iPad File Download and Upload Solutions

As Internet connectivity goes, I live pretty far out out of town. So far, in fact, that decent high-data rate Internet solutions are completely unavailable to me. Internet access at home comes exclusively from an expensive data plan using a mobile hotspot. My hotspot device and my phone share a 40GB/month data plan that I regularly consume in its entirety (and then some). I consume this 40GB each month without streaming Netflix or Amazon or downloading the latest ISO of my favorite Linux distributions. It’s depressing that I, a guy glued to a keyboard for a living, have to conserve bandwidth. Every time I’m at home watching a YouTube video or downloading a file I have a little annoyance in the back of my head asking, “Is this worth the data?”. I make lists of things to download, do and/or watch online when I get to the office so I don’t have to download them at home. Sad, right? My local broadband Internet provider tells me they want $50K to run the necessary infrastructure to my home. Restated another way, I have to pay them $50,000 in order to become a customer. As absurd as that sounds I catch myself thinking about it, wondering what the break-even point would be.

What I do have, however, is an iPad with a grandfathered unlimited data plan! Huge score for a guy like me who lives out in the sticks. I initially contemplated setting up my iPad as a jailbroken hotspot and letting it replace my current setup but that is a violation of my ToS with my provider and I have researched enough to know that if I do get nabbed doing it I’ll lose my grandfathered plan. I know I could probably research further and find a way but losing the unlimited plan is not a risk I’m willing to take.  That being said, I do make extensive use of the unlimited data plan at home. I physically connect my iPad to my Apple TV so I can stream Netflix and watch YouTube just like a regular person. As many of you already know your iPad will prefer its WiFi connection over LTE whenever both are available. If I connect my iPad to the WLAN at my house it uses my per megabyte data plan rather than its own unlimited plan. Not cool. I tried connecting it to the WLAN, setting the IP address manually and leaving out the gateway but when you connect to the AppleTV to stream video the data, oddly enough, comes through the WLAN connection (even though the iPad doesn’t have a gateway to use it).  I’m not sure why that is happening (but I blame Apple for such trickery) and I haven’t done all the necessary research (i.e a mixture of packet captures and Google searches) on this just yet but I’m sure I can find a solution that will let me use AirPlay rather than the physical AV connector I am using.  But that is for another day.

Having found a reasonable workaround to my video streaming needs I was still left with the inability to download my beloved big files without taking a nasty chunk out of my pay-per-megabyte data plan.  I needed a solution that would allow me to use my iPad’s unlimited data plan to download the files and them move them to the other computers on my home network.  iPad’s don’t have a built in FTP or SSH client and the usual suspect web browsers (i.e. Safari, Chrome, Firefox) don’t support downloading files when you long press (~right click) on a file link.  But there are solutions!  Here are two (of many, I’m sure):

  • GoodReader ($4.99) or GoodReader4 ($6.99).  – Besides being a lot of other really cool stuff, this app is an all-in-one solution that lets you browse the web, download the file, connect to a local server (via SMB for instance) and upload the file to the server.  If your situation is at all like mine it’s important to note that you will have to enable WiFi to do the upload so be sure you either A) download your file before turning on WiFi or B) manually set your WiFi IP address/mask and leave the Gateway/Router field blank.  This will allow the iPad to communicate on the WLAN but leave the LTE connection as the only default gateway, thereby forcing the data to go LTE even though the WLAN is connected.  For a step-by-step walk-through, check out the images below.
  • Atomic Browser ($1.99, the Lite version doesn’t support downloading files) combined with AirSharing ($8.99) – This is a more expensive and less elegant solution but if you already have both apps, you’re good to go.   If you don’t already own these I don’t recommend buying them just for this purpose.  The GoodReader solution is a better one (for this particular use).  The step-by-step using these two apps can be seen by clicking the images below.

It’s all a bit convoluted, I know.  But when you trade Fat Pipe Internet for wide open country spaces you have to be prepared to jump through an occasional hoop or two.

Cheers,

Colin Weaver

About the Author

Colin Weaver

Colin Weaver is co-owner and lead instructor at ITdojo, Inc., a network security and information assurance training center and consulting firm located in Virginia Beach, VA. His passion for technology, networks, and security has led him to become enthralled with the idea of IPv6 and its implementation. In this blog he will share with you glimpses of what he has learned and a hint at what you’ll learn in his classes.