[nSLUG] Cellular dongles

Dave Flogeras dflogeras2 at gmail.com
Wed Apr 24 10:19:29 ADT 2019

On Tue, Apr 23, 2019 at 5:04 PM Frank Geitzler <
frank.geitzler at ns.sympatico.ca> wrote:

> I would find it interesting to have one or more pre-arranged sessions
> where we could discuss and learn how to use cellular dongles -to find out
> their abilities and limitations, their connection details ('normal' USB,
> mini-, micro-, firewire-, or other USB, SIM -and what type and size, etc.),
> where they can be obtained and their approximate cost.  Perhaps one or more
> people locally might be interested in participating in such a session
> either at a regular Halifax Computer Club meeting (our next meeting is
> tomorrow evening, by the way).
> Frank Geitzler

I did find my aforementioned 3G stick.  It is a "Movistar" [sic], but is
just another name for Huawei E173.  They seem to be available under various
names on ebay in the $20 range.

After a couple blind alleys (missing usb_option and various PPP kernel
modules) I managed to make this work and surf for a minute to satisfy my

Another thing to note on device (and from what I've read other cell
sticks): they often are "USB composite" devices.  When first plugged in,
they show up as a CDROM so that you can install the (presumably) outdated
windows drivers.  After which, it does some magic and resets the USB device
into another mode, where it shows up as a completely different Device ID
(the modem).  Under Linux, you use a program called usb_modeswitch to do
this.  Most modern distro's will handle this automatically, but YMMV.

Configuration under network manager wasn't too tricky, although for some
reason the presets for Canadian carriers didn't show up automatically (even
though they are in the mobile database provided with networkmanager).  I
just looked up the APN that bell uses and typed it in and it worked for
me.  More low level configurations would require more TLC if you don't wish
to use a heavy tool like NM.  I think the tool wvdial is used for this.

Also, on the topic of SIM sizes.  AFAICT the various SIM sizes in use
(mini, micro, nano) are all electrically identical, but mechanically
different form factors.  Luckily their connectors are the same, they just
vary in the amount of plastic around the connector.  In fact most carriers
now give you a pop-out card, which is a bit like a russian doll where the
innermost doll is the nano (or whatever the smallest is called today).  If
you require the next size up, you just knock it out with the extra
plastic.  If you are a packrat like me, you keep the bits so that when you
need two sizes up you have it (such as today).  You can also buy the
adapters online, or print them if you have access to a 3d printer (I had
poor results when I tried that road).

I'll find out if my uncle's modem is any more/less pain in the ass tonight
hopefully and report back.

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