Tech Toys & Topics

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
Oct 152011

My pals Ron and Brenda Speidel call me Gadget Boy for good reason; I do love my toys! I’m not as bad (or maybe as wealthy) as my friend Phil May from TechnoRV, who always seems to have something new that I didn’t know I couldn’t live without, but I do appreciate things that make my job and my life easier.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the Docuscan portable document scanner I got from Phil, and the more I use it, the more I like it. Yesterday I tried out another new tech gadget for our business, that my friend Dave Damon introduced me to at our Ohio rally in Celina. It’s called the Square, and it’s a nifty little credit card reader that plugs into an iPad, iPhone, or many smart phones.

Square iPad

Square phone

For years we have only been been able to accept credit card payments online with PayPal, but at RV rallies or when somebody stops by and wanted to make a purchase, we had to ask for cash or a check, since we had not found an affordable, mobile credit card processing solution. The Square is free, and when a merchant swipes a customer’s credit or debit card to make a sale, the money is deposited into his designated bank account within 24 hours. The merchant fees are in line with what PayPal charges us, and it’s fast and easy to use.

I went online to set up an account with Square, and the card reader arrived a couple of days ago. Yesterday I gave it a try, using my debit card to make a $5 purchase from myself. I plugged the Square into my Droid Incredible, went to the Square app, (which is free), swiped the card and entered the purchase amount. It asked for the purchaser’s e-mail address or phone number to send a receipt, I entered my e-mail address, and within a few seconds the receipt showed up in my in box, complete with a map of where I was when the transaction took place. The map is so detailed that it actually showed where we are parked here at Elkhart Campground. Way cool!

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I was having problems getting online with my iPad on AT&T. I have never been happy with AT&T’s 3G service, and more often than not I use the WiFi signal from our Verizon air card and  Cradlepoint wireless router to get online with it, since the AT&T signal is so flakey much of the time. But there are times when I am away from the motorhome and want to use the iPad.

Yesterday we stopped at the local Verizon store to pay our phone bill, and I got to talking to a young man there about the Verizon MiFi device. Smaller than a cell phone, it allows up to five computers or other wireless devices to get online at once, at 4G speeds. I am paying $30 a month for the AT&T 3G service, and with my veteran’s discount from Verizon, the MiFi is $41 a month for 5 GB of service. I think it’s time to say adios to AT&T and go with the MiFi. I’ll still keep my 3G air card, which has unlimited service for now, and we’ll see how this works out between now and when my contract expires in January.  If any of you have a Verizon MiFi, I’d like to have your input on it. 

After Bad Nick wrote about freedom of speech in yesterday’s Bad Nick Blog, I decided to share some thoughts on freedom of the press in my self-publishing blog. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes I laugh so hard the tears run down my leg!

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Check Out Nick’s E-books In Our E-Book Store


Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  24 Responses to “Tech Toys & Topics”

  1. Love the Mi-Fi – we have the 4G. You may have another option though … your Droid Incredible probably has the ability to be a Hotspot itself. Why buy another device? Oh yeah, to add to your gadget collection! I can understand that 🙂

  2. Nick,
    You asked for input on Verizon Mifi. Unfortunately, we had the same throttled speed problem with Verizon that you had with AT@T. The problem became so unusable that while we were parked for the summer we suspended Verizon and ordered Road Runner so we could have high speed. In theory, the 4G that Verizon is offering should be faster than the 3G service. The problem is that they have only rolled out 4G in major cities and not in all areas. So your speed may vary a lot. The device will have to switch back and forth depending on the type of signal it locates. All these wireless companies WAY overpromise and WAY oversell their capacity. This frustrates customers,,,,,,,,,,the companies do not care. They have you on the hook for the contract.
    As a reformed techie geek ( and computer system administrator) I have one piece of advice. Patience grasshopper!!!!!
    Whenever you see a “gotta have” technology wait a least 6 months. A year is better. It will get more stabile, the software will get debugged and the price will probably go down.

    Good luck.

  3. No external antenna connection.

  4. The mifi will act just like your aircard. If you have slow speeds on your Verizon aircard in an area, the same will apply to the mifi. (The mifi is just an aircard and router combined in a small form factor). If you are really hot on having a mifi I suggest you look at the Millenicom offerings. With that you can get 10G of 3G data, and 10 G of 4G data. Although you may not need that much….but take a look.

    I also agree that you should consider activating the wifi hotspot on your phone for occasional use…but that may not give you the amount of data you want. Again….worth a look.

  5. Hi Nick and Terri. We were in Elkhart having a hitch installed on our new truck and stopped by the campground to say hi on Friday morning. We know the rule about the front being closed so I left a card in the door. It was so windy that it could have blown away. Maybe we will meet some other time down the road. Thanks for the great blog and newspaper.

  6. We have a Verizon mi-fi as a back-up. We normally tether our Droid phones to our laptops using PDAnet. Reason is, we have (grandfathered) unlimited data on EACH of our phones, but have to SHARE limited data on the wi-fi (we have 3 GB limit). Also, I read that AT&T has faster data than Verizon, but crappier talk signals. Not sure about that, but you can check your download speed using (they have a free app in the Android Market). I normally get between .7 and 1.1 mpbs speed on good days, but I’ve gotten as low as .2 or .3 mbps on bad days (that’s 200-300 kbps, which is slooooow).

  7. Square is great. I bought some berries at a farmer’s market using my credit card since the vendor had a Square unit. I felt like I was back in Europe in 1999 where every flea market vendor had a portable credit card machine.

