Working Net Connection on a Train?
May 7, 2007 2:23 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to get net access on the train from Minneapolis to Milwaukee?

I work on the Empire Builder going between Minneapolis and Milwaukee (and back again) quite frequently. I'd like to be able to use my company's VPN to retrieve e-mail and do occasional source code updates from the SVN server while on the train.

I currently use the GPRS modem in my Cingular phone to get a connection, but it tends to be very slow and intermittent. Without a solid net connection for at least 30 seconds or so, the VPN connection gets dropped.

There are two train stations along the way with open net access points, but that only gives me 1-3 minutes of network connection to do all the internet conversations I need.

Anyone have any better ideas that I'm missing?

PS: It'd be interesting to hear user opinions on whether or not a long chain of 802.11 access points would work along the track.
posted by yellowbkpk to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does Cingular support UMTS in your area? If so, a UMTS card for your laptop would work. It might be pretty pricey to use, but for short bursts it would be plenty manageable.

Otherwise, consider a Verizon or Sprint EVDO card. Similar speeds, but only supported by those two carriers. You would have to open a new account with them. On the other hand, if Cingular's poor network coverage is a contributing factor in your current problems, this might be the more reliable choice anyway.
posted by autojack at 3:10 PM on May 7, 2007

It'd be interesting to hear user opinions on whether or not a long chain of 802.11 access points would work along the track.

Technically, yes - see Wireless Distribution System.
posted by niles at 3:54 PM on May 7, 2007

Get an EVDO card, unless HSDPA is supported in that area. I use EVDO all the time when I travel, and get coverage nearly everywhere. I'd recommend Sprint if they cover the area, if for no other reason that they're a lot freer about how you can use your connection generally.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:13 PM on May 7, 2007

nth for EVDO. I (and many others) use it while rail-commuting in the SF Bay Area. Sprint and Verizon both rock. Your coverage may vary.

Look around on the train. If you see someone online, ask them what they're using and whether they are happy with it.
posted by zippy at 12:23 AM on May 8, 2007

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