Credit where it is Due

I have criticised Optus in the past when I had problems with my mobile broadband so it is only fair to give credit when they get it right.

As a result of the storms the other night, al least I guess it was the storms could have been a totally unrelated problem, I lost all mobile phone and broadband reception at home. I called them to report it and after describing the situation, my phone could see distant towers weakly for short periods and both being out, they agreed it was most likely a network issue. They said they had several problems in the Sydney area but our local area hadn’t been reported. They would get a tech to investigate but it could take up to 48 hours to resolve. Not something to look forward to.

Anyway less than 10 hours later I had gotten into the habit of checking my phone every so often and there was a full signal this time. I had internet and working well too.

Well done Optus.

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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.

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 – an Update

I thought I would add a few more comments after my previous post on setting up wireless broadband. I have had the chance to try it on other computers and have learnt a few things. Both the Fedora systems were Fedora 8 but as the NetworkManager is almost the same in Fedora 9 these comments apply there too.

First it is necessary to have NetworkManager running and up to date for it to work as easily as I reported earlier. I had been using wifi so I had NM loading and updated. On another machine it was necessary to turn on the NetworkManager service and restart it for it to work. The earlier version of NetworkManager did not handle Mobile Broadband, if your’s has the Mobile Broadband tab when you right click on the NetworkManager icon it should work.

Second as I mentioned in the previous post SELinux must be set to permissive mode (or off altogether). It will generate a warning but still work.

That’s really all that is needed.

I did try it on a Ubuntu system too but that was a nightmare. Took downloading scripts and setting up config files but it finally worked. Reminded me why I use Fedora though.