Notebook upgraded to openSUSE 11.2

November 23, 2009

I just upgraded my Dell Latitute E6400 notebook to the just released openSUSE 11.2. As expected, the installation went painless. openSUSE still gets big points for integrating advanced partitioning options, such as RAID and LVM, into the graphical installer — something Ubuntu doesn’t offer even in their latest 9.10 release. Plus, whereas Ubuntu users seem to complain about that particular release a lot more than in earlier versions, I couldn’t find any nastyness in openSUSE 11.2 at first sight.

It even seems they got the strange slowness problem I was very much suffering of fixed. My previous 11.1 installation required a complete power-off after some time, especially after running a OpenWrt build. I was not 100% sure as to what the reasons for this strange behaviour were, but I guess it must have someting to do with the Intel graphics driver as other distros such as Ubuntu were affected as well. By contrast, openSUSE 11.2 seems to be finally amazingly fast, even with all the 3D effectomania that is now enabled by default. Added together with the new darker theme, GNOME now really shines.

What openSUSE still seems to suffer from is the lack of support for true mobile Internet connectivity. It is said to have full Bluetooth support and UMTS/HSDPA support, even since more than a single version, but for one thing it doesn’t seem to have been documented too intensely, for another thing NetworkManager still doesn’t seem to do the job (and that’s what people see at first sight).

My Latitude’s Bluetooth adapter was recognized after dis- and reenabling with the Hardware switch. I could set up pairing with my Nokia 6120 phone, but alas, graphical support exists for file transfers only. NetworkManager is not ready yet to establish an Internet connection via the phone. Think of how easy Nokia’s PC Suite makes this on Windows.

Whereas the Latitude’s internal modem is not recognized by any system component out-of-the-box (seems to be another WinModem or the like), the UMTS/HSDPA adapter appears in Yast’s Modem configuration as “/dev/ttyACM0”, but can’t be configured properly there. Even after setting it up this way and adding a provider (which contradicts NetworkManager’s concepts), the “Unconfigured” entry remains. Ignoring the Modem connection, NetworkManager offers to set up either a GSM or a “UTMS connectioin” — the typo in the latter can be found all over the place. In the latter mode, a number “#777” is presupplied and no APN can be specified. Whatever this is designed for, it’s not UMTS. If you choose GSM instead, the proper number “*99#” is presupplied and an APN could be specified, however the whole dialogue leaves it to the user to determine to what device this connection is tied to. And even if you ignore this question, you just can’t activate it. Seems like NetworkManager didn’t find some prerequisite to offer connection establishment, I guess.

Update: For some reason, after another reboot a third option on the “Mobile broadband” tab appeared, “installed GSM device” (“installiertes GSM-Gerät”). Just to remember, this makes three options to choose from:

  • Installed GSM device
  • Create a GSM connection
  • Create a UTMS connection

Now would you have been able to make out what these options stand for? :) I guess the second option is for USB UMTS devices such as Huawei’s E160 and the third option for EVDO/CDMA devices or whatever…

In any case, with the first option, NetworkManager now offers a new connection type, “Mobile Broadband” with a “Properties” dialogue. This spits out IMSI, IMEI, a driver name (“cdc_ether”), a signal quality level and the possibility to scan the available GSM/UMTS networks. Wow!

You can even create a connection for a particular network. Works fine and we learn that the “Network” text field in the generated connection’s properties is supposed to carry the numeric network ID, not a string such as “o2 – de”… however you still need to specify the APN yourself apparantly. Even then, the connection won’t work. I get error messages in /var/log/messages such as:

modem-manager: Got failure code 100: Unknown error
modem-manager: Registration state changed: 1
modem-manager: mbm_e2nap_received, connecting
modem-manager: mbm_e2nap_received, connected
dhclient: Internet System Consortium DHCP Client V3.1.2 p1
[...]
dhclient: DHCPDISCOVER on usb0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67 interval 5
dhclient: send_packet: Network is down
dhclient: receive_packet failed on usb0: Network is down
[...]
modem-manager: mbm_e2nap_received, disconnected

Also NetworkMananger seems to be unable to abort the connection attempts properly. Selecting “Disconnect” in a scenario such as above often causes no noticeable effect. So still way to go.

(And yes, I know about UMTSMon, I just don’t want another separate piece of software ;)

Posted in Hardware by Pieter Hollants

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