RV server & connectivity -- ToS violations?


So–straight up–I’m definitely violating most carriers’ Terms of Service. If that’s off limits on here, I’m sorry, and understand if this post gets removed. I don’t think this qualifies as breaching “3. No Illegal Content”, but I do respect if moderation disagrees.

First things first, I’m trying to figure out the “right” way to tether a dual-sim device (phone/tablet/hotspot) to a router and tunnel through a VPN. Everything else is kind of stemming from my accommodation of that.

  • Lots of carriers offer “unlimited” data plans to handsets. My phone uses one that lets me use as much data as I’d like, and I’m under the impression that they do not even throttle me, but it’s possible I’ve just never gone over their soft cap while using my phone. If they were to “throttle me,” I believe it’d be de-prioritization, I’m paying for their most expensive plan.
  • Most carriers that do allow “unlimited” data plans on hotspots–my current carrier included–have very strict data caps before throttling. If I were to pay extra to enable tethering on my plan or add a hotspot, my data cap would come down. Therefore, I am trying to keep my plan the way it is and circumvent any backlash for using tethering or a hotspot. This is where I’m obviously moving into a grey area.

Before getting too far into this discussion, I’ll let the thread sit here for a bit in case moderators want to intervene. I have quite a few ideas, solutions, and sources to lean on, but I’m trying to adapt this to full-time RV living with proper internet access… It has an extra set of unique considerations.

Basically, I’m looking at the efficient way to set up a tethering/routing solution in an RV, and it’s looking like I “might as well” incorporate some basic server solutions like a NAS while I’m at it. I was hoping to discuss unifying these things in a space-efficient and energy-efficient manner. As I’ll mostly be working off of solar-charged batteries.

Thanks! Hope I’m not rubbing anyone the wrong way!

(P.S. A little while ago I made a similar thread, and the only response I got very much underestimated how complicated a lot of this stuff is. Using mobile networks while avoiding throttling and down-scaled video is a hassle these days, and there’s lots of tuning and decisions to be made when picking things like computers and displays!)

Pop your SIM into a cheap rooted android phone, turn on tethering, connect to the VPN, then run iptables rules to forward all packets over the VPN. There are various guides on XDA going into more detail, and there are android apps (root required) that do it too, but they look a bit sketchy.

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Yeah, that’s currently the route I’m looking at. Before sharing links to stuff about this, I’d like to hear from mods. (Or not hear from them for like a day, haha.)

It looks like there’s a few different ways to connect your phone to a router, whether it’s through proper USB tethering or through some weird method that’s more like a file transfer–at which point you bridge the connection to an Ethernet port on your desktop and one going to the router… Which is supposedly safer?

There’s one particular app that is supposedly very highly regarded. If I had to guess, it goes the extra mile of doing the iptables rulings for the end-user and maybe blocks some telemetry/monitoring?

I don’t know what app you’re looking at specifically, from my quick search it looked like most of them just run 2 iptables rules and show ads. I guess if one of them looks legitimate it would offer a nice GUI to turn on the rules, but for an always-on device like this I’d just use a crontab/tasker/termux script.

It gets more complicated if you need an ethernet connection. I would just tether to wifi, as it’s not like you’re going to get speeds over 100mbit even on great LTE.

The main reason I’d like to use a router rather than a phone as a hotspot is for the wear&tear factor and just general reliability. I’d like for this to last as long as possible, and I feel like using the phone’s 4G, Wifi, and charging it all day is probably a pretty strenuous use-case.

Using the phone’s 4G all day, while leaving it to charge and transfer data over USB sounds marginally less stressful on that particular device. I could be wrong about that. lol

There are also random quality-of-life benefits to using a proper router, like better management and being able to more easily share connectivity with other folks.

Well, sharing the connection to a computer via USB is pretty easy as it shows up as a modem when plugged-in, at least on Windows. Then you’d need to bridge the connection to your ethernet port and plug that into your router. Adds a fair bit of complexity, but should be doable.