  8. I love both my Square and my MIFI. You will too!!

  9. Happy Birthday old boy. You didn’t say anything about today being your Birthday. 🙂

  10. Nick, I think you’ll be happy with your Verizon MiFi. I got one this past summer while in MO because our park wifi was so unreliable and my AT&T tether wasn’t much better. I have really been happy with it. I’m in AJ, AZ for the Winter and my speed today is 3.84 mbps upload and 1.04 mbps down. I do have an external antenna hooked up but I still get good 4G without it. You can use your “Wilson Trucker” just by getting a new adapter cable from 3GStore. One thing I would suggest is a aftermarket extended life battery. The stock battery lasts about 3-4 hours. I purchased an extended life battery on the internet for $90 and now I can run on battery for 9-10 hrs.

  11. He’s OLD and probable FORGOT!!!!

  12. Happy Birthday Nick! May you have many more. Take a break from getting your next issue out and do something crazy. Be safe.

  13. We have Verizon MiFi for years and we absolutely LOVE IT! Whenever we hear folks complaining about not having signal, we always do. There have been areas when nothing works and we still get some sort of signal, slow but better than anything else in the area we are in.

    We are updating our phones to get smart ones and we will then test the hotspot on the phones verses the MiFi cards, but for now we have always been satisfied with our service with Verizon, for phones and internet service.

  14. I’ve been using a MiFi for almost a year and a half since we starting fulltiming. It is the only way I have of getting online as so much of park’s wifi is not so good. I use it for my laptop, ipad, and iPod Touch. It is perfect for when I go somewhere (shopping, laundermat, ect.) and take my Touch. The MiFi fits into my Touch’s case perfectly and I can check my e-mail anywhere, along with anything that I need to get online for. I would not be without it.

  15. Just a comment for everyone who is leaving comments … notice the sideways blue G on your comment vs the photo on mine? It’s *really* easy to have your picture show up. Just go to – that stands for Globally Recognized Avatar – upload your photo there. Lots of sites use it.

  16. Nick, in our first month with WiFi, we learned quickly that we will not be watching youtubes and streaming video with 5GB limits. Otherwise, we love it and just dropped Time Warner Cable. When in 4g areas, it is very fast for us.

    The one suggestion about tethering a phone – just understand those limits too. It would be cheaper for us to bump up to 10 GB on the Samsung LC-11 than to add the tethering feature to even one phone.

    What we are learning is to use our phones as much as possible to clean out emails before downloading them to the tablet or laptop.

    @Chris – thanks for the gravatar hint !

  17. Just got my Mifi a couple of days ago to replace the 4G Verizon Modem I got a couple of days before that! The modem dropped me every few minutes so they gave me this. It’s wonderful — when I can connect… I seem to have a “hardware radio button” problem whatever that is… I don’t think it’s a Mifi problem. I troubleshoot through all kinds of windows and finally get it recognized but by then I can’t remember what the heck I just did. LOL. Will have to go back to the store when I get back in town and hope they can get me on quickly. My old 3G Verizon modem was wonderful — just slow — and the service contract was $10 more a month than this 5 gigabite contract.

  18. Hi – I’ve been very happy with my Verizon air card and am thinking about upgrading it for the MiFi as my husband now has a laptop too. I’m wondering if it has enough speed to use Skype successfully. Any comments? We’ll be spending the winter in an RV park in Casa Grande, AZ.

  19. Way cool! is right. I never wouda thought this old fart could learn so much from another old fart! I love the scanner you mentioned and will be looking into one this month for our use. That Square thingy would be perfect for a mobile business owner. As a new fan of Gypsy Journal, we have really been enjoying your posts & Bad Nicks rants.

    Terry & I both have Verizon service now- again … we had it back when we drove truck in 2003-2007. Recently I tried T-Mobile for a couple years when 1 of the Verizon contracts ended and it worked fine while we were living in Sierra Vista, AZ. Once we got back on the road full-time this July, my T-Mobile wasn’t dependable and Terry ALWAYS had Verizon service – even in the NM mountains.

    So, I signed another 2-year contract and bought the Samsung DROID Charge. Boy, do I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. We use it’s GPS and “Places” app all the time to discover what is located near us at the moment. I do much of our banking on the DROID and with the Charge’s car cradle in place, we don’t use the old TomTom anymore.

    As a matter of fact, we are on a bus conversion search right now and discovered a 1977 Newell for sale just 20 miles up the road yesterday. Kept me up til after 1am this morning checking out the Newell forum.

    TIP on MiFi: make sure it’s secure – friends of ours bought one and got an $800 bill from Verizon one month. Apparently everyone else in the truck stops had been using their MiFi connection when they didn’t even turn their PC on!

  20. A vendor at Escapade in Gillette was using a credit card scanner with his cell phone (not sure what style/brand) and he kept swiping our card trying to get a response. Ended up billing us five times that we then had to get removed via VISA customer service. Worth watching….

  21. Happy Birthday Nick! I got my Mifi last year. I can plug it into my computer . The only time it was slow, was when we used Skype at certain places. My contract is for 2 years.At that time I can upgrade. Have a great Birthday!!

  22. We have the 4G mifi and love it. Good service in 3G areas, even better in 4G service locations–except when too many people are on line. But always reliable.

  23. When I switched from my aircard to the myfi I used the 3gstare and they where able to transfer my unlimited plan to the mifi.

  24. Nick,
    I almost bought a MiFi, but declined to do so after reading user comments. A lot of users reported that the internal battery overheats if you leave it plugged in (charging) all the time. Many users reported that the plastic case started bulging and cracking.

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