Individual Entry

Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E ExpressCard on Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Ubuntu 8.10

Back around the beginning of the new year (2009), I picked up a 17" Toshiba Satellite for a steal at a going out of business liquidation sale at a nearby Office Depot. I immediately installed Ubuntu Linux on this laptop supplanting the commercial virus (a.k.a. WEENDOZE VISTA) installed on its hard drive. My next adventure was to configure it to use my existing Sprint Curitel PC5740 PCMCIA card. However, the 17" Toshiba Satellite was equipped with an ExpressCard/54 slot. No problem, per se, as I'd purchased a PCMCIA-ExpressCard/54 adapter. The Sprint Curitel appeared as soon as I plugged it into the slot with this adapter. In a few short minutes, I was connected to the internet using the Sprint Curitel EVDO card on my new acquisition.

The only problem I saw with this was that the Sprint Curitel EVDO with the adapter hung out of the laptop several (6) inches. I started looking about for alternatives. Also, I had been eying up the new 17" MacBookPro laptops for some time. The MacBookPro comes equipped with ExpressCard/34 slot. The PCMCIA-ExpressCard/54 adapter wasn't going to fit in that, so I began my search and research into a pure ExpressCard EVDO option.

Sprint was promoting the Sierra Wireless AC597E -- an ExpressCard/34 EVDO option. The local Sprint store salesman assured me that this card work with Mac OS X. "Just plug it in and you're good to go", he evoked. Having experience some real hurdles in getting the original Sprint Curitel EVDO card functioning with Mac OS X, I was a bit leary about shelling out $99.00 for a new EVDO card and committing myself to another 2 year service contract.

eBay to the rescue. I found a Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E for a fraction of the cost and no need to extend my service contract. I now had a device I could use for testing and configuration without the added baggage of shelling out money and renewing a contract should the device not work with Mac OS X or Ubuntu Linux.

Now begins the fun...

Sprint, on their web site, provided a piece of software called SmartView. OK, I'm already leary of this because it has been my experience over the many years in the business that anything calling itself Smart is anything but. However, I installed this with the hope that Sprint might have finally come around to actually and properly supporting Mac OS X. It appeared to see the device.

On Ubuntu Linux, the device configured as a USB modem. I was able to connect to the device using 'cu' and I was able to issue 'AT' commands and get responses back. This was very encouraging.

I called Sprint and activated the new card one Sunday morning. I was told it could take up to 4 hours before I could get on-line with it. The next morning, now a good 24 hours later, I still could not access the Sprint Network.

On the Mac... the SmartView software simply did not NOT detect the card. I also searched in the /dev directory when inserting the card and no device designation is instantiated. The SmartView install said some drivers were installed. I really don't see why a device which should look like a USB modem should need any special drivers -- save for, perhaps, these being needed for the GPS functionality (a feature of the Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E) of the card. I didn't really care about that; I was interested in internet connectivity.

On Ubuntu I established some symlink rules in /etc/udev/rules.d/60-symlinks.rules

KERNEL=="ttyUSB*", ATTRS{product}=="Curitel*", NAME="EVDO%s{bInterfaceNumber}"
NAME=="EVDO01", SYMLINK+="modem"

KERNEL=="ttyUSB*", ATTRS{product}=="Sierra*", NAME="EVDO%s{port_number}"
NAME=="EVDO0", SYMLINK+="modem"

This simplified connection using KPPP profiles as each modem (ExtressCard and PCMCIA) now use /dev/modem.

I could now connect to the AC597E card with 'cu' and enter AT commands:

vaxman@Satellite:~$ cu -l /dev/modem
&C: 2; &D: 2; &F: 0; E: 1; L: 0; M: 0; Q: 0; V: 1; X: 0; Z: 0; S0: 0;
S3: 13; S4: 10; S5: 8; S6: 2; S7: 50; S8: 2; S9: 6; S10: 14; S11: 95;

HDSET: 1; ~STGLVL: 4; ~TONDUR: 100,200,100; ~TONMUT: 0; ~SCRPAD: ;

