T-Mobile make me sick

06/04/2010

I’ve got this deal with T-Mobile: I pay them £x and in return they give me “unlimited” mobile broadband on top of cellphone service.

Only it isn’t unlimited, is it? There’s a “fair use policy”, which isn’t very fair at all. If you look here, you’ll see what these unfair use policies entail: details vary a little from plan to plan, but the upshot is the user has a “maximum allowance” of data transfer – these allowances can be as small as 40MB per day! – and if you exceed this allowance (by using a mobile internet device for its proper purpose – ie accessing the internet) T-Mobile “restricts” your ability to use the web!

Here’s the message you receive if you attempt to access the internet once your allowance is used up:

Notice from T-Mobile

You’ve now exceeded your internet Fair Use Policy

At T-Mobile we want to give you our customers the best service possible.

Our Fair Use Policy (FUP) helps us do this and also means we don’t have to charge any run on rates. We will never ask you to pay more than you agreed, so you’ll always know how much you’re paying and never get an unexpected bill.

Each internet option comes with its own Fair Use Policy. We’ve already sent a text message letting you know you had reached 80% of your FUP, and now you’ve used over 100%.

You will continue to be able to use your internet for unlimited browsing. That means you’ll still be able to browse websites, login to Facebook, check your Hotmail or catch the news on the BBC.

For the time being, however, between 4pm and midnight you won’t be able to do other heavy usage activities such as watching videos or downloading applications. Before 4pm and after midnight your internet service will continue to run as normal.

Your Fair Use Policy duration depends on how you purchase your internet. When your Fair Use Policy begins again, either at the start of the next calendar month or your next purchase, it will be reset to 0 and your service will return to normal.

So “between 4pm and midnight you won’t be able to do other heavy usage activities such as watching videos or downloading applications”… or, indeed, downloading files from remote machines, or any email attachments that T-Mobile classify as “large”, nor can I upload “large” files… and this ridiculous state of affairs will continue until the end of the calendar month – unless, of course, I’d like to pay extra to get a larger “allowance” (though none have a particularly large allowance as far as I can see). And T-Mobile also bans the use of instant messaging over their network. No doubt because the availability of IM would eat away at their lucrative business of selling SMS to teenagers.

Because that’s what all this “fair use” crap is about, of course. The policies are full of bull like “We’ll monitor how much you send and receive each calendar month so that we can protect our network for all our customers”. But what it all means is that T-Mobile can try to guarantee all of their customers a little internet access at the expense of those who need to use the internet a lot.

I realize this is all standard operating policy now with internet service providers, so I shouldn’t complain about T-Mobile in particular. But I will complain about T-Mobile because they’re the bastards who are screwing with me right now! And I’ll also give Vodafone a special mention as I’ve suffered at their hands too. But they are all a bunch of wankers. Seems to me that there’s a cartel in operation, fixing prices amongst themselves so there’s nowhere for a cost-conscious customer to go. And of course, like the flock of stupid sheep we are, we hand over our hard-earned dosh to the robbers when we should be handing them their own heads.

But maybe they’re not all on the take – at least, perhaps some of the thieves are a little less dishonest. Next month I’m going to give 3 a try. They sell prearranged “data allowances” so I can pay, for instance, £15 and get a 3GB allowance. The prices are still outrageous, but maybe I’ll be able to use my mobile devices for their intended purpose – to use the internet while out and about!

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No wvdial in Ubuntu!

23/12/2009

If you are an Ubuntero and use dial-up to connect to the internet or use a cellphone as a modem, you may have noticed that the “intelligent dialer” utility wvdial is no longer included on the Ubuntu live CD. This has been the case since 9.04 (Jaunty) and is still true with Karmic (9.10) – and I’ve been told it won’t be on the 10.04 (Lucid) CD either!

Well, us wvdial-using Ubunteros need to stick together! It can be very difficult to configure ppp; in comparison wvdial is a cake-walk. Lots of dial-up users like to use Gnome-PPP to manage their internet connection, but the absence of wvdial just makes it hellish to get hold of any such tools. We need wvdial! Right?

