It is always disconcerting when a key piece of technology you rely on is discontinued and replaced.
We always wonder - is the new version better or worse? Was the change substantial - or just a morphing of the packaging and branding for marketing reasons?
We love improvements - but especially when it comes to the essentials, we worry about radical changes.
So we were more than a bit concerned when we saw that our old standby LTTE boosting solution had gone through some major changes.
No - we aren't talking about Wilson rebranding as weBoost and replacing blue-cased cellular boosters with black.
Much more critical...
There have been changes made recently to the shape of the Bota Box!
LTTE Boosting Technology
Not to be confused with cellular LTE boosting, LTTE boosting (Libation: Technology Tribulation Elimination) is an even more critical element of a technomad's tech arsenal.
Because... Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how much tech you deploy, and no matter how much you spend - you will inevitably occasionally run into situations where you are just not able to get online.
Or worse - you'll only be able to get online at a snail's pace, for a moment or two at a time - until your frustration levels begin to boil over and you are hurling expensive smartphones through plate glass windows as you realize you've wasted all your daylight hours trying to get a single critical email to send.
When you find yourself in such a situation - an emergency LTTE booster can help.
For us, a glass of wine (or three) usually vastly improves the situation.
For others - whiskey is the way to go.
The Russians have reportedly kept a stash of Vodka hidden underneath the comm radio since the very first manned spaceflight.
Even cheap beer can help, in a pinch.
The key however is being prepared, and having whatever it is that works for you on hand and ready for emergency deployment.
Because just imagine... No Internet, AND no wine?!!?
This is why we always keep an emergency Bota Box stashed on board.
The New Bota Brick & Bota Box v2
Recently when we were restocking - we were shocked to discover that the old classic Bota Box shape had been redesigned, and now there were actually two models to choose from.
We of course acquired review units to thoroughly test them.
Overall - we were impressed. Here are our thoughts on the two new models...
The Bota Brick: This innovative new small size LTTE booster is ideal for easy storage, but it only provides a maximum two bar signal boost. For a solo traveler trying to stay connected this might do the trick, but a nomadic household suffering an Internet meltdown may very well need more boosting power.
Deploying a dual-brick solution can also be a great way to deal with mixed varietal households.
The Bota Box v2: The big-dady box has an odd new square shape that took some getting used to, but we eventually learned to love. This LTTE booster has four bar capability, usually enough for all but the most critical Internet connectivity situations.
The biggest issue we uncovered with the Box v2 is that there is no easy visual way to determine how much boost is remaining, and it is therefore occasionally a bit too easy to "over boost" - with unintended consequences ranging from mild headaches to smashing your #!*$% technology all over the place because the "stupid piece of crap just won't connect!".
Over boosting, we have discovered, is worse than no boost at all.
We've heard rumors of future FCC booster regulations that may try to limit over-boosting for consumer grade boosters, but at the moment this is a risk to be wary of - especially with a 4-bar booster, or a commercial grade "cask" or "keg" LTTE booster.
Matching Your Booster to Your Network
Conventional wisdom says that for maximal boosting effect, you should match your LTTE booster to the network that you are having trouble with.
This is easy enough for increasing boosting power to both red (Verizon) and yellow (Sprint) networks, but magenta (T-Mobile) and especially blue (AT&T) are a bit harder to color match.
But in our extensive testing - we have found that most LTTE boosters nowadays are actually multi-band and multi-carrier compatible. In particular, we have had excellent results with both RedVolution and Old Vine Zinfandel on all of the networks we currently cary on board - Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
We've even seen a substantial improvement when dealing with WiFi issues, and WiFiRanger bugs.
As for Sprint customers... Sprint is often the hardest network to work with and successfully boost, and we've heard anecdotally that it is usually best to just go straight to the hard stuff, and to keep at it until your contract expires.
The Pillowy Prize Inside
One of my favorite features of box-style LTTE boosters is that they all come equipped with a free inflatable travel pillow hidden inside the box.
I was worried that the new shape would no longer be as restful, but after hours of testing I can report that while the Bota Brick is disappointing and a bit too small to be comfortable - the new square Bota Box v2 gives excellent neck support and is perfect for "sleeping it off" while waiting for the Internet to come back.
These travel pillows may also double as emergency flotation devices - great for staying above water long enough to get near enough to shore to get enough signal to call 911, or the Coast Guard.
Box vs Bottle
The classic old-school LTTE boosters primarily relied on awkwardly shaped glass bottle technology, and in comparison the Box and Brick LTTE booster designs are VASTLY superior for mobile use, especially in an RV.
These new technological masterpieces are easier to store, easier to stack, easier to dispose of, are much more space efficient, and are a LOT harder to break.
All of these traits are absolutely critical in an RV.
And using a glass bottle as a pillow for a nap??? Don't even bother to try it.
The only advantages the old glass bottles have is that they are better suited to be put to use as a cudgel for self defense, and they also can help set the mood by being recycled as a candle holder.
Perhaps the Bota Box v3 will address these concerns by coming packaged with some sort of flickering LED mood-light / taser combo.
The much bigger improvement we'd like to see in future LTTE box technology: boxed tequila, vodka, whiskey, and rum!
Today (April 1st, 2015) is my 9th Nomadiversary....
To celebrate nine years living full-time on the road, I raise a toast to all of you out there struggling to stay connected, wherever you are.
Whatever it is you are drinking - be it bottled water or bubble tea, whiskey or wine, beer, rum, or even absinthe...
Here's to great connectivity - online, and in person! See you out there!
Nine years on the road - wow!
Here are some links to my (mostly) annual April 1st Nomadiversary posts over on our personal Technomadia blog. Come on over and check out some of our past adventures:
- Eighth Nomadiversary (2014) - Way too swamped and stressed with launching RVillage and dealing with Millenicom madness to write anything wistful or witty.
- Seventh Nomadiversary (2013) - At last revealing the real reason I first decided to hit the road...
- Sixth Nomadiversary (2012) – Reminiscing about all the changes over the years.
- Fifth Nomadiversary (2011) – Giving up nomadism and buying a condo (not!) in the Virgin Islands.
- Fourth Nomadiversary (2010) – Discovering the secret prize that comes inside every box of wine.
- Third Nomadiversary (2009) – Camped on a beach near Malibu, watching dolphins frolic.
- Second Nomadiversary (2008) – Working with Cherie to custom design our Oliver, moving up from a trailer ideal for one to one made for two.
- First Nomadiversary (2007) – Preparing to set out with Cherie, reminiscing about my first very eventful year on the road - setting off solo and finding an amazing partner along the way.