Manufacturer: Sierra Wireless, Inc.
Model: AC597E Rev 1.0 (1)
Revision: p2102900,60608 [Apr 19 2007 10:39:04]
APPL: SWI6800V2_FP.00.29 2007/04/19 16:55:48
BOOT: SWI6800V2_FP.00.29 2007/04/19 16:55:48
QCOM: SWI6800V2_FP.00.29 2007/04/19 16:55:48
SWID: SWI6800V2_FP.00.29 2007/04/19 16:55:48 [GENERIC_00]
USBD: SWI6800V2_FP.00.29 2007/04/19 16:55:48 [GENERIC_00]
USB VID: 0x1199 PID: 0x0021
ESN: 0x604469E1
+GCAP: +CIS707-A, CIS-856, CIS-856-A, +MS, +ES, +DS, +FCLASS

There was communication with the device. The ESN (hex) also coincided with the value barcoded on the AC597E.

When I used KPPP to connect, I did get a connect. I saw an assigned IP on the 'ppp0' device and the destination IP address of the other end of this point-to-point connection. If I did a ping to the destination, I could see outward traffic but I never saw a single ping returned. The log showed the AT commands sent to the EVDO modem, the ATDT#777 dial and the CONNECT message. The pppd then took over and it was getting the information needed to establish the IP addresses.

I couldn't afford to be without the EVDO service, so I called Sprint the next morning and had them put the ESN of the PC-5740 back on the account. Within seconds of that being reset, I was able to connect to the Sprint EVDO network with the old, venerable, PC-5740.

So, what was with this AC597E? Was it horked?

I started a discussion thread on Sprint's BuzzAboutWireless forum. Very little in assistance with my problems was offered other than the typical Micro$oft WEENDOZE solution -- reinstall and reboot. It looked like I was on my own to solve the issue.

The Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E came with an ExpressCard/34-PCMCIA adapter (a Kyocera TXPCM10001) which I was using to connect to the card on my 17" PowewBook G4 which, due to its vintage, has a PCMCIA card slot. I was beginning to have my doubts about this adapter when tried it with other know and working ExpressCard/34 devices. I then proceeded to google and soon found that this adapter does not function with ExpressCard USB devices which the Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E happens to be. Off was I once again to eBay.
[Left]»PCMCIAExpressCard/34 adapter [Center]»ExpressCard/34PCMCIA (Kyocera TXPCM10001) [Right]»Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E

A few days later, a new adapter arrived.

This new adapter appeared to do the trick! When the Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E was inserted into the new adapter and then, subsequently, inserted into the PCMCIA<->ExpressCard/34 adapter as pictured here,
[Left]»PCMCIAExpressCard/34 adapter [Center]»ExpressCard/34PCMCIA (SynchroTech) [Right]»Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E

I could see the Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E in an older PCMCIA laptop running Linux with the ridiculous configuration shown here:
[Left]»PCMCIAExpressCard/34 adapter [Center]»ExpressCard/34PCMCIA&nbssp;(SynchroTech) [Right]»Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E

On the older Ubuntu Linux laptop, I could issue:

#cu -l /dev/ttyUSB0

and communicate with the Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E card. Thus, I finally had communications proving that the Kyocera adapter was not to be used!

Back on my Mac (OS X 10.4.11), the device appeared but I was still getting a "No Wireless Card" from the SmartView software. SmartView started and the initial window said: No Wireless Device Detected; yet, when I click on Preferences and then selected Mobile, I saw [Sierra Wireless AirCard 597E Modem] listed. So, once again, I called Sprint for support. I was told nobody there was knowledgeable of Mac OS X. I really did not believe this was an OS issue.

What I really wanted to do at this juncture was to take this card to a Sprint store and have them try it in one of their laptops to check the device out. Sadly, after visiting three separate Sprint locations, none of them had a laptop new enough to possess an ExpressCard slot. Back to square one...

Some progress. After much googling, I found a discussion link concerning the Sierra Wireless on OS X. It
said that I should not be using the SmartView software. Apparently, there was a SmartView Light and it is the software to install on Mac OS X for AC597E support. I removed SmartView; then, downloaded the SmartView Lite package and installed it. It had the drivers and a directory /dev on my PowerBook now showed me:

crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 9, 8 Jan 23 20:55 tty.sierra001
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 9, 12 Jan 23 20:55 tty.sierra05
crw-rw-rw- 1 root wheel 9, 10 Jan 23 20:55 tty.sierracntl

Yes, there were finally devices when I plugged in the AC597E. I needed to use my new adapter.; when I tried with the Kyocera which it came with, it simply DID NOT WORK. With this last step, I was convinced, I proved that the Kyocera adapter was disfunctional.

I ran the SmartView Lite and it saw the card. It was now asking me to contact Sprint with the hex ESN to get a "secret" 6 digit code to activate my card. SAY WHAT? Nobody at the Sprint stores or Sprint support ever mentioned a thing about this. What was this all about?

I remember the nightmare I had when I tried to get my Curitel PC-5740 PCMCIA card turned on. It had to load firmware which was only supported via WEENDOZE. I don't and won't use WEENDOZE. This was a slightly better situation but I do believe that Sprint personnel need to get out of bed with Micro$oft and, at least, pretend to like their Mac and Linux neighbors that are moving in.

I contacted Sprint the next day to see if anyone there wasn't clueless enough to understand what this software was asking me to get from them. Why do they complicate this so???

When I firt inquired about this device, I was told the device needed no drivers or software, and that I just needed to plug it in. I did but there was nothing on the Mac that would indicate that the device was present (ie. # ls -aFl /dev showed no new devices when the card was inserted). Several days worth of googling, and reading the and the Ubuntu forums yielded nothing.

I was also told that inserting the device would perform a self-installation of all software. Well, the existence of the SmartView software downloads on Sprint's website would seem to indicate that this too was myth. Besides, I would think that if this had been the case, the device would need to appear as a storage device (USB disk) to the OS. It did not. From there, it would have to have some sort of a self-installation kicker. I have my OS X systems configured to not install anything automagically without notifying me and asking for confirmation to do so.

Anyway, time to bring this saga to a conclusion.

It is done! It is working! And, it is blazing fast compared to the old card!!!

After downloading the SmartView Lite for OS X, I was able to see the card and, more importantly, the SmartView Lite software could see the card. I don't know what Sprint was telling their support and sales force, but there is NO automatic installation, configuration and activation with this card on OS X. I may be proven wrong someday but my experience in this sample space yields a very different conclusion.

I called the Sprint 888 number that appeared in the software. Apparently, this software was so old that the 888 number provided was no longed in use to access Sprint. I had to locate another phone number. Once I had gotten through to the mobile broadband person (a pleasant young woman from the sound of her voice) I was given the 6 digit activation code. Within about 30 seconds after entering that number, I was able to connect with the SmartView Lite. I then terminated the connection and used the Mac OS X Network Connect app which I had configured previoulsy. That too fired up, so I there is no need for the SmartView gizmo save for the drivers it loads. I'll keep it around... JUST IN CASE.

On to Ubuntu now that the card was enabled/configured/provisioned/programmed/firmware loaded whatever it was that the SmartView Lite and 6 digit code did for the card.

I plugged in the AC597E and launched KPPP. It dialed out and immediately connected. NO SOFTWARE DRIVERS needed. The AC597E looks like a USB modem and configured as /dev/ttyUSB*. I, of course, as I detailed eariler, used udev to create my own desired name designations for the wireless devices.

Anyway, this has been quite a saga. I have to thank Sprint for knowing absolutely squat about Mac OS X or Linux, and how to configure this card outside of that crap called WEENDOZE.

BTW, I received a brand new Kyocera ExpressCard/PCMCIA adapter. It behaved just like the original; in other words, it doesn't function! Why is Sprint distributing this device with this useless adapter? The SynchroTech adapter (P/N: ADP-PCM-EXPUSB2) I purchased separately works and is the one that, IMHO, should
be included in the packaging.

One final note for Ubuntu Linux users:

First, don't get discouraged. Secondly, I found that the Network Manager Applet (0.7.0) on Ubuntu 8.10 can be configured for use with Sprint and the AC597E even though its current listed options are only for AT&T and T-Mobile. I have abandoned KPPP altogether now. I have a single network connect now via the Network Manager Applet. Wired Networks, Wireless Networks and Mobile Broadband Networks can all be connected with one common application. The only thing I cannot get is signal strength. However, the Gnome-Netstat Applet will track packets transferred to and fro.


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Meta Information:

Title: Sprint Sierra Wireless AC597E ExpressCard on Mac OS X 10.4.11 and Ubuntu 8.10
Date: 23-Jul-2009 13:14
Filed: »Mac OS X•Operating Systems•Ubuntu
Size: 2455 words
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