Ubuntu, Mobile Broadband in Kenya, and You!

Using mobile broadband with Linux in Kenya just keeps getting easier and easier. The days of manually editing text files and dialing with wvdial on the command line seem to be over. For some time now—in Ubuntu at least—it’s been sufficient enough to just plug in your modem or phone then setup your “mobile broadband connection” from the network menu. In related news, as of Ubuntu 10.10 “Maverick Meerkat” you can finally connect easily to Orange Internet:

Mobile providers in Maverick Meerkat's Network Manager
Mobile providers in Maverick Meerkat’s Network Manager

I noticed the bug report responsible for the fix last week after I had unlocked my Safaricom-branded Huawei modem and was searching the net for settings to use with the Orange network. Once you find the APN it’s trivial to add the appropriate settings manually, but it’s great to see that plug-and-play connectivity for all four major Kenyan providers has come to Ubuntu. These days I just don’t have the time to fiddle around in the command line when I just want to check my e-mail from home.

In other news, you know those Compaq/HP Mini 110c netbooks which are so popular in Kenya? Yeah, the ones with the proprietary Broadcom wireless chipset (BCM4312) which is a pain in the ass to get working in Linux? It now takes considerably less black magic to get those things working if you’re using the latest Ubuntu.

For instance, the ssb and b43 modules still need to be blacklisted, but the newer kernel (version 2.6.35) plus a slightly updated bcmwl-kernel-source package in Maverick Meerkat seem to help with problems people were having with that netbook not booting in certain situations.

6 Comments to “Ubuntu, Mobile Broadband in Kenya, and You!”

  1. p@ps

    Wow! Its great to see so much progress in linux with respect to mobile internet. I remember your blog back in 08 about manually setting up the configuration files. I still do that though – Im an avid gentoo user.

    1. Alan Author

      Yeah, we’ve come far, eh? I always loved Gentoo. Loved Slackware. I just don’t have time for them any more haha. I just want it to work out of the box these days! That means, on the desktop I use Ubuntu and on the server Debian or CentOS. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. rfx

    It’s great to see how far Mobile broadband has come in Kenya and looking forward to testing out the connections on my next visit there this month. Back in the days I remember getting excited about getting max 33.6Kbps speed on my shody/noisy telkom line. Ubuntu’s come a long way and surprisingly picked up all the plug and play hardware on my old laptop. Three years ago before the arrival of fibre(seacom) , I remember getting shocking latencies which was no good for ip telephony, The east african region still has a long way to go in terms of quality connectivity but are definitely on the right path.

  3. Nick

    Wow man! I love Linux, the power given to the user is just amazing. And the far that Mobile broadband has come. I feel we are on the brink of something great, somebody called it Development 2.0. Great blog.

  4. tan

    Hi,I am a windows user but thought it wise to try ubuntu.I have a problem using my orange modem.When i open the computer icon,i can see the ZTE usb devise but when i try to open it like in windows so that i can install the drivers,it does not open.
    Help me with steps on how to setup the orange internet everywhere 3g+ so that i can access the net.
    Thank you!

    1. Alan Author

      Hi, I’m not sure about using the ZTE modem, but I suppose it should be recognized as a modem all the same. Wait a minute after plugging in the modem, then try going to the network menu icon in the top-right corner of the screen. You should see something about a GSM modem there, which you should be able to click to setup a new connection.

      If you don’t see anything there, right click that menu and make sure Mobile Broadband is enabled. Good luck :)

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