Category Archives: technical

linux sysadmin technical

How to fix Huawei E620 USB 3G Modem in Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala

I recently upgraded my laptop to Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) and among a few other niggles (mostly related to intel video support, or lack thereof) it completely broke support for my Huawei 3G (E620) modem. Fortunately the fix is fairly straightforward: install a new kernel. I went with the latest (v2.6.32 release candidate available over here at ) and the problem is solved.

If you want the gory details, check the thread over at I’ll distil the useful bits below.

After the upgrade, my huawei 3G modem stopped being detected by NetworkManager. I’d see the fake ‘ZeroCD’ drive try to map itself and occasionally a gnome message box would be thrown up about a failed mount attempt, but no modem.

A look in the logs revealed /var/log/messages filling up with lines like this:

kernel: option 3-1:1.2: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
kernel: usb 3-1: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB0
kernel: option 3-1:1.1: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
kernel: usb 3-1: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB1
kernel: option 3-1:1.0: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
kernel: usb 3-1: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB2
kernel: option1 ttyUSB2: GSM modem (1-port) converter now disconnected from ttyUSB2
kernel: option 3-1:1.0: device disconnected
kernel: option1 ttyUSB1: GSM modem (1-port) converter now disconnected from ttyUSB1
kernel: option 3-1:1.1: device disconnected
kernel: option1 ttyUSB0: GSM modem (1-port) converter now disconnected from ttyUSB0
kernel: option 3-1:1.2: device disconnected

So the modem was being disconnected and reconnected at least a couple of times a second for some reason, and the storage device was not appearing at all.

I tried the usb_modeswitch tool which is supposed to jolt misbehaving HUAWEI (and other brand) devices out of their stupor with some undocumented SCSI/USB commands, but no success this time.

After a bit of googling, it turns out this is (was) a known bug in the way the more recent linux kernel handles the combination USB Modem/Storage device hardware (and was allowed to remain in a major release of Ubuntu which is a bit unfortunate as it seems these types of USB modems are pretty common).

There are a couple of fixes pending an official update: either install a patched version of the kernel, or temporarily disable the USB Storage kernel module which looks pretty easy and apparently worked for a few people:

# rmmod usb-storage

Untested by me: Your mileage may vary.  Be warned that even if this works, by unloading the usb-storage kernel module you will lose support for any USB based storage devices, so this is strictly a temporary workaround. I thought I’d try the more permanent and possibly dangerous (?) kernel solution first, which worked.

Steps to upgrade your kernel to a compatible version:

  1. Check your current version with the uname -a command. My post-9.10-Karmic upgrade version was: 2.6.31-14-generic #48-Ubuntu SMP  x86_64 GNU/Linux
  2. Go to and download the .deb files for the kernel headers (“all”) and the kernel for your architecture (“amd64” or “i386”). If you don’t have any kind of internet on the affected ubuntu box, grab them via another connected machine and copy them via removable media (windows or mac should be fine for just getting the files). You want the “linux-header” and “linux-image” files from within the folder with the latest (hopefully stable) version number. You can ignore the source file for now.
  3. Go to a command prompt, change to the folder where the downloaded .deb files are located, and execute the following, substituting the .deb file names for the versions you have (make sure you install the headers first).
  4. sudo dpkg -i ./linux-headers-2.6.32-020632rc8_2.6.32-020632rc8_all.deb
  5. sudo dpkg -i ./linux-image-2.6.32-020632rc8-generic_2.6.32-020632rc8_amd64.deb

After this, provided everything worked, you’re a reboot away from your modem working again. After the boot, uname -a should reveal the newly installed kernel version. Mine is: 2.6.32-020632rc8-generic #020632rc8 SMP

Once plugged in, the modem worked instantly and my mobile broadband account connected fine. Hooray!

While lsusb output looked the same as before:

Bus 006 Device 004: ID 12d1:1001 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. E620 USB Modem

My /var/log/messages also looked a lot healthier:

kernel: USB Serial support registered for GSM modem (1-port)
kernel: option 6-2:1.0: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
kernel: usb 6-2: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB0
kernel: option 6-2:1.1: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
kernel: usb 6-2: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB1
kernel: option 6-2:1.2: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
kernel: usb 6-2: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB2
kernel: usbcore: registered new interface driver option
kernel: option: v0.7.2:USB Driver for GSM modems
kernel: scsi 8:0:0:0: CD-ROM            HUAWEI   Mass Storage     2.31 PQ: 0 ANSI: 2
kernel: scsi 8:0:0:1: Direct-Access     HUAWEI   SD Storage       2.31 PQ: 0 ANSI: 2
kernel: sr0: scsi-1 drive
kernel: Uniform CD-ROM driver Revision: 3.20
kernel: sr 8:0:0:0: Attached scsi generic sg1 type 5
kernel: sd 8:0:0:1: Attached scsi generic sg2 type 0
kernel: sd 8:0:0:1: [sdb] Attached SCSI removable disk

Additionally, with the new kernel, both the pseudo cdrom, the 3G modem, and presumably the SD storage (though I don’t use it) are working at the same time. So, problem solved.

(Another improvement I noticed with the new version of ubuntu/kernel is I can disconnect the wireless broadband account via networkmanager without nasty gnome freeze-ups. Not sure what the culprit was for this: I worked around by disconnecting the hardware to avoid freezes, but looks like this too is now solved).

technical website

WordPress, the OpenID plugin and “Fatal error: Call to a member function needsSigning() … in Server.php on line 1495”

For many moons I’ve been attempting to get the server functionlity of the OpenID plugin working with my wordpress install and been stumped on the following two errors:

First, any hit on the OpenID /openid/server url (I am using non-default permalinks) generated the following :

Fatal error: Call to undefined function add_options_page() in
/path/to/wp-content/plugins/wp-contact-form/wp-contactform.php on line 200

This was pretty obviously a conflict with WP-Contactform. Disabling this plugin made the above error go away, so I’ll be looking for a replacement for it soon.