Well there is something we can do about it. There is a bug report on Launchpad which asks the developers to include wvdial in future versions of Ubuntu. I am asking everyone to create an account on Launchpad then go add their name to that bug report – ie click on this link and add a comment echoing the request for wvdial. I’m not sure, but I think the developers must have decided that dial-up doesn’t exist anymore… or that dial-up users don’t matter. We need to tell them they’re wrong. Really I can’t see any good reason for excluding wvdial: it’s a pretty small binary, so I don’t think the devs needed the disk space for something else! And the fact it’s such a small program means there is no reason not to put it back in. The devs just need to be told there is a demand for it. That’s where you come in.

Please please add your name to the Launchpad bug report. Even if you don’t use wvdial yourself, please help the rest of us. A lot of us can connect to the internet only by using dial-up; I’ve seen posts on Ubuntuforums.org where users have said they will actually have to switch to another Linux distro if this isn’t put right! So please… tell the Ubuntu developers to give us wvdial!!

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Mobile Broadband on Linux

11/10/2009

Note: There’s more info on this subject here. So take a look if this post doesn’t do it for you.

Be aware that all my experience of this subject is based on Ubuntu. If you use another Linux distro, YMMV. If you’re using Windows or OSX… you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere.

Some time ago I bought a new phone – Sony Ericsson K800i. It’s a 3G phone, so I was pretty stoked: at last I’d be able to get a decent connection speed when linking my PC to the internet through this baby. And I was right: I get between 40 and 100 Kps (320-800 Kbps). Maybe those of you with wired broadband connections think this is dead slow. It probably is, to you. But to someone who’s previously had to depend on a sluggish GPRS connection, my new phone is like amphetamine on crack.

And it is so much easier to connect via this phone than it was through my previous handsets. All I need to do with my K800i is:

1. Press Menu > Settings > Connectivity > USB > USB Internet;

2. Select USB Internet On;

3. Connect phone to PC with USB datacable (the K800i also has bluetooth and infrared, but my computer is not equipped for such things);

4. Select Phone Mode;

and that’s it! The Ubuntu network manager detects the phone and automagically sets up the connection. Sweet or what! (Remember, this is with the Sony Ericsson K800i. Other phones will be different.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always like that. I don’t know if it’s just my phone or what, but connection is very unreliable. It cuts out erratically, and I haven’t found a fix yet. So on bad days I find I have to use wvdial to connect. I’ve described this in detail before – I’m not going to go into it again. Click here to go to the wvdial tutorial.

Thing is, mobile phone service providers have got something against their customers using their cellphones this way. It’s called “tethering”, and it is generally banned in the Terms and Conditions they make you agree to when you get your phone. And some providers actively block tethering. My provider obviously doesn’t block it. But that might change any day.

Why do they dislike tethering? Because they want you to buy a Mobile Broadband USB modem, and pay an inflated rate for mobile internet connection. Rip-off merchants!

Because I wanted another way to connect to the internet other than my phone, I bought one of these USB modems – a Vodafone K3565, aka the Huawei E160X. To connect via this device, Vodafone (UK) charge me £15 per GB of data transferred. This is shockingly expensive compared to what I pay for connection through my cellphone (£2.50 for 5 days’ “unlimited” browsing). But it is a better connection much of the time, when I get Vodafone’s HSDPA signal. Transfer speeds over HSDPA can get as highh as 160 Kps (1280 Kbps). But if I’m in an area with no HSDPA or 3G signal, I get snail’s rate GPRS. Which hurts when you’re paying the con men so much.

It’s also extremely easy to connect an Ubuntu PC to the internet via a Huawei dongle. Similar to the phone: plug it in, wait a short while, and the network manager detects the device and connects. The first time you connect the dongle to the computer, network manager throws up a mobile broadband wizard, which asks you a few questions about your service provider etc. And that’s it. Well, usually that’s it. Sometimes you have to manually edit the settings before it’ll work. But that will depend on whose service you’re using.

