I'm writing this blog post over a JoikuSpot 3G connection.
I travel a lot, so I often used internet over a Bluetooth/3G connection provided by my phone. I have a flat rate 3G subscription for that, but when I travel abroad it gets expensive of course. Even so, I've found that it was often more efficient to get my emails read to download them over a 3G than trying to get WLAN to work in every new location. Abroad it gets expensive, but I figured getting my job done rather than spending 20-30 minutes troubleshooting WLAN issues was worth it for my employer.
Actually, it is horrible how poor WLAN is still today on Linux. After all, this is something where Windows XP achieved quite decent usability in 2001, that is 9 years ago!
When I recently threw my Nokia E71 into the pavement in Stockholm, I had to buy a new Nokia E75. Since then my 3G over Bluetooth modem setup didn't work anymore. Today I decided to fix it. I went back to the source of my instructions. See, there's still an area in desktop Linux where the only way to make things work is to copy some scripts here and there. Then, after a while, I gave up. The PPP scripts just wouldn't connect. I have no idea what is different compared to the previous phone that (mostly) worked.
I went to Ovi Store and purchased JoikuSpot for 10 EUR. JoikuSpot connects to the internet over 3G and then turns my phone into a WLAN hot spot. So I can connect to it with my laptop as if it was just another WLAN access point.
It took several iterations of trial and error to get it to work. The trick was that I had to go to the Network Manager settings and choose "Ad hoc" network type.
I bought the Premium version because it supposedly has "connection security". I don't know what kind of security they mean, but the WLAN connection is just unencrypted, and anyone could connect to it and surf on my 3G. If I'm traveling and paying the roaming fees, that would be a fun trick you can play with me. NOT.
Other than that, this seems to be a usable solution, and I will forget about the PPP scripts for now. The only other obvious drawback is the drain this will put on the batteries on the phone, WLAN between laptop and phone will suck much more electricity than the hyper-optimized bluetooth.
Anyway, I wish Ubuntu would at some point focus on networking too. There are still too many WLAN networks out there that don't work with Network Manager, and the error messages I get aren't very helpful either. Using a 3G modem, especially over bluetooth is practically unsupported.
And don't get me started on the fact that Network Manager is just a fundamentally broken architecture to begin with: Since when did TCP/IP become a service that is dependent on the logged in user and is started only after I login? Do you realize that if 2 users log in simultaneously (a perfectly normal thing to do on Linux since, eh, last millenium) then two Network Manager instances start fighting with each other and it is completely unpredictable what network connection you get, if you get one at all. Do you realize that if I have mounted network drives, and I do, the current sequence is that you first disconnect the network (since it depends on me being logged in), then later try to unmount the drives. Do you have any idea how well that works out?
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