Monday, 7 February 2011

Mobile Internet Computer, getting sorted for the spring

In the last fifteen years or so having some sort of computer at home that is connected to the internet has moved from being something that only the very rich or the very geeky have, to something that everyone has.

Over that period of time the people who don’t have an internet connection have now become the exception rather than the rule, those who are left in this position are mostly seen as either the very poor, very stubborn or very unlucky.

The next thing to come along after having an internet connection at home was some sort of mobile computer, allowing you to browse the internet, send and receive emails and in some cases publish to the internet while not sitting in front of your desktop computer.

This mobility comes in various levels sizes and costs and I have found recently is not completely understood by many of the people I know here in Thanet. This post is for them and really won’t be of any use to the very computerate.

The lowest level of this mobility is being able to use a computer while sitting in the armchair, instead of sitting at a desk as the desktop implies.

Secondhand laptops start at less than £100 and new ones starting around £200, most people who have the internet at home will already have a wireless signal in their house, coming from their modem, the thing that plugs into the phone socket.

This means with a bit of configuring it should go online without being being plugged into anything.

Pros and cons

The cons mostly relate to older and cheaper laptops.

It may get too hot resulting in an irritating whirring noise from the cooling fan and ultimately the thing crashing and having to be left to cool down.

It may not have built a built in wireless connection meaning that you may have to buy a card that sticks in the side to make it connect without wires.

The keyboard may be too small for you to type on easily, solution plug a normal keyboard into it.

The touchpad alternative to a mouse may be too difficult for you to operate, solution plug in a normal mouse.

If it is too large it may be difficult to carry around.

A secondhand laptop is likely to need a new battery costing between £20 and £30.

It may have an unfamiliar operating system, to save money like Linux.

It may have a very short battery life.

The one I use out and about is a Toshiba NB 100, left of the picture above, I would say it is a reasonable compromise, my older laptop had all of the above problems.

Out and about

If your laptop gets the internet wireless at home then it should do so out and about, I would say about half of the cafés and restaurants have a usable free WiFi connection including all McDonalds, The Belgium Café and most of the restaurants in Ramsgate, BeBeached on the harbour arm in Margate and Morelli's in Broadstairs.

Some expect you to pay for it and they have now lost my custom.

You can pay for a dongle which is a thing that you stick in one of the usb sockets and picks up an internet signal via mobile phone signals, you can expect to pay £20 to £30 per month for this facility, this is too much for me and an alternative is comin up later in the post.


The thing that says BELKIN on it in the picture is a universal car power supply, it plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter socket and charges your laptop while you are driving along. This one also charges my mobile phone.

A laptop charger will use over 100 watts so it is best not to use it when the engine is stopped as you may flatten your car battery.

On holiday or during some sort of crisis you may find this a very useful piece of equipment.

The internet phone

The costs

Over the past few years you may have received an email saying sent from my Raspberry iPad or some such thing and assumed that this is a facility available only to the rich or flatulent or even someone who has a special apartment for sending emails from.

There is a new and a secondhand road here and various deals available, the thing in the picture that looks like Minime is my very old internet phone.

Various members of the family have different gadgets that perform roughly the same functions costing between £30 (the one in the picture) and £300.

Different mobile phone companies have different deals for mobile internet access at the moment and because of this it is often cheaper to buy through them if you are going for a new phone, even if you are contemplating pay as you go rather than a contract.

Assuming that cheap internet is the primary function of your phone then the cheapest available at the moment is T Mobile, see

One of my family bought the T-Mobile Pulse Mini this way, this has proved to be very good value, cost £60 including £10 top up 6 months internet connection, subsequent internet connection will cost £20 for 6 months.

The way I did this with my old phone was a free sim card, £5 top up and £20 for 6 months internet access.

To be honest buying the new phone is by far the best deal for most people.

If money is no object here then a new iPad will do the job fine.

What an internet phone does

The things an ordinary mobile phone does.

Apart from going ping when you get a phone call, bing when you get a text message it also goes parp when you get an email.

Providing you have a phone signal it will also let you go online, look at websites comment on blogs etc.

Other things it may do

Connect to your laptop so that your laptop can go online using the phone as a modem.

Let you watch moving images on youtube and the BBC etc.


These are extra applications that you can download onto your phone, some are free some cost.

An example of this is ShopSavvy this one uses your phone’s camera to read barcodes and you phones internet connection to compare prices online.

So if you intend to buy something you can point your phone at it and make sure the price is reasonable.

An important consideration here is that older phones may not be able to run the latest operating systems, so there will be hardly any apps available for them.


  1. What's this internet thing that everyone is talking about?

  2. Exactly what I was thinking John. Please email me details on this internet thingy to my mobile phone, I am interested :)

  3. I'm a huge fan of the internet and laptops.

    I haven't, however, quite got into the hype surrounding mobile internet.

    With mobile internet, you're always connected. I think we have to distinguish our real lives from the internet, and it's unhealthy to be connected 24/7.

  4. John, 11.34 and Daniel. I have to admit I didn’t expect any comments on this post, which I put up for the benefit of several people who have asked me about mobile internet recently.

    I think my main point here is about cost, something very pertinent in Thanet.

    There were two main groups who I wrote this for and frankly I went off a bit toward the end, hence the car.

    One group haven’t got their own internet connection at all and at £80 for one years connection and £40 for subsequent years including equipment, I think this is probably the cheapest entry level.

    The other group already have a desktop computer, but have probably reached a point where life would become difficult if they couldn’t access it for several days.

    I think that it is probably a case of many people looked into various aspects of mobile internet when it first appeared and was expensive and unreliable.

    Being in business most of my internet use relates to my business and mobile access just helps during what are difficult times, oddly enough two of the people who asked me about this recently are in business, hadn’t got mobile internet access, something that had recently cost them.

    Another problem here is that internet cafés seem to be in decline in this area, so I see a lot of people in the bookshop who are travelling around trying to find one.

  5. I pay a heavy £27 a month for my home broadband as often we rack up 100 Gb of data use!

  6. I pay £24 a month: this gives me unlimited broadband internet usage plus free anytime telephone calls to UK Geo numbers and to 171 foreign countries. That's with Orange.

  7. I have some sort of similar thing with AOL although the primary function is the business and therefore continuity of service is primary, I have only had my connection go down for about three days in ten years I think I am paying about £15 per month.

    With several children then most of the TV watched probably comes via the internet and of course I publish a lot to the web.

    Frankly I am surprised by how cheap and reliable the mobile connection is, although of course it wouldn’t be any use for large amounts of data.

    I bought a couple of books in other shops this month, that I wouldn’t have bought if I hadn’t been able to look them up there online and as one I paid £5 for has just sold for £30 so as far as I am concerned it’s an economic proposition.

    I have to admit the only thing that I can’t find is a modern phone with a keypad suitable for big fingers so I am stuck with the very dated one I have.


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