Once the contactform error was worked around by disabling the plugin, the following appeared:

Fatal error: Call to a member function needsSigning() on a non-object in
on line 1495

This would happen when I tried to specify my URL (whether main blog or wordpress author url) as an openid – it would seem to be working, go through the logon process then generate the error and the authentication process would abort.

After much googling (not much out there but this was helpful, sort of) and a good period of waiting and trying new versions of the OpenID plugin as they were released, the solution / workaround turned out to be extremely simple. It was a plugin conflict (doh) and a process of elimination identified the culprit and main show stopper: the cryptographp plugin.

No idea why but once it was disabled things worked fine. I was using this plugin to generate protective captchas for my comment forms. I replaced it with Simple CAPTCHA. (Its worth noting that in the 15 minutes or so I had no CAPTCHA active, I had already received a bot comment spam – and my site isn’t heavily trafficked by any means). I might choose another solution at some point from the plethora available, but for the time being, Simple Captcha gets the job done fine.

So thats about it. In a nutshell, some seemingly unrelated plugins were conflicting, disabling them and replacing with alternatives fixed it.

Now I can use as an OpenID, and my visitors have a nice simple OpenID login option on comments pages =)

linux netbook technical

Ubuntu Netbook Remix on Asus eeepc / eee pc

Following my previous post on restoring the default xandros install to the eeepc, it didn’t take me long to move to (and ultimately settle on) Ubuntu. Its not perfect but a hell of a lot better than stock Xandros.

I had a play with the stock ASUS install for a while, but it was less than exciting. What finally killed it for me was the broken Xandros wireless networking. To get WPA you need to do an update (via the wired connection) and after the update it still didn’t work for me. I finally learned that due to some scripting errors by the eee pc xandros developers WPA still breaks if there are certain characters in the password. Rather than do the script editing dance to fix a distro I was already feeling lackluster about I decided to move on to Ubuntu.

Installation of Ubuntu is a total breeze and everything you need plus instructions is over here : I won’t go over it here but to summarize:

  1. Grab the .ISO (less than 700MB, I used the torrent)
  2. Get the unetbootin netboot install utility (sourceforge)
  3. Blast the .ISO onto your 1GB usb drive
  4. Fire up your eeepc, do the usual ESC to choose boot device, and you’re away.

Up until the install I wasn’t aware of the existence of the ubuntu netbook interface remix: its essentially a touchscreen friendly netbook menu/window manager and very cool. Its the first real argument I’ve seen that might sway me towards installing a third party aftermarket touchscreen.

There are a couple of things that needed changing from the stock install, most importantly the broken SD Card mount function. Fortunately this is dead easy to fix (and it is maybe already sorted in the latest release even as I type this).

Run an update

Before doing any tinkering, its worth allowing ubuntu to run a package update via the synaptic package manager / built in updater / cmd line “apt-get update, apt get upgrade”. This is dead easy: do it first =)

Fixing the SD Card mount

This is a minor annoyance, possibly already fixed if there is a new release out, but very easy to fix.

  1. Fire up a terminal window (under accessories)
  2. sudo gedit /etc/fstab
  3. Comment out (put a hash at the start of) the last line which refers to the cdrom.
  4. Save and exit.

This is a minor oversight by the distribution chefs and takes about five minutes to fix. After doing that the SD card mount works seamlessly.

Getting your Divx/Xvid going

The next thing you’ll probably want to do is install media codecs so you can play your divx/xvids files on the go. This is as simple as firing off the media player while you have an active net connection and telling it to download the codecs from the apt repository (just search for ‘xvid’).

Another package I needed which didn’t come preinstalled was the VPN client. Standard ubuntu procedure applies here, as in the following packages should be installed:

  • pptp-client
  • gnome-network-manager

After that a command line network manager restart command purports to give you the VPN options in your network menu, but I needed to reboot before mine appeared. After all this was installed, my netbook connected ot the WPA network and through again to the PPTP VPN no worries.

Currently Unresolved Resolved Issue 1: hibernation is busted.

I won’t go into detail, but even after installing the hibernate package and going in with a gparted usb boot to match the swap partition size to my installed RAM size (512mb), hibernation is still broken. I don’t get the “Insufficient SWAP” type error messages now and it appears to be hibernating, but powering it back on results in a fresh boot rather than a restore from hibernation.

For the time being I’m resorting to leaving it in suspend and making sure I keep it charged if its not being used for a few days.

UPDATE: following the instructions for file-based hibernation in this excellent article at has things working perfectly.

Currently Unresolved Resolved Issue 2: Webcam is busted

Firing up the built-in ‘cheese’ app doesn’t give me any webcam goodness, only static. This is probably some default setting gone awry in a config file: once again I havent done much (any) research on this so it might be a simple fix. I haven’t tried Skype with it yet either.

UPDATE: Somehow the webcam had become disabled in the BIOS between the Xandros install and the Ubuntu install. Re-enabling it fixed all. Doh.

Currently Unresolved Issue 3: Some windows don’t fit the screen

This can be gotten around to an extent by the hold-down-alt-when-clicking trick, but what I really want is a VGA utility like the one included in the stock distro which allows a bigger virtual screen size. There might be something out there, but I haven’t give it a proper look yet.

I’ll post an update if I manage to resolve any of these items (before going on holiday in a few weeks =) )