Also, I understand that although Huawei devices play nice with Ubuntu, some other manufacturers’ models don’t. If that’s the case for you, wvdial is probably the answer. Again, click here to find out how to use wvdial.

There’s another solution, if you’re having problems: an app called Vodafone Mobile Connect. Don’t let the word “Vodafone” in the name put you off – it actually works with devices on any provider’s networks. I used it for a while very successfully. I can’t give you any real advice about it, as it’s in constant “beta” development. But the only reason I stopped using it was the fact that Ubuntu’s network manager does the job just fine. It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re having problems. There are binaries available for many Linux distros.

Well, I think that’s about it. So, let me just wish you the best of luck in connecting to the internet with your device. And I’ll bid you farewell!

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Linux Tutorial: How to use a cellphone as a modem

15/02/2008

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Note: There is more up-to-date info on this subject, especially concerning mobile broadband HSDPA modems and 3G cellphones, to be found here. But the info on this page is still relevant. In particular, this page covers the program wvdial, which can be used if your network manager doesn’t detect your HSDPA modem.

I learnt how to connect to the internet through my cellphone because it was the only way I could get online from my home – at the time I was living in a flat where I wasn’t permitted to have a regular phoneline installed. And I still sometimes find it useful: if I’m out and about with my laptop, and I can’t find a wifi “hotspot” to use, I can generally get a GSM signal – in the UK it’s possible to get a signal in just about every urban area, and in a lot of rural areas too – and a GSM signal means you can connect to the internet via GPRS.

Some mobile service plans charge for internet access on a per MB of transferred data basis. This can turn out very expensive, as there is a lot of data transferred during an internet session. Especially if you download a 3 GB movie DVD!! However, many mobile plans charge a set fee for unlimited net access. My mobile provider, Orange, charge me £1 for one day’s unlimited access or £5 for a week’s access. And I believe in the USA it’s much cheaper.

So how do you use a mobile phone as a modem? With Windows, I haven’t got a clue. But with Linux, you establish a PPP connection with the mobile service provider’s servers, by using a dialler like wvdial. Wvdial comes included with a default installation of Ubuntu (my particular distro) and probably other Linux flavours too.

Connect your phone to the computer. I do this with a USB datacable that came with the phone, but some people use Bluetooth. The phone should be ON. My phone is a Sony Ericsson – when it’s linked to the computer, I have to choose between File Transfer and Phone Mode. To use the phone as a modem, I have to select Phone Mode. However, I sometimes use a Nokia phone, and there’s no mode-choosing necessary with that model.

Open a terminal and get yourself root status. Then type in the command

wvdialconf

This will cause wvdial to scan the computer for modems. You’ll get output something like this:

root@x-box:~# wvdialconf

Scanning your serial ports for a modem.

ttyS0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 — failed with 2400 baud, next try: 9600 baud
ttyS0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 — failed with 9600 baud, next try: 115200 baud
ttyS0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 — and failed too at 115200, giving up.
Modem Port Scan<*1>: S1 S2 S3
WvModem<*1>: Cannot get information for serial port.
ttyACM0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 Z — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0 — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Modem Identifier: ATI — Sony Ericsson W300
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 4800: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 9600: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 19200: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 38400: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 57600: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 115200: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 230400: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Speed 460800: AT — OK
ttyACM0<*1>: Max speed is 460800; that should be safe.
ttyACM0<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0 — OK

Found an USB modem on /dev/ttyACM0.
/etc/wvdial.conf<Warn>: Can’t open ‘/etc/wvdial.conf’ for reading: No such file or directory
/etc/wvdial.conf<Warn>: …starting with blank configuration.
Modem configuration written to /etc/wvdial.conf.
ttyACM0<Info>: Speed 460800; init “ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0”
ttyACM1<Info>: Speed 460800; init “ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0”
root@x-box:~#

[Note: I’ve edited the output, to cut down on its length.]

Wvdial found my cellphone (“Modem Identifier: ATI — Sony Ericsson W300”), and reports that the phone is on port ttyACM0.

Then wvdial created a configuration file (/etc/wvdial.conf) and put some config info about the phone in it.

