Computerizing the Westy!


New member
I'm looking for advice/tips on using my laptop to connect _wirelessly_ to the Internet from the laptop in my Westy. This isn't a question about powering the laptop but instead how to connect wirelessly to the net.
I've looked around on the Web but haven't found much on what's the best route to go: cable connection to a cellular? satellite atop the lugguage rack?
I do lots of traveling in non-urban areas (Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mts.) and would love to be able to check my email and upload files to the net while camped in my van. Ultimate goal: do my work as a writer/editor from my Westy and never have to come into town.

Is there any cellular approach that will give me the speed to surf the Web and upload files? Will I find coverage adequate out in the wilds? And what equipment have you found most hassle-free?

As for satellite, the only setup I've found (Qualcomm's Globalstar Tri-mode Satelllite Phone) costs more than $2,000 all told. So that's way too pricey to be practical.

thanks for any help or URLs!

[This message was edited by Capt. Mike on March 21, 2004 at 05:12 AM.]

Capt. Mike

I'm quite 'cell-phone challenged' but I know there are many huge dead areas. I find a lot of problems when just out in the country between towers in what's basically a fully developed network. My coverage map shows complete sections of Western states uncovered. In valleys, woods and behind hills, they become a joke. I'm within sight of a tower, at the top of the highest hill in the area, and it's still often lousy because of the trees and whatever gremlins mess up cell phones.

Thus I would guesstimate that cell-phone use from the Westy for Internet would be marginal -- not because of the Westy, but because of where you're most likely to be when you need super-clean connections with what's still a very poor system. Add that the new digital systems have cut power quite a bit. The old analog phones could be cranked to 3W with a vehicle adapter; I hear the new digitals are stuck at .6W -- same as a hand-held. I've got a docking station in my tow truck & Westy into which I plug my hand-held. This gives me the vehicles' more powerful transmitter, antenna, speaker & hand-free mic. I'm told I will lose the power with a new digital, or must pay an extra monthly fee to keep my old analog.

In my sea-going days, when we first got satelite communications, they were great for the simple reason you're sending your signal UP and it's then relayed back down to towers designed for it. So it didn't matter where you were as long as you weren't under anything.

Start digging into the trucking industry -- many use satelite communications for their fleet. Some are so sophisticated the truck location, and even data like speed and fuel consumption are feed back to the company. I would guess there is some info in their publications, and perhaps even a used equipment market. I have no idea what service fees are, though. 15 years ago it was $5 per minute!


New member
I take my laptop with me whenever I go away with the Westy.

There are several PC slot modem cards that will work with a handheld cell phone.

YOu may wish to do some checking with the PC Card modem vendor to make sure that they have cables that will work with your phone.

Don't expect much in the way of speed. You'll be lucky if you get connection speed over 4800 baud.

You should also make sure that your Internet Service Provider has local numbers in the areas you are travelling. Since the connection speed isn't as fast as usual, you may end up spending a little bit more time online and you don't want to pay long distance fees on top of the cellular charges.

Thats where using uuNet and AOL comes in handy. They have local access numbers all over the world.

I use it mostly for checking my email and updating for road construction on Map n Go.
Its also nice to know that if I break down along the way I can log onto the site and look for solutions.

Geoff Barnes

New member
For about 6 months now, I've been connected to the Internet by satellite. Outside of the jazzy military solutions, the current best choice for satellite/Internet connects would appear to be via Starband.Com. There is lots of info at their website and one of their distribution chains is.... Radio Shack, so you *might* be able to get some info at your local RS dealer, but don't count on it.

I, too, crave the ultimate mobile solution, but I am not sure that this is "it". As far as stats go, you can get 150kbps up, and 500kbps down. Sometimes downloads can be clocked going twice as fast, but these numbers are variables.

My service, which also includes Dish Network Television, runs $99/month, so it is extremely cost effective.

The 'mobile' problem I see is the precision with which the sat dish must be pointed. The TV signal is not as finicky as the Internet signal (the dish receives from TWO satellites simultaneously). Also, as with TV dishes, transmission/reception can cut out completely when rain is heavy.

Not sure of the technical reasons, but there are a few types of programs which, thus far, the Starband system doesn't handle very well. This class of programs are those which require a close 'sync' of both the up and down channels simultaneously, i.e. videoconferencing, PC Anywhere, Voice-Over-IP, etc.

The technology is, I will admit, rather cool and when it runs smoothly, it's been a wonderful and inexpensive replacement for my ISDN line. I think this technology is in it's infancy. Check out thoroughly. They, of course, only want fixed stations, but it might be possible to adapt nautical remote positioning gear for effortless dish-positioning. I'd love to hear from anyone who has expertise in this area.


New member
It seems that the Camplan is a short distance wireless LAN (local area network) that only works in a limited area in a commercial park. "Wireless transmission from the park office"

If you buy a new digital mobile phone after October 2001 they should have a new communications chip that will allow the phone to be plugged into the laptop modem for decent performance (about 56K or better they claim).

