Saturday, December 05, 2009

Review of Megabus WiFi Internet access

Running a fast-paced high tech company like JangoMail, I need to be as productive as possible. I am usually either in Chicago (where I live) or in Dayton, Ohio (where I grew up, and where JangoMail is headquartered). Normally I drive between the two cities, because non-stop flights between Chicago and Dayton are upwards of $1,000. Recently, I was told of a bus service called Megabus, which operates a bus route between Cincinnati and Chicago with WiFi Internet access, so tonight, I gave it a shot. With the WiFi, I figured taking the bus I figured would allow me to work for six hours rater than drive for six hours.

What I wanted to know

Prior to buying my ticket, I wanted to know the following about the Megabus WiFi access:

1. How fast was it? Would it be like dialup, or a T1?

2. Were there any connectivity restrictions? Could I remote into a JangoMail server and deploy a new feature? Could I use GoToMyPC to access my main workstation in Chicago?

3. Were there power outlets available? My laptop battery only lasts four hours, and my trip was six.

Googling got me nowhere, as nobody has documented in detail experiences with Megabus's WiFi, so hence the purpose of this article.

To all tech executives, sysadmins, and those that like to make their web app better while travelling between cities, this article's for you.

Network Settings

The above screenshot shows my network settings after connecting to the wireless network with SSID MEGABUS - 64184. Note that I manually put in the DNS server of in an attempt to get around the network's web site blocking, however my attempt was futile.

The Speed

The speed various greatly depending on whether the bus is moving or stationary. While stationary, I got reasonable high-speed access. I ran this speed test which shows that I was getting near T1 speeds on the download.

Above speed was while bus was stationary at Indianapolis stop.

Above speed test was while bus was in route, half-way between Indianapolis and Chicago.

The speed between Cincinnati and Indianapolis was the slowest of all, but unfortunately I did not capture a speed test screenshot during that portion of the trip.

Port Blocking

All connectivity, except to ports 80 and 443, and DNS lookups, are blocked:
  1. I could not ping any of our servers.
  2. I could not FTP to our server.
  3. I could not connect on port 25 to any mail servers.
  4. I could not Remote Desktop into any servers.
  5. I could not use GoToMyPC to connect to my workstation.
Web Site Blocking

Additionally, the WiFi service uses OpenDNS to block many web sites. While I was able to read and respond to email via GMail, and browse Facebook, the following sites were blocked:
  1. MySpace
  2. Google Docs (at, which was odd, because most other Google services were available
  3. Nerve

Because it was an OpenDNS based block, I suspected that switching to Google's new public DNS server ( might be a workaround to the blocking. I manually set my Windows TCP/IP settings to use as its DNS server rather than the one dynamically assigned by DHCP, but to no avail. The sites were still blocked, redirecting me to an OpenDNS message.

The WiFi service is provided by a company called Saucon, and it is free.

Power Outlets on Megabus

There were no power outlets on my bus from Cincinnati to Chicago, but I've read (insert link) that some buses do have outlets.


For the official Megabus Saucon WiFi Terms of Use, that you must agree to right when you connect, is here:

Wikipedia entry on Megabus -

Megabus Home page -, which oddly enough when I just visited, gave me:

Shocking that the site goes offline EVERY DAY for 3 hours. In our world of real-time, mission-critical everything, I'm surprised that they would sacrifice 12.5% of the time they could be selling tickets. JangoMail, which I'd imagine is a far more complex app than Megabus's web site, has maintenance running on the back-end almost constantly, and we rarely go offline.