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hackHull? - Hitch-Hacking
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The Hitch-Hackers Guide To The Planet

Beta version. Still awaiting images.


What a lot of people who read my stuff don't realise is that I actually do work for a living. I do a lot of travelling around the world to different businesses and I have to be Internet connected with the laptop at the same time. Originally, the first few times I travelled I didn't have a clue and got caught short on a number of occasions: there was (at the time) nothing on the 'Net to help me, and a few books (listed in the bibliography) to help, most of which were close to ranking with a chocolate teapot.

Thus I have written this guide to assist travellers everywhere in using and abusing the phone systems of the countries I have been privy to visiting, what to look out for, and most importantly how to connect your laptop up to the various phone systems.

The Survival Kit

The basic survival kit of anyone wishing to use a modem on the road comprises of: Other things which you might consider: You might not have heard of the modem saver. This is a natty little device about the size of a fat fountain pen which will tell you if there's current on the line, whether the current needs crossing over (we'll come to that later) and whether the high voltage on the line will blow your modem to bits. All in all a useful gadget (available from IBM as part number 73G5395).

Why the fascination with RJ11? Well, it pays to have a standard connector to aim for - RJ11 are common throughout the world as a standard for connecting to modems - and also there is the added bonus that RJ11 connectors usually plug into the base of telephones so, if you can't get to the phone socket you can still plug something into the line!

If you assemble the kit yourself from parts from, say, Maplin Electronics then it won't cost you an arm and a leg. If you purchase them from a specialist travel company such as TeleAdapt, you get the whole bundle of gubbins including books, CompuServe CD, etc. The TeleAdapt German kit for instance set me back £39.99 at Gatwick Airport, an equivalent kit put together from parts bought from Maplin would come to about £15 - not a bad little saving!

As a point of note, I've included as an appendix popular part numbers of components you may need to purchase.

Fun with Hotel Phone Sockets

In many hotels you'll find that there might not be a phone socket: this however is rarely the case. Take the phone lead and follow it back to where it connects into the wall. You'll find that the termination point falls into one of these main categories:
  1. Bare phone socket
    This one's easy. All you do is get out your phone adaptor and plug it into the wall.
  2. Phone socket covered by a screw-in plate
    Now's the time to take out your screwdriver! Unscrew the plate, unplug the phone, take out your adapter and plug it in.
  3. Wall plate/Junction box
    Screwdriver time again. Take the cover off the box and get out your crocodile clip adaptor. Plug the Modem Saver into the end of the patch cable then start clipping the clips onto the connector blocks (usually screws). As soon as you get a green light then you're away!
  4. Hole in the Wall
    These are the worst ones, especially if the phone is an old rotary-dial phone or similar which hasn't got a connector actually at the handset end. It usually means that you're going to have to (a) actually open up the telephone and get the croc clips out, or (b) use an acoustic coupler! Having said that, if you're in an establishment which still has this sort of thing then the line will be so bad that you won't be able to get a decent connection anyway, so it's time to resort to the cellmodem.

Country Reference

This section includes country-specific information regarding telecommunications and getting online. I would appreciate if you could inform me of any inaccurate information!

Contact the Author

You can get in touch with me via email at capnb@hackhull.com.

Disclaimer: All the info given here is incomplete, there's always something missing. This is basically to cover our own backs, but for someone with a bit of sense it shouldn't be too hard to fill in the blanks. The authors of this page and the carriers do not take any responsibility whatsoever for any action you may carry out as a result of you reading or using this information. Any documentation provided is given for research purposes only.


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