Note: this post will be of little interest to you unless its title grips you like a Richard Morgan novel (ok, John Grisham for the non sci-fi fans) and you are in the middle of tearing your hair out trying to get EVDO working on your MacBook Pro (MBP). Read on if appropriate...
I got addicted to Verizon's 3G EVDO network back when I was riding the Acela between New York and Boston twice weekly. With it, you can get real work done on a laptop, and it tends to be rock solid when you can get a connection. However after releasing very beta hardware in the form of the early MacBook Pros, Apple also nuked the PCMCIA slot in favor of an Express34 one which meant that my Novatel 5220 card was left a paperweight (an Express 34 EVDO card is "just around the corner" apparently).
Enter the Treo 700p to the rescue. It supports EVDO natively, doesn't run the slow-as-molasses mobile Windoze that its predecessor did (the 700w), and best of all can be configured to use DUN (dial up networking) via Bluetooth with the MBP. Now, folks have complained that it is not possible to get the MBP to work with the Treo as a USB EVDO modem because this is supposedly faster than Bluetooth while keeping the phone on trickle charge, but based on a few tests I ran (the MBP/Treo versus a Powerbook G4/Novatel 5220), the speed difference amounts to line noise around 25-75 kbps on download and 10-15kpbs on upload. And if fact, I find the notion of having to whip out a wire on a train/airplane/cab to "tether" the two devices sort of stupid (isn't "tethering" something we do to horses?).
Anyhow, without further ado, here are the instructions to get this done with minimal third party software getting installed on your computer, and the least amount of hunting through forum posts. I'm doing this because the first pairing of a cellphone and a Mac I did was greatly helped by a guy who took the time to do this with a v710 a couple of years ago, and I got many miles out of it. Oh, and I am also doing it because the Verizon support reps. are absolutely clueless about Macs, Broadband Access on EVDO, and just about anything you may want to get done that doesn't entail accessing voicemail. No joke, and no rant intended, though it does amaze me that they can be so bad at selling what is one of their highest margin and best offerings.
Before you start
As of 6/10/2006, Verizon has a couple of plans that provide unlimited data on top of some allotment of minutes. Go and sign up for this, but make sure that you also sign up for a $15/month "feature" to let you do this in the first place called something like "Broadband Tethered Access." Just check that a) it is $15/month incremental for nothing other than the privilege of using your Treo as a modem, and b) that when you log into your account and check your service, you see a line item that reads like so: "BBA CONNECT UNL." Without this enabled, you will not be able to authenticate. In my case, I asked for it at the store (didn't get it), and twice on the phone (didn't get it). The trick was getting to the data support people and using the magic words "BBA CONNECT UNL" which seemed to turn some lightbulb on.
Also, you do not need to install the Verizon Access connect software that they put out for the Mac. I am not sure whether this software is good or bad- in fact I've only ever used it on my Thinkpad where the first thing it did was flash my otherwise very Mac-friendly 5220 so that it only worked just ok after that- but I prefer to keep as much of that third-party crap off of my computer, particularly when it comes to OS services like networking (and given that the MBP seems to have a few hiccups of it's own in this area, why add insult to injury?).
Getting the Treo and the Mac friendly with each other
I didn't install any of the Palm Desktop manager software, mostly because I was afraid that it would run in emulation and really clog the MBP up. Instead I got a $39 program called the Missing Sync which I'd heard was great and had an Intel binary. Either way though, pairing your MBP and your Treo should be a simple matter of going to the Bluetooth control panel in System Preferences and adding the Treo as a device. Make sure you turn Bluetooth on on the Treo itself (mine came off). You will go through a standard wizard on the computer where you have to enter some numbers the MBP gives you on the Treo and get stuff paired correctly. The key thing to realize is that the process is initiated from the MBP (not the Treo).
Once you finish the pairing (assuming it is successful), the wizard will ask you if you want to use your phone for Internet access. Choose yes, and enter the following bits of information:
Username: XXXXXXXXXX@vzw3g.com (where the Xs is your 10 digit Verizon phone)
Telephone Number: #777
and click the box for "Show modem status in menu bar."
If you've done this all correctly, all you have after you've closed everything out is pull down on the little handset icon that appears in the menu bar and choose "Connect." The computer will display the various steps in the process and the Treo's screen will go on to indicate that the process is going.
When things go oops
First, make sure you've signed up for the "BBA CONNECT UNL" service option. Without it you are hosed (unless there is some modem init hack that you can do). If you see the service on your web-based Verizon portal, make sure that Bluetook pairing between the MBP and the Treo is solid, deleting other Bluetooth pairings if necessary.
Some things I've noticed
The connection speed is comparable to the old PCMIA setup (350/60 kbps on dslreports speedtest versus 400/70kbps) but from very early testing it seems to drop after a smaller interval of inactivity (I'm sure this is configurable but I haven't had enough time to explore). Apparently others have written that with this setup an incoming voice call will allow you to pause the EVDO connection without having to disconnect (a big improvement over the pre-EVDO days) but I haven't seen this first hand.
That's about it. I hope someone gets to save some time in reading this the way that I did a few years ago. After all it is only by doing write-ups like this that we customers are ever going to be able to build a decent support system around Verizon's great network. Now if we could only do this to build actual network infrastructure as well...