Traveling with iPad and iPhone

In August I spent a couple of weeks in the UK. In the interest of keeping things light and simple, I decided not to take my laptop but only my iPad. Besides keeping in touch with business and personal contacts via my several different email addresses, I also wanted to be able to access bus and train timetables, use Google Maps to navigate, find local restaurants, etc.  but had no need for the laptop.

I could have chosen to use the iPad only on WiFi by getting a plan on one of the public WiFi networks like BT’s OpenZone or by only using the iPad when I was in a hotel or a pub. But partly in the interest of unfettered Google Maps access, I opted to get a SIM card so I’d have 3G access.  All the major broadband suppliers, of course, have shops everywhere, so it’s easy to find something from Vodafone, BT, O2, 3 etc. You need to be a bit careful – SIM cards that will work in an iPhone won’t work (or won’t work for long) in an iPad.

I did some research. A useful article in the Guardian gave some advice. I decided on a SIM from 3. For about $30 I got a one-month, 3GB pay-as-you-go data plan, certainly sufficient for a two-week visit. Another time, I would look at O2 or Vodafone to see if it might be less expensive to get a smaller 3G plan together with access to WiFi.

Setting up the iPad is simple – pop out the North American SIM card and pop in your new one. But  . . .  how to deal with email? What SMTP server should I use for outgoing mail? I have several different email addresses, each for different aspects of my business and personal life. Do I need to change them all? Well, as you might guess I use LoaPost on my iPad, so the transition from my Rogers plan to my 3 plan was seamless – I made no changes to my email settings and just kept using ‘localhost’ via LoaPost as my outgoing server. And when I was in the pub in the UK and using their WiFi network, again I did not need to make any changes to email settings. When I got home on Labour Day, I popped out my 3 SIM card and popped in my Rogers SIM card and was back in business, again with no changes.

By the way, we also got a SIM card for my wife’s unlocked iPhone – mostly for phone calls but with a small 500 MB data plan. She was also able to use LoaPost on the iPhone to keep up with her email.

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LoaPost behind firewalls

I had a two-day session last week with a client. We were working on-site on a number of pretty difficult issues related to the natural resources industry. Their IT department, as you might expect in that sector, is fanatical about security. They have the corporate firewalls at that site locked down as tightly as they possibly can.

At their site, you can’t send email to an external server, although you can receive. You can browse, unless the site you want has been “black holed” and forbidden. FTP ports are closed. VPNs — except their own, of course — are blocked.

Everybody on the work team was frustrated. The IT department was asked if they could open an exception through the firewall, but declined.

I was the only one who could send out email … thanks to LoaPost. It uses an email server, of course, but that server is on my laptop. As far as the firewalls were concerned, LoaPost was perfectly behaved, and it permitted me to communicate normally with the outside world. It was great to be able to concentrate on the work I had to do rather than on infrastructural details that prevented me from doing it.


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Cell-phone provider hopping

The area where I work is very hilly. This makes cell-phone service just dreadful: I am connected to Bell when I am at my office, but, 1 kilometre away, I can only get a signal from Rogers. When I’m in town at a restaurant, I can’t get any signal at all, so I have to use the restaurant’s WiFi connection.

At one time, this would drive me nuts. When I wanted to send work email from anywhere but my office, I would be  forced to use my account or use webmail. I don’t want to “break my branding” so is out, and webmail on an iPhone … well, I’m just not that patient.

But these days, I just start the LoaPost mail server on my iPhone, and then I can send mail from any email account I want … from anywhere.

It’s a big relief, I can tell you.

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Email and Port 25 Problems in Iraq

One of our users was deployed to Iraq in 2010, and started suffering from Port 25 blocks. He writes:

When I deployed to Iraq in June, 2010, my ISP in the States assured me that I’d be able to continue using my email with no problems as long as I could reach the Internet.  For five months, that was true, then overnight, between October 31st and November 1st, 2010, I suddenly had “email issues.”  I could no longer send email from my home ISP email account, and could not use a local email application to send email.  Using webmail was problematic because of the volatility of our Internet service, and when you’re away from family in a somewhat dangerous and potentially hostile environment, being unable to reply to your family’s email is definitely not a good thing.  Through the ISP’s website I sent notes and chatted with their technicians, and with the local Iraqi ISP – no one had an answer, and both claimed the issue “was definitely” with the other ISP.  Some of the technicians even attributed the problem to the Mac OS, Apple Mail and Thunderbird.  For 13 days I worked with the technicians on both sides of the Atlantic, and never did find a solution to the problem.  Finally, I stumbled on Loa Powertools.  What a great application!  Totally eliminated the problem I was having.  For the next year and a couple of months, I had no further issues and was able to send email using Apple Mail and originating from each of my email addresses.  Since I’ve returned to the States, I still do some traveling and always turn on Loa Powertools when I’m not connecting through my home network.

