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.

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New Laptop

After posting so much about my old Thinkpad now I must report that it has died. Well maybe, the screen turned all white one morning and has been that way since. I know the computer itself is ok as it works on an external monitor without any problems. I decided it was time for a new machine. I have since found some info through Google that suggests the problem may just be a loose or faulty connection to the screen. I will get it checked out at some stage and see if it is worth repairing. Fortunately I didn’t have any data on it that hadn’t been backed up.

With the decision to buy a new one came the big choice, what to get? I looked around and found that there are some end of model specials at good prices and was tempted. First though I made a list of my requirements. For an operating system I wanted to run Fedora and the choice of buying one already installed was very limited. There are a couple of people that will sell systems with any operating system you request but they charge a premium over the regular retail price. A few suppliers have a Linux option if you search deep enough on their site but that is nearly always Ubuntu and at least one stated “not all drivers available”. So my option was a Windows system and self install Fedora.

If I was going to get Windows I wanted something I could use as a dual boot. That meant XP as some of the Windows software I use isn’t available for Vista and besides I have used Vista and was glad to get back to XP. That also meant a reasonable size hard drive so I had room for two systems. If I was going to spend some money I wanted something that wouldn’t be out of date straight away, I wanted it to be a while before I need to write another “New Life for Old Laptop”. So I set a budget of around $A1500 and started looking.

I found only a few places would sell with XP but several offered a downgrade option if you bought Vista Business. I looked at the Dell site but the weekly specials didn’t interest me and there were limited XP options. Later in the week I went back to the Dell site after the next week’s specials were listed and found many more XP Pro options and some large discounts. Several models that had been outside my budget now became available to me. They were the only place to charge a fee for supplying XP instead of Vista but it was only $29. My mind was made up.

I ordered an Inspirion 1520 and selected the options that a search of the Fedora forums told me would work with F8. I got the Intel 3945 wireless card and nVidia 8400 graphics. It also has 250 gig Hard drive. plenty of space for dual booting and 3 gig ram, plenty of space to run a virtual system if I get around to setting it up. With a 2 Gig Core 2 Duo processor I knew it would run at a reasonable speed. It had other features that weren’t really needed but they’re free, e.g. a web cam and MS Office 7 license were included. All for less than my budget.

When I placed the order they gave me a expected delivery time of 10 working days but I soon got a message to say it would arrive in 5 and it did. I checked everything was as described and working and proceeded to install the Windows software I use. After years of using a Thinkpad with their stick control I found the touchpad difficult to operate but as that is my only complaint I’m not unhappy.

Next came the Fedora installation. But that is a story for another day.

On OSes

Over the last couple of weeks I have used a number of different operating systems. This may be normal for many people but for me it is a little unusual. I have a couple I use regularly and that is about my usual limit. It got me thinking about OSes and the impact they have on our computer use.

It would be easy to argue that operating systems should be invisible and in fact for many people they are. I am surprised by the number of people who don’t know what they use. But maybe that is how it should be. After all it is the applications that we use to accomplish what we want to do. I think in an ideal world we would have an OS that perfectly matched the hardware it was used on and be able to run the applications that will do what we want to do without worrying about the type and version of OS. Of course that is heresy to many people.

I mentioned I had used a few different systems and they left me with an impression I didn’t completely expect. I used a Vista Business system, a couple of XP Pro and an XP Home as well as a few Linuxes including Fedora 8 and a couple of Ubuntu based live CDs. The Vista impressed me with its total lack of speed, even some of the live CDs felt faster. The XP systems all seemed adequate. They ran efficiently and did what was asked of them without too many problems but they seemed to lack character.

The Ubuntu based Live CDs were at a disadvantage as Live CDs will always run slower and don’t support the hardware as well as when they are installed. They were different systems with different agendas and did what they were designed to do. They generally were as good or better than any of the Windows systems.

My preferred systems were the Fedora 8 KDE installations, not surprising as they are my computers and are set up to suit what I do. But so are a couple of the XP systems, both my computers are dual boot Windows XP and Fedora. What surprised me was that when I switched the computers on I wanted to run Fedora even when I needed to run XP.