Thursday app of the week: PdaNet

Name: PdaNet

Platform(s): Android, iPhone (jailbroken), BlackBerry, Palm OS

Price: Free

Mission: Get Internet for your laptop in a pinch

The time when your Internet connection isn’t working is usually when you need it most. You usually have a paper or application due, and you’re sweating bullets because you can’t get online. Sure, you could run to campus to hop onto AirBears or go to a cafe, but that seems like a lot of trouble, considering that you have a smartphone right next to you that has blazing-fast Internet. That’s where a tethering app like PdaNet comes in.

PdaNet lets your laptop access the Internet through your phone either through a wired or wireless connection. Setting up PdaNet is a little bit tricky (at least through a wired connection), but once you are set up, getting Internet on your computer only takes seconds. With PdaNet, you can either create a Wi-Fi network with your phone or connect to your phone with a cord. We recommend the wired connection because the Wi-Fi is often really slow or doesn’t work at all, depending on the phone. However, the wired connection is pretty fast and works great once it’s set up.

First, you’ll want to download PdaNet. If you have an iPhone, it will need to be jailbroken, and you’ll be able to download PdaNet through Cydia. Plug your phone into the computer, open PdaNet and activate USB Tether. The app will then lead you through easy-to-follow no-brainer instructions to get things set up. When prompted to download the app’s client onto your computer, be sure to do it. It’s how the app works — it’s not a trick or virus. Depending on the phone, that’s all you need to do (for Android, you’ll need to enable USB debugging in the developer options, but PdaNet will remind you). Now, whenever you need Internet for your computer, you’re set. You can turn in that paper or application without having to run to campus like a maniac. PdaNet is also great for your laptop if you want some Internet on a bus or in an airport.

Now, it seems a little odd that being able to tether your phone is not a built-in capability. You pay for the data, so you should be able to use it however you want. Generally this is true if you have a limited data plan. Using PdaNet to give your computer Internet isn’t a big deal. However, if you have an unlimited plan, you might not want to use this app. If you have an unlimited plan that’s grandfathered in, and your carrier catches you tethering (something PdaNet tries to cover up), then your carrier could add a mobile-tethering fee of about $20 a month, or it could void your contract and unlimited plan. But not many of us are lucky enough to have unlimited plans that are grandfathered in, so we don’t have t worry about that. While PdaNet is a nifty little app, it isn’t an app you’ll want to use all the time, since it’s pretty easy to tear through your limited data with a laptop. But it is great when you’re in a pinch or if you just need some Internet for a little while.