It just worked straight away – using a 3G dongle on Linux at Beebcamp

Published on 28 November 2009 in , , , , , ,

As I mentioned yesterday, on Friday I attended my first ever BeebCamp – an BBC type unconference run for BBC staff.

BBC White City - lunchtime

Photograph by Roo Reynolds. Creative Commons licensed.

BeebCamp is run split site between Manchester and London, and for obvious reasons I was at the London one in the White City building out in W12 (or as I prefer to call it, the Impregnable Fortress Of Doom). Unfortunately the area we’re in (the glamorously named “Conference Centre”) had no wifi, so anyone who needed one was dished out with a 3G dongle for net access.

I’d brought with me my relatively new Dell Mini 10 which I’ve upgraded to run Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Wifi works fine but I’ve never had any experience with 3G dongles, and I must confess I approached booting up Shrimp (for that be the name of the Dell Mini) with some trepidation. I’d heard scare stories of faffing with config files and other horribleness. I remembered a whopping four page feature in Linux Format on “how to get 3G dongles working.” I mean – four pages. That means it certainly wasn’t going to be easy…

I plugged in the dongle nervously… After all, these things NEVER work with Linux. Not at all. I’d surely lugged Shrimp half way across London for nothing.

Except it worked perfectly. I plugged it in, chose the provider (Vodafone) and within minutes had full glorious high speed internet access.

A few years ago, such a simple thing would surely have been a complete nightmare. But once more, modern Linux has surprised me. People are spending a lot of time and effort getting this stuff working so that people like me really can just plug in and go. To those people – thanks. Thanks. And indeed thanks. You’re great dudes! Keep it up!

I was also pretty impressed with the Dell Mini too – after six hours of live tweeting and even being used to play some video at one point, I left still with an hours battery life left. Result!


  • Yep, Ubuntu is good for 3G since 8.04, I think.
    However, you were lucky: you’re using Vodafone. My 3 dongle often gave me ‘no signal available’ within Broadcast Centre. You chose wisely…
    Next, get yourself a Forge certificate, and get Thunderbird on that Dell – for sensible access to work email.

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    Someone else chose wisely – I just accepted their choice.
    Got the Forge certs already as I needed them for my desktop PC at home. Must get round to putting them on the plethora of other machines floating around my house… I don’t mind Webmail – I find it useful. Its suckiness gives me an incentive to not have my email open all the time, thus ensuring I can be more productive!

  • Trippenbach says:

    I’m glad you had good connectivity. Linux worked better than Mac OS, then – a few people had macs and couldn’t get through to the network with the dongles at all. Nice to know at least one person managed!

  • Andy C says:

    Please share with us all what dongle you had. I can’t get mine to work at all.

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    All I can tell you is it was a Vodafone 3G one – what make it was, I don’t know.