Fedora, Mobile Broadband and Conky

It was over 12 months ago that I blogged about using my Optus mobile broadband with Fedora. I’ve noticed there have been a few searches on that subject recently so I thought it was about time I updated.

With Fedora 11

When I first plugged the 3g modem in it generated a SELinux error and I had to set SELinux to permissive to get it working. That is no longer the case with Fedora 11. Nor does it load the modem as an usb drive. It is recognised as a modem and Network Manager just handles it.

I must add that this seems to apply only to Fedora. I have tried it in Mandriva and Ubuntu derivatives like Gos and only Mint has worked.

This will improve in Fedora 12 with a new feature that will automatically set up the requirements for each provider. Looks like a great feature for those who need to change the default settings.

Working with Conky

Conky is a very useful system monitor. I have often thought of doing a post on Conky but in the interim I’ll just talk about monitoring the Mobile Broadband.

When I first  set up the Mobile Broadband I couldn’t get Conky to report on it. I tried “dmesg | grep usb” and it reported that the modem was using ttyUSB0, ttyUSB1 and ttyUSB2. However none of these would report any activity. Searching around I found that these were redirecting to ppp0. I can’t remember where I found this but it has been consistent across multiple Fedora versions and computers. I can now see the current activity on the Internet connection.

If it is useful here is the code I added to my .conkyrc to get it working

${color0}INTERNET $color(${addr ppp0}) ${color0}${hr 2}$color
${color1}Down:$color  ${downspeed ppp0} KB/s${alignr}${color1}Up:$color ${upspeed ppp0} KB/s
${downspeedgraph ppp0 25,120 color1 color2} ${alignr}${upspeedgraph ppp0 25,120 color1 color2}$color
${color1}Downloaded: $color${totaldown ppp0} $alignr ${color1}Uploaded: $color${totalup ppp0}

Hope that helps.

Fedora breaks Mobile Broadband

I have blogged a couple of times regarding my 3g Mobile broadband from Optus. It is usually reliable at least recently but still the quality is variable. However a couple of days ago it broke completely and for once it wasn’t Optus’ fault.

Fedora is a leading edge distro and so regular updates are common. Sometimes these updates can be a bit buggy. Very occasionally something breaks in a big way. That is what happened with a recent update of NetworkManager.

Now I know NM has its critics but I have found it always works for me. I have used it with wired and wireless networks and with wireless broadband. This is the first time it has failed completely.Fortunately I only updated one computer. The desktop was still running the old version so I had a computer I could use.

I posted on the forums about it and although several others reported similar problems no one had a solution. So it was back to the earlier version. I downloaded version 0.7.0-1 and replaced 0.7.0.99 with it. Now back on line.

I have kept a copy of the rpms so if I update again by mistake I can fix it. It will let me test any further updates of NM too so I won’t be stuck again.

Fedora 10

Having installed Fedora 10 I thought I would share some of my impressions. First some comments on installation and setup with a few problems and then some general thoughts.

Installation

I installed from a dvd which is the way I usually do it. I couldn’t use the update option as I was replacing a 32 bit Fedora 9 system with a 64 bit Fedora 10. I had used 64 bit before with F8 but when I updated to F9 I had a 32 bit dvd so I used that.

My only gripe with installation was the lack of an option to install Xfce as my desktop. My memory may be going but I think that was an option in earlier versions. So I installed the Kde version which gave me 4.1. 4.2 has just been released and I understand will be available via the regular Fedora update very soon. As usual I selected, and deselected, several packages. You must select customise now to do this during installation otherwise you will just get a default Gnome system.

Once installed I couldn’t get the internet working on my 3G modem. The Network Manager applet wasn’t appearing in the panel, neither was the Bluetooth applet. I had to reinstall a couple of times. It finally worked after I re-activated wifi in bios. Network Manager was in the panel and when I plugged in the modem I could activate it.

That done I started the update. There were nearly 300 packages to be updated and it took several hours. Not sure if it was an internet problem or slow mirrors, I have had problems with slow mirrors since then and that may be the cause.

Getting things working.

Next was to get things set up the way I like. Although I could select many of the packages I wanted during installation there were still many more to install afterwards. First I added the RPMFusion repos so I could get the good stuff like codecs that are not in the standard repos.

One of the first things I did was install Yumex, the graphical front end for Yum. It is the best package manager for yum systems, much better than the standard “add remove software”. Don’t why it isn’t used as the default.

Next I installed xfce. I have been using it as my desktop for a while now. I have KDE4 but can’t get used to it. It works much better than the F9 version but still doesn’t feel right.

At this stage I had a couple of problems, no sound and no bluetooth. The second was the most of a nuisance as I use a bluetooth mouse all the time and hate the touchpad on my Dell laptop. After some searching I found the command “hidd –-search”. If I pressed the reset button on the mouse as I ran that, as root, the mouse was recognised and worked. It didn’t remember after a restart so I had to do it everytime. Later I added the applet to the panel using the Launcher option in xfce and set it up that way. This seems to have solved the problem as it is remembered after a reboot now. Now I can disable the touchpad. I added gsynaptics to the panel and it works but isn’t remembered after a reboot.

