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Did you feel it in your knees

10 May 2009 21:50

This post is being made from my EEEEEeeee PC, using a 3G modem plugged into the USB port. The fact that I'm sat on my sofa, within easy reach of both a network cable and multiple WiFi access points is irrelevant!

I started my adventure yesterday evening, getting pretty annoyed along the way that that it wasn't just plug and go. It turns out I was suffering from two problems:

  • The USB device itself alternates between being a modem and being a dumb USB storage device (full of Windows software).
  • My copy of Network-Manager was too old.

In short from my Lenny installation I had to upgrade to Sid to get a copy of Network Manager with a "Mobile Broadband" section in its preferences. (I looked for backports, to no avail, and I didn't have the patience to make one mysefl). The new connection looks like this:


Once I added the connection discovered the USB modem device (/dev/ttyUSB0) just didn't work - and I learned about the dual-nature of the device. Thankfully switching is nice and easy "apt-get install usb-modeswitch" then:

# disable storage
usb_modeswitch -v 12d1 -p 1003 -d 1
# enable modem
usb_modeswitch -v 12d1 -p 1003 -H 1

Once that was done the connection worked almost immediately. (I just had to upgrade to a 2.6.29 kernel because I got panics on the Lenny kernel; something the upgrade installed but I'd previously ignored. Kernels: Bane of my life.)

Update: I do see some kernel weirdness talking about timeouts talking to the USB-serial device. Perhaps something to investigate in the future.

Anyway running a 3G O2 PAYG (pay as you go) modem on Debian, on an EEEPC is possible, it is justfiddlier than I had expected, and it required an upgrade to Sid - since Lenny didn't have a network manager with mobile broadband support.

For google's benefit the modem is described by O2 as a "mobile broadband USB modem - E160". This appears under lsusb as :

Bus 001 Device 005: ID 12d1:1003 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
E220 HSDPA Modem / E270 HSDPA/HSUPA Modem

Hope that helps somebody else spend less than 5 hours getting it working. I guess the friends who said "It just worked" were running Ubuntu and so had a slightly newer network manager by default - and possibly their modems didn't need to toggle between "dumb storage" and "actual modem" modes.

Anyway it works now, and even though it was fiddly the issue wasn't insurmountable. I'm just a little grumpy because I've gotten used to a world in which Debian just works - the last time I struggled to get new hardware toys playing nice was .. a long time ago.

ObFilm: Pretty In Pink