Live from Boris the Spider

Our neighbours picked up our mail from the post office, and the new Kuwfi 4G hub arrived, even sooner than I’d expected, given that it had shipped from China (I wish Canada would make decent electronics so that I could buy such items locally).

Well … there went a week of my life.  I managed to get a new operating system flashed to the hub (nearly “bricking” the ?@#$$! thing twice in the process).  The first OS I tried was called “GoldenOrb”, a variant of the OpenWrt Linux system, designed by a fellow whose website goes by the name “ROOter by Of Modems and Men”.  These 4G routers look somewhat arachnoid, with their four antenna (a bit like a mutated spider lying on its back, if you ask me), and ROOter, which is a Canadian/Australian collaboration, with “roots” largely in Australia, has named the various versions of the software after poisonous Australian spiders, of which the Golden Orb Weaver is one. Open source geeks always have a sense of humor!  Anyways, Ken named the hub Boris, based on the Who song “Boris the Spider”.

GoldenOrb was a nice piece of software, but didn’t communicate with the 4G modem that was in the hub.  However, the name Boris stuck!  I ended up installing a “plain jane” (or should that be “plain dick”?) version of OpenWrt and then adding a bunch of packages to get everything to work together.

Thankfully, I have some experience with Linux, but this whole process was a real hair-puller for me.  Even Brennan was whining outside the door in sympathy as I rolled my eyes in frustration.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the hub to connect to our internet provider, Bell.  The hub was sold unlocked, and as far as I could determine, my Bell SIM card was also unlocked, so I couldn’t figure out what the issue was.  Finally, after a one sentence reference in a blog on the internet about a completely different hub on a different operating system, I clued in to the fact that Bell had locked the SIM card to the IMEI of our old hub.  I contacted Bell to see what was up, and apparently, as far as they are concerned, it’s one service = one SIM card = one hub.  You can transfer your service to a different SIM card, or you can transfer your SIM card to a different hub, but you can’t access more than one hub with a single SIM card.  What a pain!  Well, I also have a Telus SIM card that works on our old hub (which has been unlocked for years).  I plugged that into the new hub, entered the APN, and we were off to the races – internet connected.  So, apparently Telus doesn’t have the same sort of “lock” on their data SIM cards.  Anyways, fun with electronics!

Fast forward … it’s several weeks later and I’m still working on the 4G hub/OpenWrt project.  I’ve now got the router communicating with all the computers (Android and Windows) in the cabin via WiFi, accepting USB drives and SD cards (with some reluctance), and connecting to Telus via cellular LTE (4G).  The unit is picking up the cellular signal much better than our old hub, but I may need to do some fine tuning to get the speed up a bit – there is some little trick to matching the rate of 4G download with the modem, which tends to accumulated data in its buffers, resulting in something referred to as “bufferbloat” and laggy internet cruising.  But it’s a pretty good start, and took me way too much time.  Finally, a couple days ago, I switched the hub over to the Bell SIM card.  So, from here on in, it’s “live from Boris the Spider”.