Review: Ubuntu 8.10, 3G tethering works very well

This Thursday, October 30, the Canonical team will celebrate the release of the latest version of their Linux desktop, Ubuntu 8.10. Based on Linux kernel 2.6.27, the release will feature some big improvements including the ability to install Ubuntu to a USB drive, secured guest sessions to allow system owners to give non-regular users a locked down session easily so they can use the full system without interference to programs or data, and the latest Gnome 2.24 Desktop Environment.

But one of the biggest features Canonical has been talking about is the inclusion of 3G support, through the integration of the newest version of Network Manager.

"For constant connectivity public WiFi has limitations. Improvements to the network manager in Ubuntu 8.10 makes it simple to detect and connect to 3G networks and manage connectivity. This connectivity is delivered through an inbuilt 3G modem, through 'dongle' support, through a mobile phone or through Bluetooth. It is a complex environment that Ubuntu 8.10 simplifies through a single interface and the auto-detection of many of the most popular devices," Canonical said in a release on the Ubuntu website.

I decided to take this new feature for a test drive and was excited to find that it worked surprisingly well. I installed the release candidate of 8.10, which you can download from the Ubuntu website, onto a Dell Latitude D505 with 1GB of RAM. This is one of my beater laptops from work that I haul around to troubleshoot network issues or take with me on the road to places where I'm less concerned about high performance and more about utility or about losing or damaging the system. Normally the system runs Windows XP Professional SP3, and I utilize my old AT&T Tilt to tether and connect to AT&T's 3G network when I'm not near Wi-Fi.

After taking my SIM card out of my iPhone 3G and placing it into my Tilt, which is running Windows Mobile 6.1, I plugged the Tilt into the laptop and as soon as the phone had fully booted up, Ubuntu's network manager detected a new network card called "auto eth2" -- after launching the built in "Internet Connection Sharing" on Windows Mobile and starting the service, my laptop started searching for an IP address and within seconds it had found one.

No drivers, no struggling around editing configuration files, not even the need to release or renew an address. I plugged it in and "it just worked."

I am continually more and more pleased with the progress being made by Linux distribution developers and this latest release of Ubuntu was no exception. The rest of the OS seems very solid and after this Thursday when the final version of 8.10 goes public, I may end up making Ubuntu a full time resident on this system for field work. One of the major things that was holding my back was an easy way to perform tethering and I was very pleased by the results of my test.

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29 Comments

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This release is amazing. I have tried several Linux distributions over the years, none of which satisfied me enough to stick with it full-time. But this, however... is something else. I'm extremely satisfied and intending to keep this as my primary OS.

Great news! lovin the progress on plug and play/just works stuff.. now if only the guys at ubuntu can make nautilus as fast as thunar i would be in heaven. a nicer default interface wont be bad either.

Very nice the 3G network devices support, previous option for me when connecting to a 3G network involved the use of the vmc software from vodafone. Now this update from Ubuntu makes things a bit more simple.

To be honest, I haven't worked with linux in a long time but it took me less 10 mins to install official drivers from amd website. There's also a wiki how-to, great read!

I know how to, but the ATI Linux drivers for 8.04 had many problems. When I went back to 7.10 it didn't recognize my new HD 2600 Pro card as being accelerated and I had already sold my older x1650 Pro card.

The iPhone itself doesn't support tethering, at least not by default. I can plug it in and see what happens but my guess it I won't be able to get onto the Internet my default.

(Although it would be FANTASTIC if that was the case.)

I been using Ubuntu 8.10 since Alpha 5 and love it! This release is really made for mobility in mind and it shows.

I was impressed that it recognised my N95 as soon as I plugged it in. Previously I'd been using some fairly command heavy bash scripts and a wvdial.conf I had to piece together via various sources online. One thing I did notice though was that the APN settings for 3 (UK) were wrong, and didn't include a username and password. But this is easy enough to change via the network managers edit connections option.

With a few rare exceptions, that's the only thing I'm contributing any more. C&P can kiss my butt (Any C&P I've submitted has been as "Neowin Staff" in the Around the World section.)

I would guess by having your BIOS boot from the USB device.

It has been done before, but this release is the first that apparently supports it right in the Ubuntu installer.

Asskicker said,
I know, but I'm wondering how much space it requires?

Not sure I understand you, but it is part of the Ubuntu download, included in the OS. More technically, supporting drivers are in the Linux kernel, with the GUI portions (seen in the screenshot) are in Gnome (the Desktop Environment).

Asskicker said,
I'm wondering how much space ubuntu requires, to install on your usb stick :P

You'll probably need at least a 2GB USB if not more. 8 GB ones are cheap these days so you shouldn't have to worry about price.