Thursday, 26 March 2009

MTN 3G and Linux

If you have subscribed to MTN Nigeria's 3G internet service and want to use it with your linux box then this might help you to get things working. Note that the following procedure is not restricted to MTN 3G alone. It can be used to connect to other networks' 3G or gprs service.

I am using ubuntu linux 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) with the Huawei E170 usb modem supplied by MTN Nigeria.

If you are also using ubuntu 8.10 then things are a bit more easier. The following steps are what you need to do.

1- Right click on the network icon on the top panel and select "Edit Connections" this will bring up the network connections window

2- Select "Mobile Broadband" tab

3- Click on "Add". A wizard (druid in linux) will come up

4- Select Nigeria from the country list and you will get a list of mobile operators in Nigeria.

5- Select MTN , click "Next" and "Apply"

The next time you left-click on the network icon on the panel you will get a list of connections. Select the one you just created "MTN" and you will be connected.

Now you are ready to start surfing.

If you are not using Ubuntu 8.10 or you still can't browse after connecting then the following steps might help.

I am assuming you have a program called wvdial shipped with your distro. If it's not there then you will have to install it.
To check wether you have wvdial, open a terminal window and type wvdial . If you get any other message apart from "wvdial: command not found" then you have wvdial on your system.

Now you need to edit the wvdial configuration file located at /etc/wvdial.conf.
type sudo gedit /etc/wvdial.conf
this will open the configuration file in gnome's text editor with write previlege. If you are not using ubuntu/gnome open it with the appropriate method on your distro. But you need to open it with root privilege so that you can have read/write access to the file.

this is the configuration on my system

[Dialer Defaults]
Phone = *99#
New PPPD = yes
Stupid Mode = on
Dial command = ATDT

[Dialer MTN]
Username = web
Password = web
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Baud = 460800
Init2 = ATZ
Init3 = ATQ0 V1 E1 S0=0 &C1 &D2 +FCLASS=0
ISDN = 0
Modem Type = Analog Mode

put the following configuration and save the file. If you want to know more about the configurations then check the wvdial manpages or google for more info on wvdial.

Now in the terminal window type "sudo wvdial MTN"

A series of messages will pass over the console screen.
If you got a message "CONNECT" followed by some IP addresses then you are on.

Open your browser (firefox in my case), uncheck the "Work Offline" option under the file menu and browse away.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Interswitch and web merchants

If you lived in Nigeria in the last 4 years you must be familiar with interswitch Nigeria or at least the ATM cards they issue through most Nigerian banks. Now interswitch and the banks have done a great work in providing those ATM services. And they made life a lot easier for us. interswitch also has an online payment gateway which they call interswitch webpay. This enable web merchants to accept payment from any interswitch card holder.

Think of the possibilities here. The last time I googled for the statistics there are approximately 17 million interswitch card holders and 10 million internet users in Nigeria. But there are only 200 web merchants that accept interswitch payment. Why are Nigerian web merchants not jumping on this opportunity? because interswitch won’t let them.

First of all the entry fee of integrating interswitch webpay interface to your website is just too outrageous. One has to pay N150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand naira) per site. I thought that was just an initial price and will eventually come down, but three years has passed and it’s still 150 grand.

The second and the most annoying reason is the technology interswitch is using. When last did you hear of Java applets ? As far as I know java applets is an obsolete technology now. Well that’s what interswitch is using. Your customer’s browser must have sun java plug-in for them to pay you through interswitch. That means downloading at least 26 megabytes (if they don’t already have java run time+plug-in) simply to make payment on your site. With the type of Internet speed most widely available in Nigeria, I think going to a banking hall and paying into an account will be much faster. Even if you have the plug-in, the webpay applet is extremely slow to load which makes the processes considerably painful.

Recently there have been advertisements in national dailies by interswitch about their new improved chip based cards called “verve”. I do not know what pain this new cards solve but I’ve never heard any cardholder complain that his/her card is magnetic striped and he/she really needs a chip based one. instead of bringing new cards that do essentially what the old ones do interswitch would have changed it’s webpay interface to something that is supported by browsers out of the box. html+https anybody ?