OpenSUSE migrations / mobile broadband

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been migrating my Linux machines — laptops, desktop, even the VMs at work-work which I use to give me a comfortable development environment — to OpenSUSE 11.4. It’s hard to say exactly why though. Part of it is personal interactions, like the distrbution of DVDs in Bangalore, and Will Stephenson helping me though a weird installation issue. Part of it is technical, where system management just seems better to me in OpenSUSE compared to Kubuntu. I screwed up an otherwise blameless Fedora 12 installation by trying to upgrade it to Fedora 15, so it got replaced as well.

Oddly, many of the things I like technically about OpenSUSE are exactly what some folks don’t like about it. Chatting with a customer over coffee at work I found they’re Debheads and that we stood squarely opposite each other regarding what drives OS choice (e.g. apt vs zypper).

Now that I use OpenSUSE in a variety of places I also bump into bugs every now and then. Most recently with mobile broadband, where I could not get knetworkmanager (or whatever it is that lives in the systray) to start a 3G connection. It would either repeatedly ask for a root password or, if I went through "Manage Connections", crash with a segfault after asking for a provider.

That bug made it to the "most annoying bugs" list, which goes to Novell bugzilla #673755. I was about to follow the advice from SuseStarted saying "remove the KDE NM and use GNOME NM", but the instructions seemed rather long-winded. Instead of removing things, I just tried installing NetworkManager-gnome. While watching that install I saw that it pulled in a package called mobile-broadband-provider-info. "Hey," thought I, "I wonder if crashes around the provider information are related?"

With that provider information installed, the out-of-the-box KDE mobile broadband wizard worked, I could pick T-Mobile NL as a provider, and everything seems to work (with the SIM that I pulled from my n900 for this testing).

So that’s one "most annoying bug" that’s remarkably simple to work around, even if it’s a bad thing that the shipped packages apparently (a) don’t have all the dependencies set up correctly (b) don’t handle missing data gracefully. Given Lamarque’s work on Plasma NM, I do wonder if this is worth looking into further.

Now to deal with the fiddly bits like all my desktop settings (no, Lydia, I’m not pinkifying this desktop).

11 Comment(s)

  1. Plasma NM handles the missing mobile-broadband-provider-info package case for a long time. The package shipped with OpenSuse 11.4 is from November of last year and contains dozens of bugs that have already been fixed :-/

    The fact the distributions still ship outdated packages is a big problem for Plasma NM. People are leaving Plasma NM because of those bugs, the bugs do are being fixed but the fixes are not reaching the users in some cases, such as in OpenSuse 11.4’s case. OpenSuse provives unstable packages with a more current snashot of Plasma NM, but the users must manually add the unstable repository and even the unstable package provided there is also a bit old now. The current code even fixes the Huawei E220 modem crash mentioned in Novell bugzilla #673755 but the unstable package provided by OpenSuse still contains the bug. #673755 is fixed in current code, OpenSuse just need to make the fixes reach OpenSuse’s users in a faster and easier way.

    In my last post about bugs fixed in Plasma NM I wrote that the recommended snapshot for master branch is bb6e3b82dd23f05df8d875627622195e291b5a6d. Distributions are supposed to create updated packages using that snapshot and make them available to users.

    1. Lamarque, thank you for clearing that up. That’s very useful perhaps also for companies providing OpenSUSE images.

    2. Could this be the reason why openSUSE 11.4 caused so many errors on my computers that, after weeks of trying to find what was wrong, I finally surrendered to LinuxMint? That would be a great pity for openSUSE!

    3. I forwarded your request for an update to the openSUSE packagers and I hope that there will be an official update soon.

      Thanks for the snapshot – it eases the decision process a lot!

  2. This tip is useful for my LinuxMint laptop running KDE as well. it seems. Thanks, Adriaan.

    1. And lo & behold! Now, at last!, my dear laptop is willing to automagically, stably & persistingly connect to my wireless router. Why could KDE NetworkManager not do the job without first installing the networkmanager-gnome package?

      1. It was not nm-applet (networkmanager-gnome) that solved the problem, the installation of package mobile-broadband-provider-info did. That package is a dependency of both Plasma NM and nm-applet but the Plasma NM package created by OpenSuse package does not list it as dependency.

        mobile-broadband-provider-info is not required to run Plasma NM, that perticular crash used to happen only when one of the files that mobile-broadband-provider-info provides was missing. Current Plasma NM handles that situation and does not crash anymore.

        The real problem is that OpenSuse does not update the Plasma NM in their “official” repositories, only in their “unstable” repositories, so the update is not automatically available to every OpenSuse’s users. As I said, the Plasma NM package that contains this bug is from November of last year, that is is more than 9 months old. I think OpenSuse should upgrade the package in their official repositories to prevent this and several other crashes, but that is up to them.

  3. Hmmm, have you tried opensuse.org/Tumbleweed yet? It should obviously solve this and possibly other issues by having the latest software (in stable form, it’s not ‘Factory’, the development tree, but a rolling release repository a la Gentoo or Arch except that it’s easy and GUI-manageable openSUSE).

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