Monday, 1 February 2016

Got it solved

This is mostly a follow-up nerdy post about our internet connection but for those readers who aren’t interested I’ll briefly mention lunch

We decided to eat at the nearby Toby Carvery which I think might be the first time we’ve visited one of these establishments.  They are part of a chain and this one is down beside the canal.  I thought its location might make it popular in summer but didn’t expect many patrons in winter.  I was wrong erred in my judgement!  The place was packed with an hour wait for a table if you hadn’t booked.  We were fortunate that there had been a late cancellation for a table for two.  We ordered the meal and drinks.  The latter arrived promptly and then Jan decided to check the carvery service.  She was gone ages, eventually returning with a loaded plate and the advice “There’s a very long queue!”  I then headed off to get my meal.  By the time I had my meal and returned to our table Jan had eaten hers.


A blurred photo as my hands were trembling with lack of energy. Smile  A large portion and apart from the roast spuds, rather tasty  7/10.  Later in the afternoon I walked to Go Outdoors in Stoke where I ordered a second pair of walking shoes for Jan.  They will have to come from another stores which will give me a second walk.

Now for the nerdy part.

I’m going to attempt to simply explain how I managed to maximize our internet access.  We currently have a mobile phone plan which gives us an unlimited internet data allowance.  But only on the phone.  If we “tether” other devices to the phone and use them to gain access to the internet our data allowance is limited.  Our current setup is shown in the following diagram.

Tethering 1

When tethering is activated on the mobile phone we can access the internet through the phone using tablets, laptops, etc. However all the data is sent unencrypted.  Moreover the tethered devices send a small burst of information at the beginning of the connection which includes the type of device and operating system.  The mobile phone provide uses this information to detect tethering has been activated and measures the volume of data used deducting it from our monthly tethering allowance.

What I wanted to do was use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)  this is software which is installed onto the phone and encrypts all the data being sent and received by the phone.  Moreover this data goes directly down a tunnel where it can’t be followed.  Because the data is encrypted the mobile phone provider doesn’t know devices have been tethered.  Instead it looks like all the data originates from the phone.  The setup would look like this.

Tethering 2However it is impossible to create this type of setup when using an Android phone.  This is because Android doesn’t allow a phone to simultaneously run a VPN and tether other devices.

Before arriving in the UK we bought a ZOOM portable wireless router and I recently discovered it could be tethered to an Android phone.  I thought I had a solution, but there was a problem.  The router is now old (well it’s 5 years old and that’s not old by my standard) and will only work with Android version 2.3.6.  As our new Samsung S4 phones use Android version 4 they wouldn’t work with the router.  To resolve this I reverted to using our very old Samsung S1.  I could tether the router to the phone but this raised another problem.  The Virtual Private Network (VPN) program wouldn’t install on the old phone.  It required at least Android version 4. 

After a considerable amount of fiddling around I’ve been able to install the VPN software onto the phone and tether the route.  The system looks like the following.

Tethering 3

The phone is connected to the internet through the VPN sending and receiving encrypted data and the router is connected to the phone by a USB cable.  The tablets, laptop, etc wirelessly link to the router to gain access to the internet.  Everything works. 


A bit messy, but this is the setup with the phone at the top and the wireless router at the bottom connected by a usb cable.

However all this data encryption and additional networking slows down the internet.   Moreover we’re currently not exceeding our tethering allowance so there’s currently no requirement for us to use the VPN or the Zoom router.  But it was an interesting challenge!  Smile


Nev Wells said...

Interesting post re the vpn. I did wonder how 3 knew what data was being used via tethered device. Could you not connect the tablet and computer to the wireless router via vpn so not needing to use vpn from the phone therefore getting faster internet ?

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Nev,
I'm not sure how I can test whether that configuration is actually working. Worth thinking about.