The sound problem I’m not sure about. I tried playing with the settings, checking nothing was muted and the usual things but nothing worked. Then when I restarted one time it gave an error about not finding the sound system and resetting and everything started working so I left it alone after that. Amarok is working fine at the moment so that is all that matters. Almost, next I tried You Tube.

I found You Tube sound worked but was very soft. So soft I first thought there was no sound. The tv was on at the other end of the room and only when it went quiet for a moment did I realise there was some faint sounds coming from the computer. I turned up the volume and could hear something. Again I explored checking the volume control in the Multimedia menu. By chance I found there was a volume control under the Settings menu. It was set to 50% or less. I raised that and You Tube was suddenly very loud. Why is there more than one volume control and which one should we use? I decided to set both to full and use the application’s control to set the level for the current track. This is easiest for me.

One interesting thing is initially I didn’t install the Nvidia drivers from RPMFusion. I used nv for a while. I turned on the compositor in Xfce and some effects worked. They are basic just transparency, the shadows didn’t work as nv is a 2d driver not 3d. I needed to install the nvidia drivers to have Google Earth working properly.

Adobe has released native 64 bit flash and I installed it using a thread on Fedora forums. Although some people have had problems it is working well for me.

I added a few applications to the quick launch bar at the bottom of the screen. To find icons and apps I used the existing ones as a guide. I looked at the properties of the Firefox launcher and found what I was looking for in the same folders.

Impressions

Fedora 10 is a good stable release now. Most Fedoras take a couple of months to settle down so I don’t install as soon as they are released. This seems to work for me. I am liking it after living with it for a few days. That doesn’t mean it is perfect as there are a few things to sort but generally it is a good system

Outstanding issues.

Fedora removed dcop earlier and I was using it in a script for Conky to show the current playing track in Amarok. That doesn’t work and I will look into it too.

The settings to turn off the touchpad don’t “stick”. While typing I find I bump it occasionally and find myself typing in another part of the document. If I am doing a fair bit of typing I turn it off using Gsynaptics.

Wireless Broadband Update

After my last post I lodged a formal complaint via email with Optus. They are supposed to answer within so many hour, 72 I think, but they haven’t. However I must say there has been quite an improvement. I rarely get a drop out at the moment and the speed is much better. I can watch You Tube again! (As an aside isn’t HD on You Tube a great improvement?).
I’m still a little peeved that I haven’t received a formal reply but as long as the system is working I can’t be too upset.

Wireless Broadband Failure

I posted sometime ago about setting up my 3G modem in Fedora. I have a Hauwei E169 modem which I got from Optus. I had no problem setting it up and getting online, it just worked.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the Optus 3G network. I had heard reports of it being overloaded and it seems that is the case. To be fair when it works it work well but that is less than 50% of the time. It is not unusual to have it drop out and then need to reconnect several times while checking mail or the Fedora forums. It wasn’t always like this though, when I first got it it was great.

Thinking it may be a Fedora / Linux problem I plugged it in to a XP box today to give it a run. I hadn’t used that computer for a while and so decided to install Firefox 3. The download took quite a few minutes, 15 at least. I watched the speed in the Optus software and it rarely got up to 50 Kb/s often under 20. It also sat at zero for some time on several occasions although the Optus software didn’t show it as having no signal. It did finally drop out while I was trying to update the extensions I had installed. I couldn’t get it to reconnect.

When I contacted support they were helpful but wanted to treat it like a setup problem and were unwilling to admit the problems is with their system.

My conclusions are it runs faster under Fedora when it runs. The service is probably overloaded and getting worse. Linux’s NetworkManager is more likely to show it as having no signal. My advice to anyone thinking of getting Optus 3G is don’t bother.

Wireless Broadband on Fedora

I decided it was time to add broadband to my mobile setup. So I have signed up with Optus (Australia’s number 2 phone and internet supplier for non Aussie readers). As part of the package they supplied a Huawei E169 USB modem. It uses the 3G/GSM network to provide wireless broadband across much of Australia or at least the settled parts.

So how to get it working with Linux? As usual the phone companies deny it will work but what do they know? First I set it up installing the supplied sim card. Next after turning off wi-fi on the laptop I plugged the modem in. It recognised it as a USB device and asked what I wanted to do with it. I elected “do nothing” and then clicked on the Network Manager icon in the panel.

Network Manager showed the GSM device and offered to connect. I clicked and SELinux gave an error and blocked the action. After setting SELinux to permissive I tried again. The light flashed encouragingly and I opened Firefox and surfed away. It was literally that easy.

I expected to fiddle for a while but no it all worked boringly easily. I’m using it to post this now. Only “problem” so far is getting Conky to display the connections details. If only everything was that simple but then I wouldn’t have much to talk about here would I?