Thursday, February 18, 2010

Activating Virgin Media Broadband on Linux

Yesterday I installed Virgin Media broadband at my new house. Virgin Media? Am I insane? Well, unfortunately my new house is 4.5km away from the exchange and the fastest ADSL connection is less than 2 Mbits, so Virgin was my only option. Anyway, I digress. The reason for the post is to help out any other Linux users who want to use Virgin Media.

When I plugged in the router and went to view a website on my computer, I was redirected to an activation page, where I had to enter my name and postcode and stuff like that. Except that the first page you go to checks to make sure you're running Windows or using a Mac. Thankfully, Konqueror and Opera both let me change my browser identification string so that Virgin's servers think I am using Windows. So far, so good. The next problem comes a few steps later when the 'Next' button doesn't respond. A quick view of the page's source shows that Virgin is trying to set the browser's homepage using some bad JavaScript. It also shows that after trying to do that, it was just going to redirect to another page anyway, so I was able to copy that URL into the address bar and carry on. I don't remember what the URL was, but if you look for the function called 'next()' in the source, you'll see it there. A few pages later it prompts you to download and install their special tools. There's no option to skip this, but if you click on 'Next', it starts the download and then goes onto the next page anyway. You can just ignore the download.

After all that, your connection should be activated. Mine was, anyway. Now I get about a 4 Mbit connection instead of the slow 2 Mbit ADSL connection. Which is still slow, considering Virgin Media advertise it as a 20 Mbit connection, but I wasn't expecting anything that good from Virgin Media. After all, they are just NTL with a new name.


Moltonel said...

Amazing how much trouble they go through (checking the os, setting up the homepage, installing some software)... That is of zero benefit to the user and just gets in the way.

Roger Downing said...

Bloody cheeky if you ask me. Do they warn you that they are resetting your home page? Is their check for Windows/Mac in lieu of having a clause in the agreement that could easily state that their technical support will only assist Windows/Mac users?

The sad part of it is that likely most of their infrastructure behind the broadband runs UNIX/Linux.

Simon said...

Don't forget to also opt-out of their DNS typo-hijacking 'service'

Anonymous said...

That's really bad that Virgin goes to such a length to ensure that you're running Windows or Mac... unnecessarily, of course. I luckily have had a pretty good experience with the two ISPs I've been with (AT&T and local cable comany, I'm in the southern U.S.) Both times the technicians simply set up the equipment and used Firefox on openSUSE to log in to the modem and activate the service... the fact that I was running Linux wasn't a problem.

Does anyone know *why* Virgin is so insistant on their customers using Windows or Mac?

danceswithferrets said...

The pockets at microsoft run very deep indeed