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Originally published Friday, June 28, 2013 at 5:11 PM

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‘Rooting’ a way around those cellphone ‘tethering’ charges

If you want to do unauthorized tethering, you’re going to have to go through the additional and, at least for many of us, daunting task of “rooting” your phone.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q. I used to be able to use my Droid Razr as a modem for my laptop using an application I downloaded from the Droid store. Now all of a sudden it won’t work. Any ideas why?

— B. Austin

A. Yes, the problem is capitalism. Corporate greed. (Not that we should blame any particular corporation. Making as much money as possible is one of those things that’s part of being a corporation.)

Cellphone providers don’t want you using their Internet access on your laptop without their making more money. My provider, Verizon, charges $30 a month for “tethering” — using your cellphone as a modem for the laptop.

And you’re right that up until recently you could use software to do the job. Of course, unless you paid the demanded fee, you would be in violation of your contract with your service provider.

And now those providers have found a way to make it more difficult for you to do that. If you downloaded the 4.1.2 update for the Android operating system, you also inadvertently allowed your service provider to prevent unauthorized tethering.

So now, if you want to do unauthorized tethering, you’re going to have to go through the additional and, at least for many of us, daunting task of “rooting” your phone. Basically, that involves running a script that gives you root privileges to the operating system on your phone.

The end result is that I’m writing this column on the Coast Starlight using my cellphone for Internet searches while I write the column on my laptop. When I finish the story I’ll move it over to the phone via a USB connection and send it in. It’s either that, or spend $30 a month for direct access that I only need to use once or twice a month.

If any readers want to launch a call for a federally supported Internet that offers high-speed access to all, I’m on board. And it would be a major boost for the economy, too.

Q. Monday evening I was instructed to “not turn off my computer” so one update could occur. Tuesday morning my email opened to the inbox screen as usual, but would not load the 13 messages indicated. I went to my other computer and it worked as usual. How do I undo the “update” and can I set the computer to not do any updates.

— Wally Bartlow

A. Assuming the update you’re talking about was a Windows update, it’s easy to roll back the update. Just go to the Control Panel and select View Installed Updates. Highlight the most recent update and click on Uninstall.

Windows updates do on occasion result in problems with other programs or drivers, generally because those applications weren’t written precisely to standards.

So backing up to the previous version should solve the problem. The downside is that if you don’t update, you will be missing other important updates, especially security updates.

I urge you to check with the maker of your email program and see if it has an update compatible with the updated Windows.

Note: Another of my favorite cellphone gripes is that manufacturers have chosen not to allow users to record phone calls. Smartphones are, in principle, capable to doing so and saving the conversation to the SD card.

I have asked about this and have yet to receive an answer. The only reply I did get was from Motorola. The company indicated it hadn’t felt consumer demand for the feature.

And, yes, recording phone calls without informing the other party is illegal in some states, including Washington. But it’s simple enough to record the calls anyway. You just need to go through the additional step of buying an inexpensive earbud microphone that will pick up the conversation and relay it to your recorder. I use this solution frequently for recording interviews.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/

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