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Setting Up Your Mac to Use a Smartphone's Internet Connection

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Flying clients around in her helicopter sometimes takes Maria Langer off the grid. A bit of experimenting helped her (and now maybe you!) to get connected again, using a smartphone with a Bluetooth interface, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and a dial-up networking service.
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I spend an unusual amount of time off the grid—in other words, in locations with no electricity or telephone lines, and certainly no Internet access. But, like most computer geeks, I often need to access the Internet, even when I’m in these remote places. That’s why I bought a smartphone with Internet capabilities last May. Okay, so most geeks have had such a phone for at least two years. But I’m not a supergeek like other people.

I wanted the ability to access the Internet just about anywhere. And what I got as a bonus was a service called Broadband Access Connect or dial-up networking, which made it possible for my computer to access the Internet via the smartphone’s Internet connection, through a Bluetooth interface.

In this article, I’ll explain how you can set up such a connection with your Mac. Keep in mind that how this trick works on your cell phone depends on your smartphone model and cellular provider. I’m using a Treo 700p with Verizon. Although the Verizon Treo 700p User’s Guide said that I needed to install software on my Mac to use this feature, that wasn’t necessary, as you’ll see a bit later on. Your Mac already has everything you need to make the connection work.

Got all that? Then let’s give it a try.

Step 1: Get the Info You Need

Start by contacting your cellular provider to make sure that broadband access service—or whatever your provider calls it—is available. If necessary, enable this feature for your account. Keep in mind that you might have to pay extra for this service. I pay an extra $15 per month, which I think is worthwhile.

Your provider might roll all Internet services together. If so, great! Unfortunately, I can’t query every provider about every service. You’ll need to do your own homework before you get started.

Next, get the login information you need from your wireless provider. This info includes the access phone number (which might not actually resemble a phone number), user ID, and password. You’ll be putting this information into the Mac OS X Network preferences pane, using the Bluetooth Setup Assistant. We’ll get to that step shortly.

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