Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mobile Broadband?

I was recently offered on loan one of the new HSDPA USB sticks from the UK network operator Three under a similar deal, which is I promise to write about it, to the Skypephone I had on loan from them at the tail end of last year. The stick arrived this morning...


I'm off to the IVOA Interop Meeting in Trieste next month, and Three are one of the few mobile operators with decent roaming rates, at least if you're in a country covered by one of Three's sister networks which are: Austria, Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy or Sweden. Which I will be, so it's all rather well timed...


Opening the box you find a USB stick, a cable and a SIM card. You have to insert the SIM card into the stick, and the stick into your laptop. The hardware setup therefore isn't that hard. I'm on a Mac and plugging the stick into my Macbook made the stick mount a partition with the driver software in it, double click to install and theoretically we're good to go...

The initial bad news is that the connection software doesn't use the default OSX utilities. The modem doesn't show up in the normal Internet Connect application, nor does it turn up in the modem status pull-down menu in the menu bar along with my Bluetooth and wired modems. What it does do is tread heavily over my root file system and install various bits and pieces onto the disk. It also installs a proprietary MobileConnect.app into my root Applications folder. Which doesn't make me that happy. None the less we're good to go...


Except that it doesn't work, firing up the proprietary connection software it finds the dongle without a problem, and I appear to have signal. Hitting connect I'm asked for my admin user name (why does it do that?) and then... connection failed.

There are interesting things going on in my system log file, but the application itself doesn't seem to create its own logs so its difficult to tell what's happening. But what seems to happen when you hit connect is that the SetNetworkConfig call crashes due to Kernel protection failure. In other words, bad things happen.

Which is where I am now, I'm about to email technical support with my crash dump and I'll let you know how I get on when they get back to me...

In the mean time you should probably head off and read the interesting BBC News article on why these dongles are so important to Three and why, after initially being a strong supporter of walled gardens, like most people they realised that these are not really a good thing...

Update: Works under Leopard, but not under Tiger?

Update: After manually configuring the network interfaces, the dongle is now working.