Macbook, Merlin XU870 and Parallels

I have been running a Novatel Merlin XU870 Wireless card with my MacBook Pro for some 5 months now and it is a great way to connect to the net at decent speeds (400 to 700kps on average, at times faster) anywhere inside you providers area of service, which for me is most of the Perth’s extended metro area including the 30 minute plus bus ride to work.

It has been so good and reliable I ditched my old dialup connection and have not been tempted to get a fixed broadband connection. Sure I have limited bandwidth 1 Gb (in both directions) a month on my plan, but I have not had any problems plus I can supplement it with my phone’s bandwidth.

The main problem has been Apple’ insistence that you use their dodgy WWAN support and this is packaged in both the 10.4.9 and 10.4.10 updates, which is good if you use your XU870 card to connect to the cingular network in the US and bad for everybody else because it stops the card from functioning.

This is fixed by removing all WWAN files from your systems folder and rebooting. You need to delete the following files:

  • /Library/Modem Scripts/WWAN Support
  • /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/WWAN.menu
  • /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANSupport.kext
  • /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANVerizon.kext

You can even use the card to connect any virtual machine running under Parallels. This is because Parallels lets you assign the Express card slot on my MacBook Pro as if it was a USB device. Which is now the cause of my current problem.

I was checking the Three site yesterday and found that I could improve the theoretical speed on the card from 1.8Mbps to 3.6Mbps by upgrading the card’s firmware. So I download the firmware, which of course is PC only, fired up XP under Parallels and followed the instructions to the letter, only for XP to crash halfway through the process, with a USB debug error displaying and a wireless card that no longer functions (posting via Dopod as modem).

So if you have Novatel Merlin XU870 Wireless card, a MacBoook and use Three I strongly recommend that you do not try to upgrade the card’s firmware through Parallels but find somebody with a Windows laptop and use that.

Hoping that I can recover the card, by upgrading the firmware on a Windows laptop, I will let you now what happens.

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22 Responses to “Macbook, Merlin XU870 and Parallels”

  1. Shane Says:

    How do you get parallels running on a PowerBook? I thought it was for mactels only.

  2. nick Says:

    Shane, sorry brain fade this morning, I confused my MacBook Pro and Powerbook. It is my MacBook Pro that I run Parallels on. Corrected the post to reflect this.

    My Powerbook (which is screenless) uses the XU870 to provide internet connectivity for my home network.

  3. Spiros Says:

    Hello Nick. I have problem with XU870 and my Macbook pro with OS X 10.4.10
    with vodafone service in Greece. My systems freezes. Major problem. I tried to do what you say, I delete the files (but I didnt found the last two: /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANSupport.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANVerizon.kext – I see the IOSerialFamily.kext but I cannot open it.) But my system still freezes. Any idea?

  4. nick Says:

    Spiros, you probably need to use the Terminal application to locate and delete the files. Open up Terminal you should find it in your applications folder (or download iTerm and use that instead). Then type (or cut and paste):
    cd /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/Plugins
    then return, followed by:
    ls
    that is a lower case LS this will list all files in the folder including AppleWWANSupport.kext and AppleWWANVerizon.kext. Then type:
    rm AppleWWANSupport.kext
    and return, if this does not work, because you get an error message or by checking with (sorry but it has been three months since I did this):
    ls
    try
    sudo rm AppleWWANSupport.kext
    and entering your password. Then repeat with either
    rm AppleWWANVerizon.kext
    or
    sudo rm AppleWWANVerizon.kext
    then close terminal by typing
    exit
    Then restart your computer and it should work.

  5. Spiros Says:

    hello nick, I did that using terminal but still my system freezes. I used a slight different command because AppleWWANVerizon.kext and AppleWWANSupport.kext are “directories” and they needed the command as: “sudo rm -r -f AppleWWANSupport.kext”. Thank you but my system still freezes. By the way read what they told me from “novamedia” the company that creates the “Vodafone Mobile Connect Software”:

    “Hello,
    Many XU870 will freeze your MacBook Pro. Whenever the card tries to connect
    to a GPRS signal, the radio interference is so streng it will freeze your
    MacBook Pro instantly.
    Many customers have changed the XU870 many times and you should *not* use
    this card in your system. Please exchange the card to a USB-modem which is
    also offered by Vodafone to have a successful connection! Otherwise you have
    too exchange your MAcBook Pro to a version which is better shielded against
    GPRS interference!”

  6. nick Says:

    Spiros I would totally disagree with what “novamedia” said. I have used my MacBook Pro and XU870 for 7 months now and at least and hour a day during that time and 5 days out of 7 in a moving vehicle without ever freezing the system (other than those silly Apple upgrades). Mind you the network I use is primarily 3G/HSPDA not GPRS (2.5G), though I have been connected via GPRS on occasions without any problems.

    You might also need to delete the AppleWWANSupport.kext and AppleWWANVerizzon.kext directories in terminal by using “sudo rmdir AppleWWANSupport.kext”. Then install the latest drivers from Merlin http://www.novatelwireless.com/support/merlin-xu870-apple.html restart the machine and try again.

    You could check the interference theory for yourself. Get a copy of Parallels < a href="http://www.parallels.com/">http://www.parallels.com/ the 30 day demo is free, install a copy of Windows, acquire the XU870 in Parallels (it treats the card as a USB device it is simple) install the connection software and connect via Windows, I have done this a few times without any problems.

    If you can connect via Windows, then it is a software issue not a hardware issue like GPRS interference with MacBook Pro. Given my experience with the XU870 and MBP, I would be betting on software issue.

  7. Spiros Says:

    Thank you I will try it, but as I remember one of the first thing I did when I took the card was to install the drivers from novatel without results… I keep you informed thank you

  8. Spiros Says:

    I used “sudo rmdir AppleWWANSupport.kext” and I get “no such file or directory” so the job is done.

