One of the pitfalls of moving to Christchurch was a loss of ability to mooch free broadband of my mother which naturally created the need for me to acquire an Internet connection of my own. In my current living arrangements it is not economically or logistically feasible for me to acquire a fixed phone line and thus ADSL became an impossibility. To remedy this I needed wireless Internet and signed up for Vodafone 3g wireless broadband.
More specifically my Internet connection arrangements are thus
- 1GB monthly quota for $59.95
- $10 fee added automatically to reset quota the first time it is exceeded
- If quota is exceeded again it’s $0.50/MB
- HSDPA 3.2mbps theoretical maximum speed using a “vodem” which is a Vodafone branded Hauwei E220 HSDPA USB modem
After having used the device I’ve run into more than a few issues with the device and the service.
Un-Activated SIM & Bad Firmware
When I purchased the device its SIM was programmed with the data plan I had chosen, however the SIM card had not been activated by Vodafone which meant that I could not use the service until my SIM was activated which took approx. one week. It was only after that issue had been resolved that I was able to discover that the firmware on the device I had been sold was not compatible with Vista despite assurances that the device was compatible with Vista 32-bit. Upon bringing this to Vodafone’s attention they replaced my modem with one that had the appropriate firmware on it and so I was at last able to connect after almost three weeks of waiting.
VMC is Very Mutilated Crapware
Vodafone mandate that I use Vodafone Mobile Connect Lite (VMCLite) to establish a connection to their network, after several months of using the software I have found it to be bug ridden to the point where it is almost unusable.
- The software inexplicably crashes with varying degrees of intensity
- Sometimes the application can be restarted and will continue functioning normally
- Occasionally when the software is re-launched VMC fails to recognise the modem and quickly closes. In this case it is necessary to remove and re-insert the modem.
- Occasionally the system must be restarted in order for VMC to recognise the modem or in some cases to even acknowledge the presence of the device at all,
- A network connection can not be established using the RAS (Dial-Up-Networking) UI in windows vista, however this can apparently be done in windows XP.
- There seams to be no reliable way to check your usage, the usage meter in VMC is only an approximation and a very bad one at that
- If you re-insert the device on another USB port usage from the other port is not counted.
- The session timer will freeze at 9:59:59
- The device does not properly support power management
- If the device is connected while resuming from hibernation it will fail to reload its driver and the machine will black screen of death. Luckily you can resume restoring the system after a warm boot when the device is removed but you would expect a product aimed at mobile users to support features commonly used by mobile devices.
- VMC uses an ActiveX control for sockets calls
- Using procmon one can can see that VMC calls mswinsck.ocx quite frequently. This leads me to believe that he application is written in Visual Basic because unmanaged VB applications can’t call C functions such as the WinSock API’s directly. Maybe i’m a snob developer but I would have expected better architecture than that from either Vodafone or Hauwei.
More Bad Firmware
The Vodafone Solutions people inform me that many of the issues described above are specific to the firmware version on my device and are remodied in updated firmware. After following the instructions precisely and allowing the update process to completely finish I find that my device ceased to work, it would seam the vista firmware upgrade created more issues than it solved.
The Current Situation
I am currently using a loaned vodem to access the Internet while my bricked device is being repaired (or more likely replaced). While I am happy to have access to the Internet for now, I am one very dissatisfied Vodafone customer.