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Cellular aircard routers!
We may have an alternative to the mobile PC - Tom clued me in on this company called Cradlepoint, who makes a whole lineup of these cool little gadgets - basically little routers that accept any USB or PCMCIA cellular aircard. Most broadcast a WIFI hotspot, and others also have ethernet ports. Cost is about $150-$300 depending on features. They do exactly what we were going to build an entire computer to do, and at less than half the cost! These routers make any cellular aircard into an Autonet-type access point. A Google search brings up a ton of info on these devices:
GOOGLE SEARCH: Cradlepoint
Unfortunately it looks like only online stores carry these - but I will be checking to see if we can pick one up sometime this week. Raleigh has a few computer outlet stores that might carry them.