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While many people set up their mobile phone – such as rooting an Android, for example – to allow for tethering and accessing the cellular data network with a PC, it is a practice that is generally frowned upon by the mobile providers. However, there are times when you’re just desperate for Internet access, and you need the larger screen that your laptop offers.
In previous articles, I’ve described how you can tether your rooted Android phone to your laptop, and Dave described how you can tether a jailbroken iPhone in much the same way. My preferred method of tethering is using the awesome Wireless tether app that I mentioned recently.
Installing The Emulator
Once you have that tether enabled, and you’ve got your Wireless data Internet connection activated on your phone, the following guide will help you to conserve bandwidth so that you won’t draw too much attention to yourself while surfing.
The first step is to install a mobile phone emulator – a few options include using the Android developer SDK that has an emulator tool, or you can install the Sun Java Wireless Toolkit from Sun which includes a good emulator as well. The simplest solution is to install the MicroEmulator program to your PC.
You will need Java Runtime Environment (JRE) installed on your system (if you don’t already). When you launch the MicroEmulator, it won’t look like anything at all special at first. It basically looks like a cellphone with a mobile screen. First, make sure you’ve enabled Internet access by clicking on “Options” and then make sure “MIDlet Network Access” is checked.
The beauty of this emulator is that it’ll run most mobile browsers like Bolt or Opera Mini. As far as I know, Opera Mini is just about the easiest to install – all you have to do is download the JAD and JAR files at the Opera download page. Save them somewhere you’ll remember, preferably in the “devices” folder in the MicroEmulator application directory. Then, you can load up the Opera Mini browser inside the emulator by clicking on File and then “Open MIDlet File…”
You will see “Opera Mini” appear on the main screen under the list of devices. To launch the mobile browser, just select it and click “Start”. The Opera Mini browser will launch just like you’re running it on your own mobile device – along with the streamlined bandwidth that you’d be using if you were actually using your phone.
While this is pretty cool – it isn’t good enough. The whole point of using your computer or laptop is to take advantage of the large screen, right? Let’s resize the display window to a wider display. In MicroEmulator, you do this by clicking on Options and “Select Device…”
Select “Resizable device” and then click on “Add…” You’ll see a list of devices to choose from. Click the mobile browser you’ve installed, and then type in the size of the window that you would like.
Once you launch Opera Mini again, it’ll now be in a larger window with the size parameters you set. Make sure to go into the Opera Mini browser settings and enable “Fullscreen” mode and enable “Load images” and set “Image quality” to medium for an optimal browsing experience. Just because you’re browsing over a mobile network with your laptop doesn’t mean you can enjoy it a little!
Now, when you launch any page that has a mobile version, you’ll notice that the site “senses” you’re using a WAP connection and will serve up the mobile version of the page – cutting down your overall bandwidth significantly. Here’s the main page of MUO displayed through this Opera Mini browser running on my laptop.
Clicking on one of the articles, the page loaded in just seconds, used only about 300 KB to fully load the page.
Loading it in a regular browser consumes over 1.5MB of bandwidth. You can imagine how the data consumption can pile up over time if you don’t use a mobile browser to take care of your Internet needs while you’re on the road.
I am not encouraging anyone to break the terms and rules of their contract, however there are a lot of people that specifically sign contracts that allow tethering, but usage is on a metered basis. The method described above will allow you the convenience of using the nice widescreen of your laptop, while maintaining a lower data usage that won’t break your bank account.
So, give the MicroEmulator with Opera Mini a try and see if it opens up your world to new, mobile possibilities. Do you find that using a mobile browser is too limiting? Are there other mobile browsers that work well with MicroEmulator? Share your own experiences in the comments section below.