14 September 2009

Virgin Broadband and linux = pain

by Anton Piatek

When I moved house in July, I decided to sign up for Virgin Broadband. Virgin was an obvious choice as they could connect me and have broadband available within about two days.

So I signed up and the modem arrived two days later. I plug it in, trying to follow their instructions, phone them up for activation and…. nothing happens. There is power on the modem, but the “link” light never comes up. After about an hour on the phone, they say they will open a tech request for it. The next day I get a call from Virigin (from India) asking if my modem is working. I explain that I am at work (as most people in the UK are between 9am-5pm) and will check when home – It was indeed working.

The next step, is to then register your connection with a computer, so I plug in my linux laptop and desperately try to make the web pages work. First it tells me I don’t have a new enough browser and unsupported OS. So I tell Konqueror to pretend it is some level of IE on windows. That works, and I am now declining offers of screensavers, setup exe’s and all sorts of downloads. Eventually it gets to a page that simply won’t load. There are several javascript errors popping up, so I wonder if I can see the addres in there. Stepping through the javascript in the debugger, over a invalid reference, and suddenly the next page loads – I am done!

I wish I had searched around first. Apparently there is a much simpler version of the website that does the basic job, without all the screensavers and browser checks:

“instead of doing what they tell you to do, you go to you get prompted for whether you’re signing up for Broadband or Dialup, and on clicking Broadband, you’re lead through the sign-up procedure with no complaints about compatibility, and within 5 minutes he was online with his GNU/Linux (Ubuntu) system and Firefox browser.”