11 Jul 2009, 18:16

Fonic, UMTS and Debian lenny on the EeePC


Recently I’ve got an EeePC 1000HE and lately also an UMTS-Stick, the Fonic Surf-Stick (a Huawei E160). I’ve read before that many people got this UMTS-Stick running on Linux, some even with Fonic, but none of them - it seems - used Debian lenny. Most were using Ubuntu which ships the Network-Manager > 0.7 which is capable of connecting to 3G-Networks. Unfortunately this version of Network-Manager is not available for Debian stable. There are Backports but they are not available for i386 at the time of this writing.

There are several way of getting your Netbook “on-the-air”:

  • pppd / Kppp / wvdial - I didn’t succeed with those. But the best choice seems to be wvdial which almost got me connected. PPPd failed without given any helpful output.
  • UMTSMon - This looks like a great tool, but it didn’t manage to get the connection running. It seemed to PPPd’s fault, though.
  • Network-Manager 0.7 and newer - Many people report to have no Problem whatsoever with this application, but it was not available for my system. Update: I did just verify my assumption: The Stick works flawlessly on Ubuntu with the Network Manager It took less than 30 seconds to get a working connection.
  • Vodafone Mobile Connect - This is very nice tool which works great. Not only is it able to detect the E160 Stick, it also has a very nice UI.
Here is a quick step-by-step instruction how to get online with your “Fonic Surf-Stick” on Debian lenny:
  • Boot your system, don’t connect the Stick yet.
  • When logged in connect the Stick.
  • Start Vodafone Mobile Connect, grab it from betavine before.
  • It will recognize your Stick as an Huawei E220 although it is a E160, but this doesn’t seem to matter.
  • Enter pinternet.interkom.de as APN, Username and Password can be left empty or use “fonic” for both. You should set the preferend connection type to “3G prefered” and use static DNS ( and
  • Mobile Connect will ask for your PIN it is needed.
  • Get a sufficient connection strength and click “Connect” in the UI. You should be online within a few seconds. If the connection fails, first try to get a better connection (just move the UMTS-Stick a bit around).
Please note that I’m running a custom Kernel (2.6.30) and thus didn’t need to use usb_modeswitch. If you’re running an older Kernel you’ll probably need to install an configure usb_modeswitch to get access to the modem part of the stick.