Friday, April 25, 2008

Mobile Broadband via India

If you've been following along, you'll know that I currently have one of Three's new HSDPA USB modems on loan for review, and up till now I've been having problems getting it to work under OSX Tiger on my Intel Macbook, although I did get it working under Leopard on my PPC iMac without a hitch.

Well today I had a call from Three's technical support team, and from the sounds of things I was talking to the same Bangalore based team as you'd normally end up talking to if you'd managed to fight your way through the front line call centre people and got a call back from a real technical support person. I was pleasantly surprised, the agent at the end of the phone rapidly ramped their level of technical support from "...and have you tried plugging it into a different USB port?" to talking about the Kernel protection faults and driver conflicts.

The short story is that I now have a working USB modem, and am a happy geek with a new toy. The long story is, well, longer...

Now configured and connected to the Internet

It turns out that I having the configuration problems Aaron Heath was having, but with my own unique spin on things. The initial network driver configuration was indeed failing, because I had turned on the "Require password to unlock each secure system preference" option under the security options in my System Preferences. This meant that Three's proprietary connection software didn't actually have the permissions it needed to add or configure the new network interfaces. We actually accidentally stumbled across this during the tech support call when I plugged the dongle into the laptop while I had the Network Preference pane open and unlocked and it automatically enabled the HUAWEI Mobile device. From there we more or less followed Aaron's walkthrough to manually configure the network interface...

...and it shows up in the normal modem menu

The modem now shows up under the normal Mac drop down for such things, and I can connect to the Internet using it without a hitch from my Intel Macbook using the standard Mac tools. However, and perhaps somewhat tellingly, I still can't use the proprietary Mobile Connect application included with the dongle. It crashes, a bit further forward this time, but still with a Kernel Protection Failure...

The Mobile Connect application still doesn't work though?

Of course this doesn't really bother me, I'd rather use the device using the default tools anyway. However, without the Mobile Connect application, I do need a new way to monitor my bandwidth usage. I might not be paying for my packets while I have the dongle, but I'd like to be able to report back at the end of my trial with how much it would have cost had I actually had to pay for things. Especially since I'm off to Trieste in a couple of weeks and will be using the dongle to roam onto Three's Italian partner network, which could get interesting price wise.

It was surprisingly hard to find a simple, free, application that would just monitor my total bytes up and down on a specific network interface, until I stumbled across the oddly named SurplusMeter, which does exactly what I need, monitor ongoing usage against a preset bandwidth allowance.

Annoyingly there isn't any way of getting rid of the mounted volume on the dongle.

Which leaves me with my final annoyance, every time you plug in the dongle it mounts the partition with the driver software on it. This was actually rather nice the first time I plugged the stick into the computer, but now it just leaves me with an extra mounted volume cluttering up an already over full desktop. I'm not going to muck around with it right now, but after I've tested the dongle, and I'm back from Trieste, I might have a play around with Disk Utility and see if I can stop it doing that and still have access to the modem itself.

Anyway, as it turns out, this post is brought to you via mobile broadband and Three's dongle. I'd forgotten to plug my ethernet cable back into the laptop after taking the screen shots for the post....