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Modem vs modem, telco vs telco

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The tests where conducted using a dual-boot Samsung N140 netbook running Windows 7 Starter and Ubuntu 10.04. Each modem comes with self-installing software for Windows so set up should be no more than a case of plug the thing in and follow the on-screen instructions. Where it wasn't, I have given details.

O2 modem

All the telecos advertise Mac compatibility, and since OS X has built-in WAN support, Mac users shouldn't face any insurmountable problems getting online.

A word for Linux users. A combination of Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx and usb-modeswitch from the Ubuntu software repository got all the dongles bar one working in a matter of moments. The exceptions was the Virgin stick, which I simply couldn't get the Ubuntu Connection Manager to recognise. A few posters on various Ubuntu forums have claimed to have got the TCT dongle to work, but details are sketchy and it wasn't a trick I managed to pull off. Those of you with a greater degree of Linux nous may have better luck.

Five of the six supplied modems were re-badged Huawei devices. The 3 and T-Mobile dongles are the Huawei 1750. The Orange stick was a visually identical Huawei 1752. The O2 and Vodafone dongles were slightly older models: the Huawei E160 and E172, respectively. Virgin Media's dongle is an X200S made by TCT Mobile, another Chinese mass-producer of communications gadgets, including Alcatel phones.

The Huawei 1750 and 1752 dongles share one deeply irritating feature: the SIM card cover at the back has a habit of sliding off when you grab hold of it to pull the USB cap off the other end, or pull it out of a USB port. Nor is the SIM car bay cover what I'd call robust.

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Finally, all the dongles apart from the Vodafone offering have Micro SD card slots. I'm not entirely sure about this development. I can't really see a need for removable storage in a 3G dongle so tend to regard this is a feature added for feature's sake.

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