Edit /etc/wvdial.conf with your mobile service provider’s information. When I ran wvdialconf, the program created a wvdial.conf file as below:

root@x-box:~# cat /etc/wvdial.conf

[Dialer Defaults]
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = USB Modem
; Phone = <Target Phone Number>
ISDN = 0
; Username = <Your Login Name>
Init1 = ATZ
; Password = <Your Password>
Modem = /dev/ttyACM0
Baud = 460800

The program filled in some fields, but some have been left for you to do: specifically, the info needed to log in to your mobile service provider’s web servers. I edited the file to look like this:

[Dialer Defaults]
Init2 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
Modem Type = USB Modem
Phone = *99#
ISDN = 0
Username = A
Init1 = ATZ
Password = B
Modem = /dev/ttyACM0
Baud = 460800
Stupid Mode = Yes

The number in the Phone field is the number that the phone needs to call to access my mobile provider’s GPRS service. Your mobile network may use a different number – you’ll have to ask them.

My mobile network does not require usernames and passwords to access the web servers. But wvdial doesn’t like empty fields. So I put “A” and “B” in them.

I added the last line: Stupid Mode = Yes, otherwise wvdial will simply cycle when run without ever connecting.

*IMPORTANT* All the output recreated above is from a system that did not have any other modems connected. Most laptops have a modem or network card built-in, which wvdialconf will detect. But you’ll be able to see what information relates to your phone, and edit your wvdial.conf file accordingly.

So, now you can connect to the internet. To do this, open that terminal and, as root, type in the command

wvdial

You’ll get output like this:

root@x-box:~# wvdial
WvDial<*1>: WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.56
WvModem<*1>: Cannot get information for serial port.
WvDial<*1>: Initializing modem.
WvDial<*1>: Sending: ATZ
WvDial Modem<*1>: ATZ
WvDial Modem<*1>: OK
WvDial<*1>: Sending: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
WvDial Modem<*1>: ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
WvDial Modem<*1>: OK
WvDial<*1>: Modem initialized.
WvDial<*1>: Sending: ATDT*99#
WvDial<*1>: Waiting for carrier.
WvDial Modem<*1>: ATDT*99#
WvDial Modem<*1>: CONNECT
WvDial Modem<*1>: ~[7f]}#@!}!}!} }8}#}$@#}(}”}’}”}”}&} } } } }%}&}$AUSgn~
WvDial<*1>: Carrier detected. Starting PPP immediately.
WvDial<Notice>: Starting pppd at Wed Jan 16 15:45:03 2008
WvDial<Notice>: Pid of pppd: 10689
WvDial<*1>: Using interface ppp0
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: local IP address 172.23.108.122
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: remote IP address 194.33.25.101
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: primary DNS address 193.36.81.37
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: secondary DNS address 193.36.81.38
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]

The program will appear to “hang” – the above text will just freeze on the monitor. But wvdial is actually holding the connection open until you terminate the link by hitting Ctrl-C.

Now you can use the connection by, for example, starting up your web browser; or open another terminal and run telnet or ssh, or do whois or ping commands. All these activities will run a lot slower than you’re used to – but they will run.

When you’re finished, hit Ctrl-C and wvdial will end with a closing message like this:

Caught signal 2: Attempting to exit gracefully…
WvDial<*1>: Terminating on signal 15
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: Connect time 0.8 minutes.
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: pppd: ��[06][08]��[06][08]
WvDial<*1>: Disconnecting at Wed Jan 16 15:45:50 2008
root@x-box:~#

Data connections via GPRS over GSM are very slow – mine often average about 5 K/sec. But 3G/UMTS is much faster. Nowhere near the performance over a landline, of course, but 3G will probably be the best bet. However, be warned: some mobile providers don’t like their customers to link to the internet this way, and I’ve been told that 3, a UK company, actively prevent it. Their customers can pay extra to get a GPRS modem, but linking a normal cellphone on a standard plan is not permitted. Tmobile also don’t like their customers to use their phones as modems. So beware! Or, better yet, use a network that doesn’t have such stupid rules!!

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