It’s worth hunting around for updated software for mobile data devices

Back in 2007, I wrote about the fun and games I had getting a Vodafone PC card working with Windows Vista and I revisited the topic in 2009 with Mac OS X. Thankfully, things have moved on since then but, a few weeks ago, I was issued with a replacement modem for mobile data, as part of a change of mobile operator. The new device is an O2 Business USB Modem 889 and the fact that it’s a USB device rather than a PC card is great (it means it works with more of my computers) but the software it ships with is awful, presenting a Windows XP-like skin, even on my Windows 7 system!

Since my computer was rebuilt to corporate standards a few weeks ago, I’ve been making a concerted effort to avoid installing any unnecessary components (although somebody has put an in house “display manager” on the build, despite there being a perfectly good one that’s just a Windows+P keypress away, and HP’s printer driver for my company-supplied OfficeJet 6310 at home installed a pile of crapware). My intention was to simply install drivers for my USB modem, then follow a colleague’s advice to create a dial-up connection with the HSPA modem as follows:

  • Modem initialisation to +cgdcont=1,"IP","mobile.o2.co.uk"
  • Dial-up number to *99#
  • Username and password for the dial-up connection set to o2web and password

The problem with this is that my colleague was setting his environment up inside a virtual machine, using virtual network drivers to map to the underlying host’s hardware.  I’m running directly on the hardware (non-virtualised) and I couldn’t find the drivers for my device.

Using the USB ID Repository, I was able to check that my device was a Sierra Wireless (1199) device (actually, the label on the device would have helped there too) and I was also able to see from the markings on the device that it is a Compass 889.  After checking out the Sierra Wireless website, I found updated software for my modem, even a version for my carrier (O2) but nothing that seemed to offer naked drivers without any additional applications.  As it happens, the latest version of the Sierra Wireless Aircard Watcher installed without any issues and it seems much better than the software that O2 originally shipped with the device – although it’s interesting to note that this device is now officially end of life, despite mine only having been shipped in recent weeks.

I guess the main point of this post is to say “hunt around” – you may find that there is updated software for your device, from either the OEM or the carrier, that provides a better experience than the version shipped out-of-the-box.

[Update: I had cause to download the Sierra Wireless Aircard Watcher again tonight and it seems the download location has changed in the last couple of years]

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