I usually connect with wi-fi and have been pretty lucky to find free locations. When I'm not near a freebie, I have ATT Wi-Fi that allows me to connect at any McDonalds, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and Tengo locations. However, when I took the job at the Russian River, I had a problem.
The wi-fi only works in the lodge building and on the deck surrounding it. There are no repeaters in the campground which is full of hills and valleys. I could connect with my cell phone for voice but had never been able to configure the laptop to tether the phone as a modem. Also, the phone would not charge the battery while it was inside. I had to remove the battery and use a separate charger. Something was wrong so I packed my laptop and phone and headed for the ATT store at the mall.
I found Bill Graham, a tech who understood my needs and immediately assessed my phone problem: fried data port. There was no way I could connect to the Internet using that phone no matter what software I used. The port would recognize the headset but not the battery cable. He suggested an air card (which was what I wanted last year but it was unavailable). Instead, I chose a Samsung Blackjack (like a Blackberry) and a data cable. The phone would send and receive data on its small screen and tiny keyboard, but it would not allow the laptop to use it as a modem. I had wi-fi so it wasn't an issue.
Fortunately, that phone was still under warranty for two more weeks. Bill offered to replace it but I didn't really need its data capability if I had an air card. A simple cell phone with texting and perhaps a camera would be fine.
After an hour, some head scratching, deleting and reinstalling programs, I was connected to the Internet using the air card. In fact, I'm bypassing the free wi-fi to use it as I write this. I now have a purple Sony Erickson cell phone with camera and texting, and something else I swore I would never have: a Bluetooth headset. The phone doesn't have a wired headset and they're almost impossible to find. I sighed and took it home.
Wow! I was able to carry on a conversation while working on the laptop and having both hands free. No wire to interfere and no lost connection when I turned my head. I'm not going to wear the headset like some folks do but I will definitely use it for hands-free driving.
For a geekette, I found heaven in a stick.