    I tried 2 different softwares already: All Versions of “Vodafone Mobile Connect” provided by Vodafone, and
    “Launch2Net” provided by Novamedia.

    System freezes no matter the Version, the enviroment, the time etc…)

  9. Spiros Says:

    …Installed drivers from Novatel site, used Vodafone Mobile Connect Software Latest Version System Freezes :-(

  10. nick Says:

    Spiros, I don’t use any 3rd party software to connect. The method I use is detailed here http://www.novatelwireless.com/support/merlin-xu870-apple.html.

    I don’t know what Vodafone support is like. With 3 I call their support line, tell then I am having I having problems with with XU870 mobile broadband card and Apple MacBook Pro, I get redirected to the mobile broadband team straight away. I then mention Apple MacBook Pro and I get redirected straight to the Mac expert. From there I always get good support from there.

  11. Mike Says:

    Leopard has broken using the 3 network (again).

    Anyone with any suggestions?

  12. Nick Says:

    Mike, I have not upgraded to Leopard just yet so I have yet to encounter that problem. Best guess is to do a search for wwan and deleted then (though to be on the safe side back them up first).

    At the command line in terminal type:
    sudo find . -name *WWAN* -print
    this should list all the files and directories with WWAN in their name, then delete those files (after backing them up). Install the latest drivers from Novatel and restart you MacBook Pro. Let me know if this works.

  13. Pieter Says:

    I upgraded also to Leopard (10.5) and it breaks also my XU870 :-(
    There are LOTS of files matching the *WWAN*… I’m a bit affraid to remove them (will my machine boot after this?)
    Anyway, I’m very interested in someone who was able to fix the thing !

  14. Pieter Says:

    I gave it a try: I did delete the following:

    /Library/Modem Scripts/WWAN
    /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/WWAN.menu
    /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANSupport.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANSupport1.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANSupport2.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANVerizon.kext
    /System/Library/Extensions/IOSerialFamily.kext/Contents/PlugIns/ AppleWWANVerizonKicker.kext

    Unfortunately… it didn’t solve a thing :-(

  15. Nick Says:

    Thanks for trying that Pieter. It was looking like I needed to install Leopard on an external disk and have to experiment with which files to remove. However, it looks like somebody has done the hard work already. http://groups.google.com/group/de.comp.sys.mac.misc/browse_thread/thread/2c159197f576d562/8b20ddacb9d1425b. You just need to translate the page from German.

  16. Nick Cowie » Leopard and Merlin XU870 Says:

    […] I have yet to purchase my copy of Leopard, but from a couple of comments on one of my previous posts on the XU870 and Tiger upgrades. It appears that upgrading to Leopard also breaks XU870 support outside the US for the unwary. […]

  17. Dan Says:

    I have a MacBook Pro. My Novatel EX 720 works fine in the Mac side. On the Windows side the Connection Mgr does not recognize the card. The computer sees it just fine in the device mgr.

    Any idea on what I can do to fix this?

    Thanks

  18. Nick Says:

    Dan, I don’t know about the EX720 with the XU870, I just fire up Parallels, accquire the XU870 as a USB device and use the Windows software that came with the XU870 to connect. It is that easy for me.

    According to SlashGear Parallels can not see the EX720. Without a EX720 to play with, I do not know, I may of been using a later version of Parallels or there is a difference between the EX720 and XU870 or their Windows drivers that causes the problems.

  19. Sascha Says:

    Hi Nick!

    Did you solve the firmware problem somehow? Did the same (upgrade via parallels) and broke the cards firmware.

    THanks
    Sascha

  20. Nick Says:

    Hi Sascha

    No I did not get it fixed. I got my card replaced under warranty, just rang my mobile provider (3 Australia) explained what happened (I was following instructions from their website) and they replaced it.

    As long as you did not try to upgrade a second time under Paralells (I did so I deleted my original settings). You can retrieve your original settings from C:\Program Files\Novatel Wireless\Firmware Cache\ the file name should be something like L7070207000350_001.cache – 0 with the size about 100Kb and the file will also have hidden attribute. So get this file and save it somewhere safe.

    If my logic is right, fire up windows under bootcamp or on a PC, start the upgrade again. Once the firmware setting are stored on the PC in C:\Program Files\Novatel Wireless\Firmware Cache\ replace it with the one you retrieved from your first attempt and continue the process and hopefully things should work.

  21. David Says:

    Hi,

    I have exactly the same freezing problem with my Merlin XU870 that was from T-MOBILE in UK.

    I have upgraded the firmware via VMARE FUSION 2.0.4 and according to instructions on http://engel.allfirmwares.com/ (replaced the settings cache file during first upgrade then was able to flash the newer firmware from that page).

    The result = every time I connect my XU870 my MacBook Pro crashes instantly after status LED flashes a couple of times in purple (EDGE). I’ve read GPRS/EDGE use 2Wat and that causes the problem (some people say it’s rubbish). After 5 hours of looking for information found nothing ;/
    Will try my card in a bigger town where 3G is available. Also, will lock mobil software to use UMTS only when trying from VMWARE (it didn’t crash when it was switched on but have only EDGE here). So it makes sense that 2W and motherboard having problem with it.

    My MBP details:
    Mac OSX Leopard 10.5.7
    MacBook Pro 15″
    MacBook Pro2,2
    Intel Core 2 Duo
    Processors: 1
    Cores: 2
    L2 cache: 4MB
    Mem: 3GB
    Bus spd: 667
    Boot Rom MBP22.00A5.B07

  22. David Says:

    am selling this p**** of c*** – not worth my time spent on it – will buy a working card.

    Good luck to those wanting to get it working on MBP.

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