Tech Q&A: Satellite Internet access in wilderness is costly, slow

2013-03-24T00:00:00Z Tech Q&A: Satellite Internet access in wilderness is costly, slowSteve Alexander (minneapolis) Star Tribune Arizona Daily Star

Q: I'm planning a trip to the interior of Alaska, including some remote villages, and I want to be able to send emails and transmit digital photos back to friends and family members. I'm told that satellite Internet access should be available in most locations. Should I take a smartphone or a tablet computer?

A: You're going to need mostly satellite gear if you're going to remote areas of Alaska, where minimal satellite connections are likely to be all that's available.

You can send email and make voice calls with a satellite phone, although the Internet upload speed is less than one-twentieth the speed of a dial-up connection (only 2,400 bits per second.) You can rent the phone you need for the Iridium satellite network for $60 a week and $1.75 per talking minute (see tinyurl.com/d2v9oqu).

Sending your photos home is going to be slow and expensive. You'd need an Iridium phone accessory such as the AxcessPoint Connect, which rebroadcasts the satellite signal as a Wi-Fi signal that your tablet computer or smartphone could use. It's available at tinyurl.com/cshzuuw online. The device can be rented for $50 for two weeks - see tinyurl.com/bv59e2v - but transmitting data costs additional air-time minutes. As a result, uploading a single 3-megabyte photo would take more than 20 minutes and cost about $35.

Q: After I loaded Windows Vista Service Pack 2 on my PC, my flash memory card readers were no longer visible in Windows Explorer, even though the PC says they're operating correctly. I'm also getting Code 10 and Code 43 errors. Any suggestions?

A: The Service Pack 2 update caused your problem, probably because it's not compatible with the driver software for your flash memory cards (codes 10 and 43 often signify driver issues.)

You've got two choices: Undo the Service Pack 2 update, or download new software drivers for your memory cards.

Undoing the software update is easy, but you'll be giving up the enhancements it provides, which include the ability to record on Blu-ray disks, improved PC power management and the correction of some flaws in Vista. To remove the update, go to "Start," click "All Programs," choose "Accessories," click on "System Tools" and click "System Restore." Pick a calendar date before the update (note that all programs you've installed since the date you select will also be uninstalled).

Alternatively, you can download new software drivers for your memory cards. The easiest way to find them is to use a search engine to find the word string "manufacturer name+card model+driver."

Steve Alexander covers technology. Email questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com Please include a full name, city and phone number.

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