Nokia N900 as a modem on French SFR mobile network

This is a short story about connecting my laptop to the internet using SFR mobile network. Initially I wanted to just use WiFi HotSpots, but as it was impossible, I reverted to accessing mobile internet using Nokia N900 phone as a modem.

SFR does not like my Nokia N900 – there is no mobile application for it to connect to a WiFi HotSpot. First of all, why do I need a special application, is standard username/password not enough? I know why, they do not want me to use a laptop to connect to their HotSpots, they want me to buy 3G dongle and pay monthly contact for it. I do not like this artificial limitation, because after all I am already paying a lot for mobile contract with 500MB data transfer and want to use it to the maximum.

Perhaps I should reverse-engineer their mobile app? Well, maybe next time, I do not know much about this matter and do not have too much spare time. It may also be very difficult if they use mobile network for authentication.

Instead of that I decided to use my N900 as a USB modem for my laptop to get mobile internet. I could possibly share my mobile connection using WiFi, but it is not so simple to configure and my Debian’s Network Manager is already configured for O2 network. After few tries with standard setup (Number: *99#, APN: wapsfr, Google DNS) it worked – I got an IP address. I was even able use ping, SSH and stuff. But strangely when I opened any website in my browser (Iceweasel) it loaded fine, but was completely blank.

It turned out that SFR is blocking access for most common browsers using User Agent string. All I needed to do is to change it to something else. I downloaded User Agent Switcher addon, put some ridiculous string as my browser name (“Telecomitalia” because it is my favourite company:) and voila – it worked! SFR, you will not stop me from using mobile internet with such simple tricks;)

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