With our mobile phone service provider there is some sort of extra fee for using the phone for the internet, like $5 a month, on top of your minutes program. I am not sure why? Also you must have a ISP (internet servive provider) outside of your normal phone service (like AOL, Qwest, Bell South, etc.) which can vary from $10-$20 a month.

I wish I could tele-commute and dial in to work and use this service /infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif Otherwise I would be camping all the time.

Good Luck,
Adrian Pillow


New member
There may be other cell phone service providors that offer an easy cell/modem connection to a laptop or handheld but I've found Sprint to really come to the plate with this one. The PCS (Sprints cellular system) phone actually works as a modem that connects directly to the computer (serial connection on a PC or USB on a Mac. The service costs an additional 5 bucks a month and uses the minutes from your usual plan. The only other addition cost is for the correct cable to fit your phone ($40- to $80 depending on how well you shop the Internet). The connection speeds are noteworthy and combined with a compression scheme that is part of the included package, speeds are as good as or better that a typical 56K dial up account at home. Of course if the cell signal is bad you're outta luck but service areas are getting better all the time. It is projected that within a year Sprint will offer peeds that rival highspeed DSL connections.

I'm a bit of a computer geek, I teach them at my local Community College. Computers pay for my gas and Westy parts so I rarely go anywhere with out my laptop. . .I can also get my daily email fix from the comfort of my own back seat.


I am able to use a modem card that works in both analog and digital cell service environments. (most new cell modems don't work in analog) The modem card is from ositech in ottawa ont. canada, and it is call "cell flex trump card" It plugs in to my startac, with cords for a nokia. Unfortunatly the antenna port for the phone comes out on the same plug, so I modified my phone to accept a plug in antenna. The modem needs 3 strong bars of service to work well, but I can get my mail on aol in less than a minute. These days of no charge long distance, nad night and evening minutes, if you only want to work at night you can down load if you are patient.


New member
Laptop Mount for Westy

Hi, I want to be able to mount my laptop on a swivel stand/console of some sort. I want it to be between the two front seats and not have to be bolted in. We have an automatic Vanagon Westy, so it wount have to clear a stickshift, that a standard transmission has. Does anyone have any leads on anyone who makes/sells anything like this?



New member
i personally feel that using ur laptop in your westy defetes the purpose of having an old vehicle. why put in new technology to a car that has such character dumb ass.


Greetings Deadhead88, Calling someone a dumb ass for wanting to incorporate a laptop into their Westy is uncalled for. If you have something constructive to add to this post,please do...........RCB


New member
deadhead 88, you're most likely gonna get banned from the site for being abusive. Read the Guidelines. If you don't like 'em, and can't have any manners, we don't want you here.


New member
Hey Deadhead 88, I agree with Judladis and RCB if you can't comply with the guidelines then you have no business on this forum. This is the place it is because that kind of BS is not allowed. Hey Arasso if you are looking for a mount check out what the guy did at he has his laptop tripped out and it looks great! I hope this helps.

Mike 1991 Westy


New member
to deadhead88 most deadheads are cool and into tech you give em a bad name. check yourself lost in the past.

[Moderator Note: I left deadhead88's post because y'all said it much better than I could have! Thanks, guys.]


New member
Andrea I have just seen someone using a drum snare stand and seemed to work well at clamping in the laptop and very cost effective. It is adjustable in every sort of way. it is not a 500.00 commercial solution but it is nothing to scoff at either. give it a try.. go to your local swapshop and see what they have.
Now all you need is an orinoco gold pcmcia card and a mag mount antenna for all the free to air internet that is around.


Capt. Mike



Another option would be a built in Wi-fi antenna with about a 1w amplifier that hooks up via usb. I installed a similar set up on my '81 (I used a 18 dbi omni directional antenna and a 500mW amp) and I hot spots more than 2 miles away. This is also a big deal in the computer world, its called Wardriving where you hook your laptop up to wi-fi antennas in your car. It does sound weird but it is popular. Here's a link: This all may sound crazy but it might be worth looking into as a option or something?
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New member
Computer in Smiley

This thread caught my attention...
I've been thinking about putting a computer in Smiley. [Smiley, Smiley Hillslayer that is.. chuckle..] I'm not so sure I need internet access, though it's not a bad idea... but it would be very very good to be able to record sounds, and music while on the road, and put them onto a hard drive. There's a nice little cabinet in the back, and I think a laptop might just fit. I've been thinking that that's the location for the computer.
Some of those big water sounds, along with a brass bowl or two, and a bit of guitar.. yes.
And there is a bit of a sound system in it, though it could do with some updating as well..
Bit by bit, over the last five years, Smiley's been receiving some attention, mechanical to this point, but the time will not be too far off when we go for a long long drive, and record. And about a year ago, I found a very adept little portable recording system..
Can't really understand how this is in opposition to the concept of the van to begin with. I guess if someone thought they shouldn't put a computer in the van, then of course they shouldn't.