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Monday, March 7, 2011

How do I tether my computer using PDAnet?

Contributed by John Herzog

PDAnet by June Fabrics Software is an application that enables you to tether your android phone to your computer. This is convenient when you need an internet connection as you are out and about. No rooting of the phone is required, and the app is both entirely accessible with Talkback and compatible with android 2.1 and 2.2.

I discuss using PDAnet with Windows. The Mac version does not appear to be accessible and I explain why later in this article.

Installing PDAnet

PDAnet involves some setup both on your phone and on the laptop or netbook you will be using.

First, install the app on your phone. To do this, use your handset to open the android market. In the search box, type "pdanet" without capitals or spaces. Scroll to PDAnet by June Fabrics software and install it as you would any other application.

Next, on your computer, go to the June Fabrics Software website and download PDAnet for your PC. There are two components to this program, and both are included in the installer. One of them enables your computer to surf the net, and the other is the PDAnet SMS agent. It is possible to send text messages from your computer when your phone is connected, but I cannot comment on whether the SMS agent is accessible or not because I have not used it.

Once setup has finished downloading, run it as you would any other windows program. The various screens, such as the license agreement, are pretty straight forward. There are, however, a couple of things to keep in mind as PDAnet is being installed onto the Windows machine:

1. Setup is going to ask you for your phone manufacturer. Make sure you choose the right one from the list, as all phones rely on different drivers. Installing the wrong one may leave you unable to use PDAnet, or may freeze the computer. If you have an older phone, you may have to find the USB drivers on the carrier or manufacturer website.
2. Setup may hang on the installing-USB-driver screen. If this happens, hit alt tab to check for additional screens. In my case, there was a security warning from Windows 7, saying that the driver was unsigned and therefore untrusted. I had to click Install Anyway for the setup process to continue. I also had to click a similar screen later in the setup process.

As installation progresses, the computer presents a screen with instructions for completing the USB driver setup. It tells you to unplug the phone from the computer if it is connected. It also instructs you to go into your phones settings and turn on USB Debugging mode. On the phone, this setting is found in Settings/Applications. Press the selector on USB Debugging and then again on ok when the phone warns that this option really shouldn't be turned on if you're not a developer. Plug the phone into your computer. After a while, the USB driver finishes installation, and PDAnet is ready to use.

I use NVDA as my screen reader. I knew setup was finished when it placed me in a read only field. I wasn't able to read anything in it, but an alt+F4 got me past that screen.

Using PDAnet:

Now that PDAnet is installed, fire it up and test the internet out. This is simple to do.

1. Connect the phone to the computer with the USB cable.
2. Make sure PDAnet is running on the computer, but don't click the connect icon in the system tray yet.
3. Launch the app on the phone. To do this, choose applications from the Eyes Free Shell, MA, or another home screen. hit p, and if necessary scroll to PDAnet. Open it by pressing the selector.
4. Check the phone to know what to do next.
a. The app may open on a screen with a few options. These include Start USB Tethering and Start Bluetooth DUN. You can connect either via bluetooth or USB to your computer for the tethering functionality. If this screen is the one that opens, select the option you want and hit enter to browse the web with firefox, internet explorer, or chrome.
b. Alternatively, the app may open on a screen showing two buttons. One of them is Stop PDAnet, and the other is unlabeled. I cannot comment on what the unlabeled button does. If this screen opens, you don't need to do anything else on the phone side, but you do have to click connect on the PC. To do this, go into the system tray. Arrow to PDAnet, press the Applications/Context key to pull up a list of options, and press enter on Connect to the Internet. If you are using windows 7, the network wizard asks questions at this point (e.g., type of network--home or public). After you get through the wizard, you should be able to browse the web with firefox, internet explorer, or chrome.

Note: I have not gotten the Bluetooth connection to work myself, so cannot comment on it.

Disconnecting PDAnet:

When you finish using the internet, disconnect your computer from it. I find that if I do not do so, my phone's battery goes down slightly, even though it is plugged into USB.

1. Start with the PC. Go back to your system tray, and find the PDAnet icon. Hit the applications key, and arrow to the Disconnect option, pressing Enter.
2. Next, on your phone, hit the Stop PDAnet button on the applications screen. If the phone has gone to sleep, you will have to unlock the screen first.
3. Finally, use Safely Remove on the PC to properly disconnect the phone.

Pointing out a Few Odds and Ends:

1. USB Debugging may need to be turned on and off if you want to use other features of your phone. I like to watch movies from my storage card, but the option to move files to and from the phone is not available with debugging turned on. To change this, I simply go into Settings/Applications, and uncheck the box that says allow USB tethering. Then I remember to turn this back on before using PDAnet again.
2. Sorry Mac users. PDAnet does not appear to be accessible. The program utilizes icons on the menu bar, similar to Sound Flower. Voiceover does not see the icons on the menu bar, and these must be clicked to connect to the internet. There does not appear to be a workaround, though I will admit that I have not played with the mac application thoroughly.
3. PDAnet is free, but there are limitations. To remove them, you must pay for a license. The most noteworthy limitation is that in the free version, you do not have access to secure web sites. These are addresses that start with https and require a login. The good news is that you get a 14 day trial of the unlocked program. This will help you decide whether you really want it or not. The licensing skeme is pretty liberal. You get a license for your phone, so you can install PDAnet on as many computers as you wish. As long as they are used with the same phone, your unlock code should work on multiple laptops, netbooks, etc.

I hope this information is helpful.

8 comments:

  1. wrong. pdanet is accessible for a mac. using pdanet on a mac is better then on a pc because unlike pc, mac can access secured websites hence there are no limitations with the free version on a mac, in fact im checking my gmail, watching netflix and posting this all at the same time. MFTW

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  2. I agree with the commenter above, Russel.

    I have tried with my alienware, and it is indeed more accessible with my dau's mac.

    Arty.

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  3. My cellular phone is connected to my pc via usb tethering Pdanet... and this allows me to receive internet on my laptop for school. This works fine..

    Now however.. Since my laptop is receiving internet. Is there anyway that my laptop can broadcast a wireless signal or (hotspot) which will allow others in my home to connect via wifi?

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  4. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)

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  5. Yeah but there are many cases where you can't download PDA to the PC (windows) even after troubleshooting and following all the info provided. PDA's help just says it should work but you end up repeating the steps again to no avail without any additional help. I find the Apple help better than the Windows help section.

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  6. I have used the app before and it worked great but I just got a new cell (zte z796c) with a 4.2 android and now it won't connect to my laptop. It keeps telling me to connect USB and start PDA. Anyone have any ideas?

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