Monthly Archives: May 2010

mifi world!! pocket hotspot on the go!

huawei i moa week ago, I picked up my newest gadget, the Huawei E5830. This is a personal wifi hotspot, something similar to the Novatel MiFi, available with Verizon (US) or M1 (Singapore).

My sister has the MiFi from M1 and she complains the same issue that many users have; the unit overheats. When it gets too hot, it just shuts down without warning! For my sister it seems to get to that point in 5mins of usage.

So, together, we picked up the Huawei E5830. In Singapore, there are 2 ways to buy that device. 1, with a contract with Singtel (one of the major telco), or 2, from 3rd party resellers.

The Singtel option is costly, and also did not apply for us as we have existing contracts for our data plan. The alternative is 3rd party resellers. Just about all of these 3rd party resellers sells the unlocked model from 3-UK. So it seems that the 3 UK could be the best provider in the world that offers the device with a nice pre-paid data plan. This makes the device available at a pretty reasonable price. In addition, some people have got their hands on the unlock code for the device and managed to unlock the devices and even change the firmware.

With the unlock and firmware upgrade, this device becomes usable with any 3G telcos in the world. It’s easy to find many people trying to sell this on eBay. For us, we found someone in Singapore who have brought in a large quantity of these devices and selling them at a slightly higher price than we can find in eBay. For the higher premium, at least we’ll get a better chance of some sort of “warranty” if we find any problems with the units.

The Huawei E5380 is slighly bigger than the first generation HSDPA USB modem. As it has a rechargeable battery inside, it weighs a little bit more, but still fairly light to carry around easily. Opening up the unit to slide in the SIM card is very similar to most mobile phones. To operate the unit, there are 3 buttons, power, wifi & 3G connect.

  • Power – toggles the unit on and off
  • wifi – toggles the wifi served on and off
  • connect – gets the unit to establish a connection to the internet

The unit is pre-configured with WPA encrypted wifi out of the box. The WPA key is on a sticker next to the SIM card slot, so make sure to take note of the key when inserting the SIM card.

Once we power up the unit, give it about 30s to 1min to boot up, and when the “W” icon lights up, the WIFI is on and you can get your notebook, iPad, etc.. to search for the signal. Follow the standard way on your device to connect to a wifi.

If your unit has the firmware that has web management capabilities, just launch your favorite browser and point it to Login with the default credentials and it will take you to the web administration portal. For Starhub users, there’s actually nothing much to do, the unit will just work straight away. If you are a M1 or Singtel user, you’ll need to make some changes to the APN profile. Likewise if your provider requires some unique APN setup, this will have to be done.

One nice feature is that you can configure the unit to connect to 3G manually or on demand. Manually, means you’ll either need to press the button, or get into the web portal and click the “connect” button. On demand means that the 3G will auto connect once there’s a request from a client device to access something on the internet. It can have a time out setting which will disconnect the 3G connection after some time of inactivity. This probably can extend the battery life since the unit don’t have to maintain a permanent connection. On the similar note, the wifi signal can be set to auto-off after a period of inactivity also. This further saves power, but to re-enable wifi signal, you’ll have to press the wifi button on the device.

I’ve been quite happy with the performance of the unit, by specifications it is capable up to 7.2Mbps downstream. In reality, with Singtel as my provider I have reached up to 3Mbps, which for me is very much good enough for internet access on the go.

In addition to the wifi connection it provides, you can use the unit like a USB dongle as well. It has a standard mini-USB jack, and once plugged in, you’ll get the usual virtual CD-ROM drive that contains the connection manager installer. If you’ve used 3G USB dongles before, this will be a familiar ground for you. I have read before that some units will disable 3G when the USB is plugged in. This is not the case for my unit. So, this means that if you are sharing the device with others, and the battery goes low, you can just connect the device to your notebook to charge it up.

In the overall, I’m very pleased with this little investment. It is the perfect companion for iPad users, for people who work on the go, and to share with peers.

