AT&T and Sprint Mobile Signals Coming to DC Metro

According to The Washington Business Journal, AT&T  (meaning iPhones) and Sprint are now starting cell phone service in some DC Metro stations and will expand that coverage over the coming months.

Expanded Metro cell phone service starts Oct. 19

More cell phones will be working at some of the region’s busiest Metro stations starting Oct. 16, under an expanded wireless program first announced in May.

Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobile began installing hardware at 20 select Metro stations over the weekend and will spend the next two months completing the initial installation.

Until now, Verizon Wireless has been the only carrier that worked in Metro stations under an agreement with Verizon Wireless’ predecessor, Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems, in 1993.

Sprint phones that roam to the Verizon network will also currently work.

The first stations to get the new multicarrier wireless network are: Ballston, Bethesda, Columbia Heights, Crystal City, Dupont Circle, Farragut North, Farragut West, Federal Center SW, Foggy Bottom-GWU, Friendship Heights, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, L’Enfant Plaza, McPherson Square, Metro Center, Pentagon, Pentagon City, Rosslyn, Smithsonian and Union Station.

The carriers will install service in Metro’s remaining 27 stations by the end of 2010, although wireless phones won’t work in Metro tunnels until 2012.

The four carriers will operate and maintain the network, and are also building a second, separate wireless network for Metro’s use, including future plans for The Metro Channel, which will provide information, news and advertising on monitors in Metro stations and on trains.

Metro says the wireless contract will generate $25 million during its initial 15-year term and an additional $27 million during five, two-year renewals.

Network Attached Storage for Automated Backups

Prevent Lost Data

Many DC area residents have been contacting me lately with hard drive failures and lost data. Data can sometimes be recovered using software such as SpinRite. But it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to be proactive and backup your data. The best backups are automated, using free software such as SyncBack for Windows or the built-in Time Machine for Macs.

Backup Locally

Backups can be sent to a local USB flash drive or local USB hard drive. The Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB costs about $107. These use laptop hard drives which have the advantage of being able to run only on USB power. Larger 3.5 inch external drives can hold more data but require an additional power supply.

Network Backups

If you have more than one computer, a better solution can be to backup to a network attached storage (NAS) drive. This connects by ethernet to your router allowing you to connect to it through your home network.

Here are a few solutions:

Apple Time Capsule

If you are a Mac user and you want the simplest solution, you’ll have to pay a lot more for the Apple Time Capsule. Apple just upgraded their large capacity Time Capsule to 2GB for $499. The Time Capsule is both a NAS and a wireless router, so it simplifies your setup. However it is only a solution for automated Mac backups that use Apple’s included Time Machine software.

Apple Time Capsule

Buffalo Linkstation

Buffalo Technology Linkstation Pro LS-XH1.0TL 1 TB is a great NAS that costs about $215 currently. It is fast and works as a Time Machine drive for Macs just like Apple’s Time Capsule above, though you’ll have to login to the Buffalo to set up that capability. You pay a bit more for the Buffalo’s speed than the below Iomega. If you are only using the NAS for automated backups, speed is not particularly important. Speed is helpful if you are also using the NAS as a network shared drive. The other advantage of the Buffalo and the Apple Time Capsule is that they are near silent. You have to put your ear right up to them to hear the small fan.
Buffalo Linkstation

Iomega Home Media Server

Iomega Home Media Server 34337 1TB is a good media server, which is cheaper ($148) but a bit slower than the Buffalo. It is not loud at all, but the fan is noticeable. It includes software for automatically backing up 5 PCs. You can also backup to it with a Mac by using free software such as SuperDuper.

Iomega Home Media Server

NAS Reviews is a great site for NAS reviews. They also have charts such as this one which show you the speed versus price. I circled the Buffalo and Iomaga drives mentioned above illustrating the Buffalo’s excellent performance.

SmallNetBuilder Single Drive NAS Chart

Multi-drive NAS

For larger businesses or those who want an extra backup of their backup drive, consider a NAS that consists of multiple drives. This could be a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) box such as a Netgear ReadyNAS. Or it could be a Drobo and Droboshare. These solutions are more expensive and often slower than single drive solutions. But they ensure that your data will safe if one of their hard drives crashes.

Backup Your Data

In the world of computer support, nothing is worse than seeing someone lose family pictures or days of important accounting data. Given the low cost of storage, there is no excuse for avoiding backups. Automated solutions are a simple way to keep your digital data safe.