At first when Mike Liebhold (of IFTF) pointed me at the Netshare iPhone application from Nullriver, I was hopeful that we possibly could have a “tethered iPhone.” This means we could use an iPhone to allow our Mac to have access to the Internet when on the road.
3G phones are generally capable of being linked or “tethered” to a computer via bluetooth or USB in such a way that the computer can use the phone as a connection to the Internet. I used my Moto RAZR that way for several years, paying for a $20/month data plan. Although tethering provided between 40k and a maximum speed of 80k (bits per second) or roughly 2x phone line speeds, it was nevertheless really handy in those moments when I was far from free wi-fi or phone lines. And I had long ago dropped my AOL dial-up service, so dial-up wasn’t really an option.
And since using the iPhone to connect a computer to the net is a violation of AT&T’s terms of service, none of us ever thought that such an app would be sanctioned and appear in Apple’s online store. Obviously it would be done for “jailbreaked” iPhones, but probably not for those remaining solidly in the AT&T fold.
But the app did appear. Then it disappeared. Then it reappeared. Oof. Was it Brigadoon? Or was it the Flying Dutchman?
So when the app was visible online, this afternoon, I quickly plunked down $10 and downloaded Netshare to test.
Turns out that it doesn’t really tether the phone. Instead, what it does is serve as a SOCKS proxy for your computer, which means the computer can access web sites (including secure HTTPS) thru the phone’s 3G or EDGE connection. That’s really handy at those times when nothing else’s available, but it’s not quite everything that we need. You couldn’t get email onto your computer thru this app, for instance. (At least I haven’t figured out how to.) But you could do webmail. And anyway, you can do email on the iPhone if you have your accounts set up right.
So I’m happy with it as an emergency standby.
Technically the way it works is 1) you configure your Mac to create an ad-hoc Wi-fi network; 2) you configure the iPhone to join that network; 3) you bring up Netshare on the phone, which runs a SOCKS proxy on port 1080, available to any device that’s on the ad-hoc wi-fi network, and voila the Mac has access to HTTP and HTTPS sites thru the proxy software running on the iPhone. The access out “the other side” is via 3G or EDGE.
Slick, and unexpected, and a violation of the TOS, but still this is going to save my neck at some point in the future.