Thanks again for the simple yet effective solution to the emailing issue.

Like many of our users, he ended up feeling rather personally connected to us, so when it was time for him to return to the US and no longer needed his paid subscription, he sent me a note:

I just wanted to let you know that I just cancelled my subscription – I’m not “quitting” Loa PowerTools, but I’ll be leaving Iraq before the end of this current subscription and don’t believe that I’ll need the paid subscription once I return to the states.

I have to tell you that I could not have kept up with my email volume and differing accounts without Loa PowerTools.


So I asked his permission to write this little article, but he ended up doing most of the work for me.

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Make Your webcams work again

If you are like me, you have a lot of fun with web cameras — and your domestic partner is happy because your hobby makes your house more secure when you are away. Trouble is, when your ISP won’t permit unsecured port 25 traffic, some Web cameras won’t work, as this blog entry shows.

I had the same experience. I had a great WebCam setup at home, running on an old HP laptop (the pen-and-tablet kind that was on TV a lot until the iPad showed up). I had it set up to trigger with a motion sensor, and to mail images to my cell phone when nobody was home. I never did catch a burglar, but I did manage to watch my own surprise birthday party being set up.

Trouble is, one day Telus (my ISP at the time) decided it needed more authentication than the WebCam software could provide. I couldn’t send out via Port 25 any more.

The solution was pretty easy. I used LoaPost (at one time called Loa PowerTools).

It worked great.

Typically, a web camera is connected to a computer and will have its own software for sending email. If you run LoaPost on that computer, you can set the outgoing email port to be whatever the camera demands … and everything works just fine from that point on in.


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Never underestimate the power of the New York Times

Never underestimate the power of the New York Times. Back in July 2008 we experienced a sudden spurt in the number of people signing up for Loa accounts. And by “sudden spurt” I mean about 10 times more people signing up each day than had been the case up to that time. A puzzle. A nice puzzle, but a puzzle nonetheless. I checked the logs of the activity on our website, and there had been a huge spike in visitors. Again, an increase of a factor of 10 in a single day. A little sleuthing led me to the New York Times and David Pogue’s column entitled “Mobile Me E-Mail for the Rest of Us?” Apple had just released Mobile Me e-mail, and Pogue was asking if someone could somehow get the same mobile experience for other email addresses. A reader of the column, going only by the name of Mike, had posted a comment:

I was having the same comment just using the Mac Mail program together with MobileMe. Setting the SMTP server to GMail, and then customizing the “from” field in GMail doesn’t work, because Outlook recipients will see this as “, sent on behalf of” The solution, which I have been using for a week without issues, is Loa PowerTools.

Even though the comment was buried on the second page of the comments, that single mention in The Times triggered an avalanche of new Loa customers, most of whom, I’m delighted to say, we still have.

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SmartPhone downloading away from WiFi

My wife and I travel together a lot. To make the time pass quickly, we will often load up our iPhones with audiobooks and then use a splitter with dual volume controls to listen to a novel together. It’s a great deal of fun!

Sometimes we haven’t brought enough material, and we discover we are hours away from WiFi … and our audiobook apps don’t let us download new material through 3G. That’s a sensible precaution for those who might do it a lot, or who might have tiny data plans. But we both have 6 gigabyte data plans we almost never max out, so the restriction is annoying, particularly when we want to get the last chapters of a thrilling book.

The solution is actually quite simple: one of us uses an iPhone to share the 3G connection via WiFi, and the other turns off 3G and connects to the ad-hoc WiFi network. The audio app now thinks it is on high-speed, and it allows us to download the missing file.

You can use this trick in many different circumstances, and not just between phones. For example, we sail and cycle a lot, too, and we often find ourselves in new territory that requires a new bike-path map or a marine navigation file. More than once, we’ve been able to download a new map file into an iPad through an iPhone 3G connection shared over WiFi.

Just watch those usage fees: you can go over the limit if you use this trick indiscriminately. This is a great idea to get a size-limited resource in a remote location, but NOT such a great way to download the entire back catalog of 24 in high definition.

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Get Mobile!

At Loa, we all travel a lot.

That’s why we came up with LoaPost: it’s a utility that lets you send email from anywhere. We were tired of being able to send email from work and not from home, tired of having to use webmail on the road, tired of bounced messages.

AND that’s why we have started this blog. We have accumulated a lot of useful wisdom about being on the road with laptops—about working in more than one place—and we want to share it with you.

We hope it helps even a little.

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