If you’ve read about my exploration of MyWi before, I’ll rate this unit to be a much better choice for a few reaons

  1. on top of the list – this device operates in Infrastructure mode (which mywi only works in ad-hoc)
  2. the E5380 offers many more features than MyWi, which one can argue is not critical just to get some internet connection on the go
  3. Since this unit works independently, it takes away the strain from my iPhone
  4. I can easily pass the unit to my wife for her usage, which otherwise I would not be able to do so with my iPhone

True, there’s a higher cost involved compared to just buying MyWi, so, it really comes down to individual situations and preferences.

heads in the cloud (computing)

the past 2 days, I’ve been attending CloudAsia 2010 here in Singapore. There are many talks about what cloud is, is not, should be, etc… and I see a lot of people probably getting confused, and their best association of what cloud is, is Amazon Web Services.

hmm… so, here’s my point of view about what cloud is…

Cloud Computing is just another model for businesses to engage IT services, be it in house or from external partners/vendors. Technology wise, there’s nothing new, and the coolest thing in the technology stack is virtualisation and storage.

Still, what does that mean? Perhaps the easiest way that most people will appreciate it is by taking some known public cloud offerings. One of my favorite example is Google Apps. Take it for granted that Google Apps will host your emails, documents, calendars, and much more. Everything you use on a day to day basis with Google Apps are hosted on Google premises. If you are primarily dependent on Google Apps, you notice that you will barely have any in-house IT resources. Gone were the days where companies have to invest in their own IT department to run and maintain in house set of servers to host emails, websites, collaboration suites, etc. Now, it’s possible to get all of these services just off the web. There’s no more servers to maintain, hardware failure to worry about. Everything has been pushed on to the cloud provider.

So, Google Apps is an example of SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). You merely subscribe to the service to use of the end product from Google. Another popular example of a SaaS provider is

There are many layers in the IT stack that Cloud providers can sell you, e.g. PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), SaaS (Storage-as-a-Service), these are some of the offerings available from Amazon Web Services (AWS). From the presentation today, we learn that PaaS is simply a service where you can purchase and run a VM from AWS which you have complete admin access to. With that, you use it just like any x86 server you have on premise. The difference is that you pay what you use, which one relate to like how electricity is charged. You flick the switch on, the appliance consumes electricity, you pay the $/kWhr. Similarly, AWS will bill you based on the usage of the virtual machine.

Utility based computing is a concept that I’ve heard of since I graduated 10 years ago. However, it did not take off very well until today, when someone coined the term Cloud Computing. Ha! not true, it’s not just because of a brand new phrase that people start to adopt the idea. The very fundamental enabler for Cloud Computing today is the development of some very key technologies.

  1. the proliferation of broadband access for the individuals; without internet broadband to deliver the richness of the web, it will be very difficult to use any service in the Internet cloud.
  2. the development of virtualisation technology; it is because of the current level of maturity of the virtualisation technology that enables a new paradigm of how IT infrastructure can be managed. The shift allows better uptime, ease of management, more efficient use of existing resources and lower total cost of ownership.

Cloud seems to be always associated with better resouce utilisation, balanced workload among the servers, dynamic load sharing, etc… but these only interests the IT folks who manage the infrastructure, not end users. To the end users, it’s becoming more of what sort of web application is available, which they can just “turn on” and use. End users usually do not need to appreciate the underlying technology the enable all these.

For the IT folks who work in organisations that want to go Cloud, it means very different things. For all businesses that want to embrace Cloud, the very fundamental that they need to start is to virtualise their environment. To make use of their existing investment to squeeze every drop out of the resource they have. It’s almost impossible to find any organisation that have IT resources which are 100% utilised all the time, and it’s a good chance that they are idle at least 50% of the time. This is potentially a very good chance to add more load to the servers by means of virtual machines. Once the environment is virtualised, the next step is to become Cloud enabled.

Most organisations will eventually have their own private cloud, which allows business to quickly deploy new services as required. Taking 12 weeks to stand up a new server ready for development and testing, will become a thing of the past. Development teams will be able to self service in deploying virtual machines almost instantaneously. The enables business to become more agile and react even quicker to market demands for the business. This is an example of a large enough enterprise on having their internal private PaaS cloud.

It will become a common sight that many companies will have very much a hybrid cloud model. Some services are provided by internal IT managed private clouds, and some are provided from external public clouds.

To embrace cloud is not simply just dropping everything we have now and sign up to services like Google Apps. That will be too much of a shock to the end users. Some thought and planning have to be done so that the business strategy of IT can be appropriately evaluated and the appropriate choice made. More often than not, the first step is to start by virtualising the existing infrastructure.

Over the next few years, Cloud computing model will be more readily adopted. It will probably be easier for new businesses to go Cloud from the start, but existing business will take time to change. It will be an exciting couple of years watching how new ideas and services will show up on the Internet.