleep and still reliably receive calls. You can add G.729 codec to it.

However, there is a 5-year-old bug in Sipdroid. It'll lose registration after a while, especially after a change in network status, e.g., switching between WiFi and 3G or an Internet interruption. After looking into the source code and many tests, I'm happy to report: I fixed this bug.

If you need a dependable VOIP on your phone, the only available choice is Sipdroid and a SIP server that's done right, such as KOTS VOIP.  No extra battery drain, reliable calls in and out, period.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

ZTE Concord II, a very cheap and solid hotspot

For only $19.00, you can get a ZTE Concord II 4G phone. This is by far the best phone for being used as a hotspot. Other T-Mobile phones such as the Galaxy Light and LG L70, all have hotspot function crippled - they clear routing table every hour or so.

Why use a phone other than a MiFi or 3G router? Because an Android phone is far more flexible. For example, you can let the hotspot go through a VPN and/or proxy connection. And for $19, it is also far cheaper than any MiFi or 3G router.

There are two versions of this Concord II: T-Mobile and MetroPCS, their firmware are slightly different but compatible. I.e., you may flash a T-Mobile FW to a MetroPCS, vice versa. The one I got is a T-Mobile; so if any of the followings do not apply to the MetroPCS version, at least you can flash it to T-Mobile to get all the same functions.

First thing first with any phone is to root it. Fortunately it is very easy, just run a batch script:

Optionally, you may remove blotware, also explained in above link. There is a link to a MetroPCS FW too. A list of what I removed can be found at the bottom of this article. You may not have to remove anything, but some of them such as Lookout and SetupWizard might do very bad things under the backgroud to damage a smooth hotspot experience.

After root, we can run WiFi Tether Router to make it a hotpsot and it works perfectly with the default configuration without any tweak, see above photo. Experienced random disconnects (then reconnected by itself), changed from WPA2 to WPA then problem solved.

Chinese is one of the built-in languages; the other two are Spanish and English.

The only downside: no LTE. This is actually a good thing to me, because LTE is weak and slow in my area, saving me the hassle to disable LTE. So far this is the best hotspot I have had - the most dependable and the fastest.

[update] Xposed can be installed through the installation mode of recovery (flash zip automatically). Then Moto Tether module can be added for bypassing hotspot provisioning.

Bought an unlock code for $12 from phones.outlet on ebay because of 100% positive feedback. The code arrived after about 7 hours and worked (a metroPCS version). 

Removed apps: