Sunday, 30 November 2008

iPhone Tethering Done Right: PdaNet

Tethering an iPhone to another device, usually a laptop, is not allowed. AT&T contracts ban the practice (though this is rumoured to be changing soon). However, when you're stuck without a decent WiFi connection, an iPhone tether is a tempting proposition. Sadly, since it is banned, Apple have not made it easy.

Most solutions revolved around something called a SOCKS proxy. A proxy is just an application that runs on the iPhone that the tethered device communicates with in order to retreive data from the web. Despite it's simplicity, there is a major drawback: every application that needs to use the internet must have SOCKS compatibility built in. Many applications do, but the implementations are usually hasily added and tend to be buggy (even Firefox has issues).

If you were lucky enough to acquire the NetShare iPhone application (a SOCKS proxy that was available on the App Store for a very short period before being removed by Apple) you do not need to jailbreak your iPhone to be able to tether a device. However, most people will need to do this. However, this is really easy these days and quite safe. A tool such as QuickPwn will do the job with very little fuss.

Once your iPhone is jailbroken, you have a number of proxy server choices. From the NetShare style 3proxy to the old school SSH server. However, there is a much better solution: PdaNet. This is not a SOCKS proxy, it acts more like a software router, passing all your network traffic over the iPhone's internet connection. This means that your applications don't need to have SOCKS built in.

There are a number of issues with NetShare. Sometimes the DNS setup doesn't work very well (especially using an Ad-Hoc network on a Mac). It will also heavily drain your battery. You will need to plug it in for it to last for any long period (i.e. over an hour). You also have to pay to use it with encrypted websites (i.e. HTTPS) - but there is a way around that. Just visit the link printed at the bottom of the PdaNet screen on the iPhone, pretend to buy the software, but stop when you hit the payment screen. You can then browse any site you want without paying!

However, it's definitely the best tethering solution at the moment. Though you might also like to try solutions like proxifier for making SOCKS proxies easier (and more reliable).

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