Sunday, 11 July 2010

launch2net premium - Mobile Internet made Easier

I've been using Mobile internet devices ever since they first became available but since moving onto the OS X and Apple platform I've have always found that the software provided leaves a lot to be desired. Windows users have always been fairly well catered for, but Mac users seem to have considered as second class citizens. I've always been able to get USB Modems and Dongles to work, but it's always been a fiddle, rather than a simple one click and it's done operation.

Most recently in the UK, I was using an offering from Vodafone, which made me get an initial connection using their rather substandard software, and then physically connect through the Network preferences or modem icon in the menu. If I wanted to monitor my usage (3Gb/month) I also had to run some 3rd party software. In my case I elected to use SurplusMeter by SkoobySoft.

However about a year ago, I chanced upon a piece of software that looked like it could make Mobile Internet on the Mac a much simpler experience. I think it may have been a promotion on MacPromo but I can't really remember anymore. I downloaded the trial and within a few minutes paid for a licence. The software in question was launch2net and it was a one stop click to connect and I think it included monitoring, but I can't honestly remember as I now use its grown up big brother launch2net Premium.

launch2net (I'll drop the premium suffix for the rest of this piece) is a stand-alone application that supports numerous mobile modem devices. It pretty much configures itself when a new device is plugged in, works out the appropriate settings, locates a suitable internet signal 3G, 2G, GPRS or EDGE, and waits for you to confirm the connection. Once you connect it then monitors your usage and signal strength, and when you are finished you simply disconnect by clicking on the appropriate button. Simple, huh?


It doesn't end there, however. The premium version also allows you to generate a wifi signal from your connection (with security) by setting up an internet sharing capability. This is a killer feature and is worth the cost of the licence for me. I'm currently living and working in Switzerland. Because I'm only here for a short contract, I can't get fixed line broadband so I need PAYG mobile internet. My flat is also out of reach of a commercial wireless network which makes my iPhones look a bit miserable.

With my Orange CH 3G dongle and launch2net I'm able to pick up a pretty good 3G signal and generate a 40-bit WEP encrypted WiFi signal which gets my both my iPhone 4 and 3G connected to the network. (I have two phones because one has a local Swiss SIM card in, and the other is my normal UK phone). To be fair to Orange, they have actually provided a pretty good connection application for the Mac, and it's a little bit quicker to use than launch2net, but then again it is dedicated to the Orange network and configured accordingly. It can't however generate the WiFi signal that keeps my phones on-line. launch2net can alternatively use 128-bit WEP encryption, but I'm not too bothered about that - I'm not on-line for long periods and there's not much confidential stuff going across the network anyhow.

launch2net isn't without its problems. I did have to configure the settings for the Swiss Orange network but the information was easily located by running a Google search. The 3G dongle modem supplied isn't listed as being supported by launch2net but it worked without any problems. For the technically curious it's a Huawei E1552 - 900/2100 HSDPA/UMTS, 4-band EDGE/GPRS/GSM with upto 3.6Mbps download speed.

The other functionality built into launch2net is an SMS messaging centre, which pretty much does what it says, and allows you to send, receive and manage SMS messages across the internet. There are also quite a number of configuration settings allowing you to choose between monitoring home or roaming sessions, and other interesting things. Of course, it's also possible to set up custom settings for networks as I had to for Orange CH.

Before leaving the UK I tried the software (I have a second licence) in my Hackintosh but I wasn't able to get it to work. Although the software runs in demo/trial mode, I cannot get it to activate with the licence information. The Novamedia technical support folk were very helpful but could not resolve the issue. This is a real shame, but it's one of the risks you take when using a Hackintosh - it's even more frustrating given that's thing that fails is not actually part of the real function of the software. I wish there was a file that they could send me to bypass the physical activation process and allow me to register my license but at the moment they've not provided me with that option. It's also disappointing because there were no problems at all with the previous version.

All in all, I'm really impressed with launch2net. I love its simplicity - it does all the technical stuff behind the scenes and simply allows me to do what I want to do - namely connect and go. The WiFi bonus is awesome - I can't over emphasise that - and it's great not having to remember to switch on a secondary monitoring programme. Novamedia strongly recommend that you try out the software before purchase to ensure it works with your hardware, which seems like pretty good advice.

Oh, and before you ask - yes it does work with Snow Leopard 10.6.4!

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