As far as strain goes, you can get low-end android phones REALLY cheap these days. If you’re concerned about it, just buy two.

Having a backup phone might be the simplest solution, I’ll definitely consider that. That might be the right thing to do even if I end up with a more complex system!

It’s fine to discuss how to use a mobile essentially as a modem/router to forward traffic to your network and devices.

Keep in mind that if its againts your terms of service you’d be breaking the contract and they might stop your connection.

How much data do you actually use? Worth finding that out as you might have alternatives.

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My usage is pretty sporadic, but I consistently watch a lot of 1080p YouTube on any given day. Besides that, a lot of general web browsing and searching and social media.

The more intense things I do include randomly deciding to torrent larger things, sometimes tens of GBs worth of stuff, or installing a game from Steam or whatever else.

It’s one of those things where I can plan around and lean on WiFi networks when I can, but I’d also like to be able to “not worry about it,” especially when I’m far from a decent WiFi connection.

“Not worrying about it” is a recurring theme in my plans for downsizing into a camper. :slight_smile:

Thanks for clarifying, @Eden. Today was pretty hectic for me, so I might not give a more thorough and descriptive reply until later today or some time this week.

If your living in a RV are you moving towards a more nomadic life?

If yes, (maybe off topic slightly and don’t mean to presume or not) have you considered that you may need to also downsize your data use or change how you handle your data?

I live in the middle of no where, and when i’m going out of wifi range and know i wont hit another for a while, i’m pre-downloading everything I need. Streaming can stop being an option and you end up having to plan ahead (tip: NewPipe for youtube on android (get it from their site not the play store).

I have enough data that i don’t need to worry to much, but it doesnt help in dead zones and im not travelling much, but when i do my pattern for data completely changes.

I’m sure you’ve thought about it. It’s something you might not be able to get around.

That said, its not like you cant tether devices, but if it were me id aim it to be more for a backup and light data maybe.


I’m mostly moving into an RV as a sort of “early retirement” strategy. Not necessarily aiming for a “nomadic life,” but I do like the option being available. (Versus committing to land.) I’d definitely put effort into having a library of media to keep me occupied on lazy days with no internet…

Which, that note kind of transitions into one of the use cases and the “Server” name drop in the original title:

Basically, I have an Atom-based board with a 25W CPU. It could pretty easily run a Hypervisor with pfSense on one VM and some kind of NAS in another, and I’ve considered setting up a video card to mine when I’ve got excess power during the day time. If I’m discerning about my hardware (and tuning the GPU), none of that would use an outrageous amount of power for a solar setup.

That said, here are a few questions I have about setting up that kind of machine:

  • I’m vaguely familiar with “bridging connections” in Windows, as that’s what I’ve worked in most of my life and it’s been my job for a few years. Does anyone know how friendly pfSense is with tethering or other ways of sharing a 4G connection with a computer?
  • How energy efficient are HDDs? I’ve heard that 2.5" drives are actually more efficient, but I have never seen any tests or numbers to back that up. Are there any NAS solutions that allow SSDs to serve as caches for HDDs? (My Atom board doesn’t support M.2, but I do have ITX boards that I could put an undervolted desktop CPU in…)
  • Would one or two of the Atom’s (fairly slow) 8 cores be enough to help a GPU do mining? I don’t know a ton about mining, but it seems like a pretty efficient use of excess power.

And… so, the fine-tuning of pfSense and the convenience of having a NAS for media storage both seem like attractive functions to combine with my tethered connection. They might both be overkill, but they don’t seem like they would add THAT much of a load onto my setup and they offer a fair amount of comfort and confidence, I think.

@Eden Thanks for heads up on NewPipe. Awesome app.


Very interesting topic. My fg and me, we actually have been discussing about doing some RVing for a year or so… So this is really interesting…

  1. It may be totally unfounded, but the first thought that came to mind about having a proper NAS full of spinners in an RV, would be - how will those spinners hold up being on the move so much? I mean, the driving and bumping all the time. I assume, it would make things way better, is the server is turned off, when actually driving.
    Off course, SSDs would not have this problem. But who has money to build a NAS made of only SSDs :slight_smile:

  2. As for NAS with SSDs cache - no problem. Freenas, unRAID - both have it. I haven’t tried anything else, so can’t comment, but I’m sure most of them have an SSD cache options nowadays.

