16 May 2008

Windows T-Mobile DUN Setup

A while back I wrote up a little ‘mini-HOWTO’ on connecting to the Internet via a T-Mobile cellphone from a Mac running OS 10.4. (It’s been a while since I’ve tried it, but I think all the information is still current.)

For a bunch of reasons that are well outside the scope of this blog, I had reason recently to try and do the same thing from a Windows PC. Although I’m sure the process makes sense to somebody, I didn’t find it particularly intuitive. Just in case there’s someone else out there trying to do the same thing and struggling, I thought I’d provide pointers to the online resources I found most helpful.

This page from the HowardForums Wiki was one of the most useful and concise. In fact, it seems to be by far the most referenced document on the topic.

Most of the problems I ran into were related to my Bluetooth adapter. Unlike in OS X or Linux, where Bluetooth is handled by an OS component, Windows delegates it to a driver provided by the manufacturer. Like virtually all software produced by hardware manufacturers (scanner software, anyone?), I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t a flaky pile of crap. It’s what you get when you’re viewed as a ‘cost center’, I guess. Once you’ve gotten the phone and computer to pair, you’re about 50% done.

The HowardForums instructions tell you to configure the Bluetooth WAN connection by going into the ‘Network Settings’ control panel; on my system (Dell Inspiron 9400 with onboard Broadcom adapter) this was not correct. The network connection for the Bluetooth device connected using a ‘device’ called a “Bluetooth LAN Access Server Driver”. To configure it, I had to go through the My Bluetooth Places folder, and configure the “BluetoothConnection” in the Bluetooth Properties window. It was in that window (“BluetoothConnection Properties”) rather than in the Network Connections panel, where I could enter the ‘phone number’ used for WAN access.

With that done, the next step is to add the correct initialization string for the APN you want to use. This is all pretty much as the HowardForums article directs. If you are on the low-cost “TZones” plan, you’ll need to use ‘wap.voicestream.com’ as the APN, making the init string at+cgdcont=1,"IP","wap.voicestream.com". You’ll only be able to connect via an HTTP proxy, but it’s six bucks a month (and probably a TOS violation) – what do you expect?

In theory, with the phone number and init string entered, the Network Connection created, and the phone successfully paired to the computer, you’d be good to go. However when I tried to connect, I just got a repeated “Error 692: There was a hardware failure in the modem” error. The ‘Error 692’ problem is apparently not uncommon, and has various solutions that seem to work for different people, with no discernible rhyme or reason. In my case, the problem was due to a leading space that had crept into the init string when I copied it from HowardForums. When that was corrected, I was able to bring the connection up.

It’s so slow that really I’d only consider using it either in an emergency or times of unbelievable boredom, though it does work after a fashion. However, the same procedure allegedly works for EDGE just as well as GPRS, so when I eventually get that EDGE-compatible phone (and get the real data plan), I’ll hopefully be all set.

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