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  #1  
Old 07-09-2002
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Internet Connections

I would like to cruise all over the Caribbean but I need an internet connection for 2-3 hours per day for work. I would rather not stay at a marina every day but donít know what options are out there. Can anyone offer any info on this that I can start researching?
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Old 07-09-2002
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Internet Connections

Sharlyn:

You''re asking how to arrange a common connection on Mars, Venus & Jupiter. Some folks try to use a cell across these different island nations, but it often falls apart - and the reconnection fees are steep, to boot. You''ll find shoreside cafes to be fairly common (and you can shape your itineary to line you up with good cafes) but I gather from your note that hopping into the dink and going ashore each day may not be realistic. (If you''re really hoping to cruise, it isn''t!) Moreover, web costs are pretty steep in some places...and of course, you''re checked out to use the French keyboard, right?

You''ll notice I have avoided talking about connection speed, let alone reliability of the connection.

Some folks (not only for work reasons but also because they want to remain tied to the Grid) choose to oscillate around in each region until they can find a shoreside cafe that''s acceptable and then stay rooted to that island or anchorage. Others accept that dependable Web connections are not part of our regular technical diet, at least not yet and not thru-out the Caribbean.

Sorry I can''t be more reassuring. Could you accept visiting a few places for extended periods, where fairly reliable service is available? That''s the best compromise I can imagine.

Jack
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Old 07-10-2002
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Internet Connections

That''s not what I wanted to hear. You were supposed to say "Of course, haven''t you heard of....it''s cheap and simple and works great!"

I may have to see what I can do offline and then do quick emails or hit the Internet cafe on shore.

What about GSM. A friend mentioned this to me but I''m not quite sure what it is or how it works. Is it just the same as cell phone service?

Thanks for the earlier info.

Sharlyn
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Old 07-10-2002
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There are several options availabe that will vary in cost depending on your need for speed and reliability.

1. SSB/ SailMail. You can use an SSB radio and special modem to connect your laptop and send emails. It is very low cost ($200 per yr) BUT...it is slow, emails have to be limited, no net surfing and is not suppose to be used for biz. There are other SSB email services that can be used for biz, info is available on the net. An SSB might cost $1400, the modem an addition $200 or so.

2. Cellular (GSM etc). Next in cost would be a cell phone connected to your laptop via a cable from thesupplynet.com (about $30). This is a simple and inexpensive solution in the US. In the Caribean the issue will be coverage and cost. If you can find cheap, reliable cellular service in the caribean, this would be your best option. You can send larger emails and surf the net. Cost would be whatever the cellular cost is with hopefully some unlimited usage period. Lots of info available on cell service in the caribean. You might even find coverage from a US provider like Verizon.

3. Iridium and Globalstar. These are sat phones. Like cell phones, they can be connected to your laptop. They are reliable, can be used ANYwhere and offer fast connections. They are uniformly $1.50/min in cost (phones cost $800)

4. Inmarsat. Another sat system. Expensive

5. PocketMail. This is a cheap acoustic modem built into a neat little device that you can type short emails on. You hold it to a regular telephone and dial up the service (800 number). Cost is 10/mo for the service and whatever the phone call costs you (not cheap from the islands to the service in the US). Data rate is very very very SLOW (300 baud...not 300k or 3k...300). But it is an option. Emails have to be very short. No net surfing.

Sounds like you need to spend time online and wish to do this aboard rather than on land. My suggestion is check out cellular service in the islands.

Hope this helps. Let us know what you find. Need help in your biz... I would love to find a job I could do 3 hrs a day from my boat in the Caribean :O)

All the best

John
sv Invictus
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Old 07-11-2002
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Concerning Iridium/Globalstar, I would have to say that "fast" is a relative concept. Yes, these devices are faster than an SSB (@240bps), but I really wouldn''t consider 9600 bps fast enough for anything other than email.

If you want fast (56kbps or better) I believe the only solution is the hideously expensive Inmarsat, or maybe the two-way internet access from DirecTV (provided you remain in the coverage area). Either way, its going to cost BIG BUCKS.