  3. Talking about NAS - Freenas is obviously the bee’s knees, but I would consider, if it’s not an overkill in this situation… I would think unRAID would be better - it can on pretty much anything. Uses like no resources, if running vanilla. But at the same time - it has excellent Docker implementation and you can proper VMs on it easily, even with GPU passthrough, if you wanna.
    Basically, slap unRAID on your server. Install everything you need using Docker - like downloading (usenet/torrents), media serving stuff (Plex/emby) and anything else you want. The best and easiest to maintain solution, at least in my experience up to date. Everything is one place, but completely separated at the same time. To install, reinstall or uninstall anything, is literally a one click job (well, you need to set a couple of settings in the template when installing, but it’s very easy). But most importantly - all your docker container’s settings and data is always safe on cache drive! So installing, messing up and trying again is a peace of cake.
    In case you already know and use Docker - sorry, for rambling on and wasting your time :slight_smile:
    If you need windows or any other proper Desktop - make any type and as many VMs as you want. With GPU pass-through you can even game whatever you want. No need for 2 separate machines - with power and space shortage, IMHO this would be perfect for you.
    Downside - it’s not open source and it’s not free.

  4. If you are not satisfied with unRAID’s parity protection, you can always use Freenas. Or check out Snapraid. It is a snapshot parity protection, not live. But, in your situation, I assume you would be doing all downloading in “batches”, at some particular times, when you’ve got good Wi-Fi at some place. Then Snapraid would fit perfectly - go to some place with good internet, download everything you need, update parity and you’re golden. In between good Wi-Fi places - your data will be mostly static…
    The downsides - it’s a snapshot protection, and Snapraid is CLI only (well it has 2 UI solutions, both kinda not worth it, imho).

Well, there is plenty of choice when it comes to NAS nowdays. I only talked about the 2 I have experience with.

Let us know what you end up deciding/using. Very interested in hearing about our eventual setup, as it may help me to decide in the future :slight_smile:

Something from my own experience, concerning 1. in the list above:

Just last September, we had to quickly pack our shit and run from the hurricane Irma. I decided, that we gonna leave our small cars, and rented a U-Haul van. We put as much of most important crap in the van and left. Obviously, I took all my rigs, including my server with me :slight_smile:

Basically, I had somewhere ~100 spinner drives with me in that van. I had no time to do anything special to try to “protect” them, so I kept 64 of them in the SAS Expander 16 bay enclosures (4x16), and the rest of the drives I had in some plastic protective cases, that I have bought ages ago. So I simply wrapped “loose” drives, or rather wrapped those plastic cases individually in some t-shirts and such for “cushioning” and then put them in some big plastic boxes.

I was actually worried about someone stealing the freaking van :slight_smile: But more so, I was worried that some drives would die from the “ordeal”. I haven’t checked all of them, yet - but I’m happy to say, none of the drives I have “checked” or rather I am using after getting back - none have died or show any new bad symptoms or SMART warnings.

Bah… sorry for a long post.

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I have alway wondered how an old iphone hidden in a vehicle powered would go with find my phone ?

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@Marten Very interesting idea, indeed.

Yea in AU we have prepaid low use plans with credit that last 365 days before expiring. That’s where the idea came to me.

@cryodream, thanks for the input! (And thanks for the burner phone idea, @Marten!)

Honestly, I’m not all that worried about the wear & tear on HDDs while rolling around. Depending on how much storage I feel like I need, I might be able to justify flash storage… but I can’t really see things working out like that.

For HDDs I’ve ordered from Amazon to arrive functioning, I can’t imagine that powered-off HDDs would be too much in peril from driving, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to look for a case/mounting solution with some rubber shock absorbers!

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