When hotel wifi becomes a good idea

I’ve been sent a new mobile broadband USB ‘dongle’ from O2 to replace the one I’ve been using for the last 18 months. Good timing, the old one is a little unreliable now and I’ve got three days on the road ahead of me.

I figured the 90 minute train journey into London would be a good opportunity to install the software. This was a bad idea. In fact, I’m amazed that a Tier One operator still hasn’t got the basic ‘out of box’ experience right. Here’s how that 90 minute train journey was spent…

  • Dongle is nicely packaged with a card in the box telling me to download O2 Connection Manager software from the O2 website. I don’t have a web connection. I’m on the road, that’s why I have a dongle. What happened to the software being pre-loaded / autorunning?
  • Spend 10 minutes trying to use my BlackBerry as a tethered modem.
  • Online. Slow connection, but good enough.
  • O2 packaging doesn’t provide a specific URL to download the Connection Manager software from. It just states O2.com.
  • Use the search box on O2.com. Type in Connection Manager. No relevant results.
  • Navigate to O2 Support pages. Find Mobile Broadband section and am prompted to search by dongle model. No model number on dongle. Retrieve packaging from bin at the end of the carriage to locate model number.
  • Find download link for Connection Manager and install on my PC.
  • Insert dongle. Windows New Hardware Wizard intervenes. It doesn’t like my dongle and wants a driver. I figured the Connection Manager would have taken care of that. No sooner have I clicked cancel, Windows throws me the prompt again. Deep breath.
  • Force Windows to ignore the mysterious device I’m ramming into the USB port and open the Connection Manager. The dongle is lit up with two icons flashing; maybe it’s working after all. Search the help pages on the Connection Manager to see what this indicates. No results or explanation of what the lights mean.
  • The Available Networks window in the Connection Manager isn’t displaying a 3G network to connect to.
  • Stop long enough at a station that the Connection Manager tells me an O2 wifi hotspot is in range. I try and connect. Nothing. Alert tells me I need a SIM in the dongle to connect.
  • Check that I installed the SIM properly. I did. Try again. Same result.
  • Visit the help pages on the Connection Pages. Read that the Connection Manager should install itself when the dongle is first inserted into the laptop (rather than hunting o2.com to find it). Maybe the Connection Manager I have is wrong?
  • Uninstall the Connection Manager and insert dongle waiting for the software to install itself. Nothing.
  • Remember that help pages told me that if it didn’t autorun, to click on dongle icon in My Computer and find install.exe file. Nothing. Windows still doesn’t recognize the device.
  • Reinstall Connection Manager from O2 website, Back to square one.
  • Visit help pages. Find an entry that suggests I manually uninstall the dongle by going to Control Panel>System>Hardware >Device Administrator. No such entry exists in Windows XP – I think they mean Control Panel>System>Hardware >Device Manager.
  • Help pages then suggest I open Connection Manager, click settings and install dongle drivers. What?!!! You mean that didn’t happen automatically? I have to spend 20 minutes trawling menus and help pages to read this? Oh well, at least this seems like progress.
  • Find the ‘Install’ button in the Connection Manager. Asked to choose between Standard Modem or Bluetooth Model. I have no idea. Click Standard Modem.
  • Presented with a listed of dongle models. Mine is not listed. Click one from the same manufacturer. Close enough?
  • Nothing.
  • Repeat process, but install Bluetooth Modem.
  • Nothing.
  • To annoyed / busy to even call support right now. Resign myself to paying £10 to use hotel wifi instead.