3G not so peegy

Those who know my history with gadgets (or who have read of my trials and tribulations with wifi networks) will draw a sharp intake of breath at the news that I bought a 3G data card this weekend. Naturally, having carefully followed the instructions, installing the software before I plugged the card, it didn’t work. Not a flicker. Well, the blue light flickered (which, apparently it was supposed to do). But the software reported that there was no network to be found. Hmmm, maybe I don’t have 3G 5km from the centre of London? Switching it to GPRS, there was still no network – and my vodafone phone, sitting right next to my laptop was connected just fine. De-install, re-install, reboot, re-check. No change, no joy.

After an hour or so with Vodafone support – de-install, re-install ad nauseam – it still didn’t work. The help desk kindly informed me that there was, in fact, a network fault and that I should try again later when it would certainly work. I was unconvinced and said so. The local store tried their card in my laptop which didn’t work either – and they too said that there was a network fault (oddly, they couldn’t try it in their own laptop to see if the fault persisted, they didn’t have one).

Checking with others who have them, I found that there was no sign of trouble anywhere else in London, just in my localised corner of Fulham. Maybe someone had blown up the local tower? I was certainly thinking of it.

So I went where I should have gone in the first place and checked the web for “vodafone 3g datacard problem sony vaio” – if in doubt, blame the PC hardware. As I was doing that, I was installing the software in parallel on an old Dell PC. Everything was fine on the Dell so null points for the network fault story.

It turns out that there’s a known and repeated fault with Sony Vaios and these cards. They default to COM7 which is no good (who knows why?). The fix is to manually change to COM2 from the device manager and reboot. Ta Da. Everything works fine. Except that the card disconnects from my wifi network everytime it starts up (because it’s not a vodafone network). Fortunately you can turn off it’s wifi searching.

So, £50 a month sees me with unlimited 3G data access – a much more reasonable tariff than the old ones that I’m sure were something like £2 a MB.

Not a great retail or support service experience. Contrasted by my other exciting purchase of the day, an ice cream maker. Sadly, it doesn’t fetch the fruit and chop it up for you but, once you’ve done all that, it uncomplainingly and unfailingly makes a grat tub of ice cream in about a half hour. If only IT hardware could make ice cream.

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