Graham
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Old 07-12-2002
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A couple of tag-ons given the other comments:

1. SSB email is neither a ''web access'' system nor cheap. It''s also not as slow as referenced above. Airmail is free (the ham system), Sailmail is $200/year for approx. 10 min/day access, but both require a SSB (assume an Icom 706 at $1000 w/ tax), most likely an auto-tuner (assume an SGC at $400) and at least a PTC IIe TNC (''modem'') at $600. So it''s a 2BU ($2K U.S.) purchase plus antenna and counterpoise install for up to 1200 baud data rate that provides email capability and, WRT Airmail, wx fax/sat pix/text forecast data. It''s a wonderful system I appreciate immensely and IMO a huge improvement in safety aboard an offshore boat...but it lacks web access and, since the commercial system (Sailmail) has the 10 min/day limitation, is far from what was being asked for.
2. Cell service in the islands is not about ''equipment'' (your laptop, your cell phone, the data rate provided by the shoreside cell) but rather about island-to-island access. The drill is to arrive at the next island (if a different govt''l entity than the last one), take your cell phone to the local govt. or private Telcom office, and have it reregistered for a fee (if it''s compatible at all) before it will work. Just imagine being somewhere in Europe of the 1950''s, with each country doing its own thing, and you get a sense for the govt''l environment among the many island nations of the Caribbean.
3. If I''d heard something well below "3 hrs/day" in usage and the need was mostly for email vs. website access, I''d be more encouraging about an Irridium phone. In Trinidad recently, the local provider was offering a better all-around deal fo the low-time user (phone+access fee+per/min cost) than the TT folks were offering for a regular cell phone. But with much useage and at the current data rates, it''s not adequate for the useage I heard being described.

Some folks who stay in touch with Publishers on a regular basis - one good example of how folks deal with the business world while out cruising - rely on a web-based email address (e.g. Hotmail) and decent shoreside cafe services. If that''s not available, they wait until they move on. (Beth Leonard & Steve Pavlidis are both examples of this). When this doesn''t fit the business need, they may move to a Sat Comm system when necessary, but are VERY careful about who has access to their number and how often they have the system up & running. John Neal (Mahina Services) and a friend of ours who is an occasional ''cruising investment advisor'' choose this approach (when the previous option isn''t timely enough).

It would be great if there were better answers to this puzzle, but folks seem to make it work despite the limited technology in place for now.

Jack
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Old 07-13-2002
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The Magellan is still working just fine....If you need text only messages than the Magellan gsc100 works fine .I leave my unit on constantly by a 12v adapter and a two way vhf antenna spliter. works worldwide, I get messages from the kids several times a day. $30 a month for unlimited messages, It''s also a gps and you can insert you position with your message.
C
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Old 07-16-2002
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Magellan gsc100 email:

Unit cost about $1000 and service is $30/mo. Service allows for only 200, 500 or 2000 characters (thats a very short email), depending on which SAT is in range. You get only 10 sends per month, after which you pay $0.01 per character. Servce includes 30 email ''checks'' per month (msgs again limited to 2000 characters).

Interesting, but sounds like about the same capability as SSB email. I would think the cost of Iridium or Globalstar is somewhat competitive and their capability (including net surfing however slow at 9600 or 14.4k bps) much greater.

I wonder if a cheap global pager would be more worthwhile?
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Old 07-17-2002
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Wow! Thanks everyone for the info. It''s a lot to take in and I''ll have to determine what is really going to be necessary.

thanks again,
Sharlyn
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Old 07-23-2002
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Just when you thought it was safe to cruise and get away from the office...

Got a notice today from my ISP, Earthlink, that TWO-WAY SATELITE high speed internet service is available for $70/mo. 400kbps. The sat is in geosynchronous orbit 22,400 mi out, in the southern sky, so its horizon may be such that you could ping it from the islands.

Maybe this is an option for you.

www.earthlink.net

I think that *I* am now going to do more to AVOID email while I am on my boat :O)))))

Hope this helps!!!???
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