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Setting up your MacBook Air as a mobile broadband router

This blog tells you how to:
1. How to connect to Mobile Broadband using Huawei e156a and the latest Mac OSX software
2. How to set up Internet sharing via a mobile (3G) dongle to a local WiFi network

Upgrading a computer and / or an operating system gives improved performance and extra features, right? Well - yes, but it can also result in a loss of facilities which are "no longer supported", to the extent that the upgrade is 2 steps forward and 3 back.

In the Welsh Mountains, the WiFi signal may only be in some parts of the buildingI love working with a MacBook Air, but had been frustrated when I plugged in my Huawei e156a mobile broadband USB dongle to use it from the Air ... "PowerPC Applications no longer supported" it said as I tried to install the software off the dongle. OK - not completely "dead in the water" as I was able to get the Air online through mobile broadband, using the Zoom travel router - model 4506 that I take on courses with me. A bit of a hassle if I just wanted the air online, but it worked as a reasonable alternative.

However, I have found that the Zoom box drops out when the mobile phone signal is weak much earlier than the dongle does when it's directly plugged in to a laptop, and in these "edge conditions" it's not helped by the limited number of LEDs on the zoom box which give scant immediate feedback. So before we went away last week, and knowing that we would be in a holiday cottage on the edge of mobile phone reception, I decided to look for a fix.

• There's a set of drivers for current Mac machines and operating system versions [here].

Ironically, you have to be online to download the drivers. So you can't use the dongle's internet connection to get them directly. Suggestion - use the WiFi (or other network connection) to download the drivers before you travel!

• Installation is straightforward - but if you need it, there are further instructions [here].

It turned out on holiday that we were do "on the edge" that the mobile router worked, in certain weather conditions only in the enclosed porch, or on the table on the outside deck, and completely failed to work elsewhere or in other weather conditions! So it was great to be able to use the dongle directly onto the Air which seemed to work irrespective of the weather in the porch ... see picture. And of course this created fresh issues:

• it's very uncomfortable trying to work at the computer in that location

• We weren't sharing the Internet connection - so it was just me OR Lisa online in the porch.

The solution? Share the Internet connection from the MacBook Air. But not quite as easy as it sounds, since the installed software (above) sets up a network connection that's a new location with just the dongle shown. So

• Call up System Preferences / Network Preferences, Edit Locations, Add a new location - I called mine "share mobile"

• Configure Share mobile's dongle connection to the same settings as the mobile broadband settings you've already set up and tested (if you have not set it up and tested stand alone as described above, do it now - don't try and do both steps at once) - you'll need to go through the advanced menus, setting up dialling details, vendor ("other") in my case, and adding a DNS server.

• Check that the previous step has worked by going online via the "connect" button in the main mobile broadband network setup window.

• Go back to the main "System Preferences" menu, and select "sharing". And from there set up "Internet Sharing" from the dongle. You can then share to the WiFi.

Other systems that wish to use the network connection will - once the setup is complete - be able to use the mobile network; they connect in to the local computer network (via it's computer name) and will be given an IP address by the sharing software - starting at, and with appropriate NATS rewriting to the wider network.

You may need to drop an reconnect the mobile connection as you get going, to authorise each client machine into your Air - which is now acting as a router, and perhaps to restart the network on the air too. I think there's a distinct sequence that "X" must be done before "Y" - I haven't totally worked that out, but once it was up and running it ran rather well.

Fortunately, we had gone straight on holiday from my week of running Python and C and C++ courses, so I had a couple of spare laptops that I could use at the table of the holiday cottage, or sitting in bed there, to work online. The MacBook Air had become an intelligent router, with a lovely keyboard control facility and all sorts of graphics on the screen to show me traffic levels. Not what it was designed or bought for, but it works rather well as a router!

(written 2013-07-07, updated 2013-07-15)

Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
A163 - Web Application Deployment - Network Configuration and Security
  [3448] Checking all the systems on a subnet, using Expect and Tk - (2011-09-18)
  [2489] Parallel Pinging, using Python Threads or Expect spawn lists - (2009-11-02)
  [2052] How was my web site compromised? - (2009-02-24)
  [1904] Ruby, Perl, Linux, MySQL - some training notes - (2008-11-23)
  [1712] As different as night and tyres - (2008-07-18)
  [1666] Slow boot and terminal start on Linux boxes - (2008-06-05)
  [1408] Wireless hotel tips - FTP and Skype connections failing - (2007-10-26)
  [1073] Heartbeat script in Perl - (2007-02-09)
  [511] Domain Forwarding - 2 ways of doing it - (2005-11-29)
  [506] What are DHCP and DNS? - (2005-11-27)
  [332] Looking up IP addresses - (2005-06-01)
  [267] Searching security holes - (2005-04-04)
  [37] Security and Safety - (2004-09-03)
  [11] A bolt of lightning on Multicasting - (2004-08-11)

G913 - Well House Consultants - Hardware and Devices
  [3596] Want to learn iPad and iPhone programming? Come along and learn with me for free. - (2012-01-28)
  [3457] Away to train - but still around by video for Melksham meetings - (2011-09-25)
  [3075] Change of balance, of attitude, and of work method - (2010-11-30)
  [3058] MacBook Air - hardware and system review - (2010-11-17)
  [2667] Web page to telephone calls / links using an iPhone - (2010-03-08)
  [2188] Camera to record where a picture was taken - (2009-05-18)
  [2055] Effect on server when memory runs out and swapping starts - (2009-02-26)
  [2033] Huawei D100 Wireless Router - Mobile Internet - (2009-02-10)
  [1993] Load Balancing - Hardware or Software? - (2009-01-15)
  [1827] What a shock - (2008-10-08)
  [1281] Latercomer to the technology - (2007-07-29)
  [630] Hostnames spring forward - (2006-03-02)

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In the hills above Harlech, and on the coast too
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Horse's mouth home
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Introducing your product to Well House Consultants - single, personally tuned email please
Some other Articles
Should a hotel accept guests who book for just one night?
Early morning - welcoming business and leisure guests to Melksham
How do I post automatically from a PHP script to my Twitter account?
Introducing your product to Well House Consultants - single, personally tuned email please
Setting up your MacBook Air as a mobile broadband router
In the hills above Harlech, and on the coast too
Using your own laptop on our courses - now even easier!
West Coast (of Wales) - railway and stations in pictures
Soft furnishings up a Welsh Mountain
Simple OO demonstration in C++, comparison to Python
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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