Sunday, July 8, 2018

Getting by on Two 10Gb/month SIM Cards

Mobile carriers hate people who tether. If they know in advance that you’re planning on tethering, they will put heavy restrictions on your ability to use that feature. Of course if you’re paying them a shit-ton of money through a four line family plan with a 2 year contract and all the latest phones, they’ll give you all the internet you can eat… But if you’re on a budget, you ain’t gonna like what they do to you.

Now I’m not shilling for my mobile provider, but Mint Mobile has this deal where you pay $300 and you get unlimited calls and text, plus 10Gb of tetherable 4g/LTE data per month for 12 months. That comes to $25/month, and I bought two of them. I also bought the $240 5Gb/month for my actual cell phone, so that’s actually 25Gb/month on 3 SIM cards, and yeah, that was a lot of money up front, but I don’t have to worry about anymore internet or cell phone charges for the rest of the year.

Twice a month, I unplug my modem and swap out the SIM. The removed SIM goes into a $50 Android phone. If I budget the data plan over the next 15 days, it comes to about 680Mb per day. The modem is actually quite good at keeping track of my usage, so I can easily check it from a bookmarked webpage. I turn on the WiFi hotspot on the cheap Android phone with the spent SIM card and connect it to my Windows 10 computer. Even when the 10Gb is used up, it can still get unlimited 2g internet speeds until the monthly reset.

Of course most people would feel utterly suffocated by such a paltry constraint. I have to admit, it’s not always easy to keep within those parameters. If I find that I’m going over budget at the house: I tether my phone (which gets 5Gb/month) to my desktop for a few evenings. It gets me back on track, and the performance isn’t any different than using the main system. I just have to remember to plug my ethernet cable back in when I’m done.

Of course if I use up all my SIM cards, then I’m only almost fucked. The SIM cards are staggered so I’m only at most about two weeks away from getting another 10Gb, but more importantly all three SIMs get unlimited 2g data. Thats about twice the speed of a 56K dial-up modem and can limp me to my next refill date, so it’s not like I’m ever disconnected.

In the end I’m paying about the same amount that Spectrum wanted to charge me, but my internet is being metered and of course a little slower. On the other hand, my connection is no longer randomly cutting out 5 times an hour, and I don’t have to worry about sudden rate increases or bullshit charges on my bill.

In a perfect world, some benevolent soul would guide me to a SIM card that would provide me with unlimited internet that is capable of streaming decent video for less than $50/month. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge! I’m still waiting!

Oh well… At least I can watch YouTube videos at 240p for about 5 hours every day. No really… It’s about 2.16Mb per minute which is 130Mb per hour which means I’ll only use 650Mb after 5 hours! But while the video quality isn’t terrible, it is a little rough looking at times.

In contrast, Netflix will eat 600Mb every 2 hours on it’s low bandwidth setting. This is not ideal. I really wish they would have an even lower setting, so I could use it at home. Right now I only watch Netflix when I visit my dad and we watch a movie together at his house. You know what’s strange? Even though I have his system set up so he can watch NetFlix and Amazon videos, he still ends up using Kodi most of the time. But I digress.

I have to be wary of any background services that could suck down my data plan without my realizing it. It’s why my Windows 10 machine is only allowed to connect to the “spent” SIM card.

So before I go, a big “fuck you” to all the autoplay videos on news sites. You guys suck. I also want to wish a pox on all the advertisers who autoplay video ads in hi def. I hope you all rot in hell. Special thanks to uBlock Origin, Chrome, and Linux for making it possible to bring my data usage down to within my pathetic monthly allotment. And I’d also like to thank you, my internet viewers for whom I have never seen or met. It’s like you’re not even there.



Oh, thank you random internet ghost!

Within only a couple of hours of posting this, I have gotten word from one of my “non-existent” viewers that I can watch Netflix with even lower bandwidth usage on Linux by installing “wondershaper”.

sudo apt-get install wondershaper

You then enter the magic phrase,

sudo wondershaper [interface] 200 200

This will give you extra slow internet. Now Netflix almost looks like shit, but only uses about 90Mb/hour, which is even less than 240P YouTube.

Of course this really slows all of your internet down, so it’s important to know how to reverse the spell:

sudo wondershaper clear [interface]

Keep in mind that [interface] is something like eth0 or wan0 or even usb0, whichever the case may be.

Thanks for that tip, my friend. Now I can watch awesome stuff every day after work.

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