Entomological Description

My photo
Sydney, NSW, Australia
I'm a Christian husband currently finishing a Software Eng degree and wondering what God's plan for my life is. I sleep soundly in the knowledge that time will assuredly answer that question with little effort on my part.

Friday, October 31, 2008

There's a new kid on the block

For a time there was peace in our street. Then came the arrival of the black horde. The earth was rent in two and all green things were torn asunder. And now the construction of the unknown behemoth has begun. Who knows when it will end. We shall be gone; fled to the safer northern hills.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

UNSW Uniwide Wireless on a Nokia E71

OK, this post is really meant to catch some flies. Looking at my site logs, I know that people sometimes stumble upon my blog looking for solutions to things that I haven't really got solutions for. Here's another such thing, but hopefully we can work something out.

In a previous post I sang the praises of my new Nokia E71 running Symbian S60 3rd ed. It's a great little unit and has the full complement of connectivity options, including 802.11g Wifi supporing WPA/WPA2/802.1x authentication.

In case you also weren't aware, I go to the University of New South Wales, who recently provisioned their campus with a free wireless network for students and staff.

The Uniwide network, as it is known, uses WPA2/EAP-PEAP/MSCHAPv2 to authenticate students, all of which are supported by the E71. The ITS setup page lists these details but rather unhelpfully only provides an actual guide, or support, for the iPhone and its bretheren. (I'll have a rant about trading one monopoly-type technology organisation for another in a separate, future post. Go FLOSS!)

So here is a run down of what I tried, in order:

  1. The "I'm an iPhone user" approach. That is, I went to uni, scanned for networks, found the "uniwide" network, and told it to connect. Result: Authentication failed. No network, no way.

  2. The "OK, I was just pretending. I actually do like fiddling with settings" approach. That is, taking the automatically created Access Point as a starting point, I delved into the settings to see what was wrong. It had correctly set the network up as a WPA2, EAP-based network, but was attempting to use EAP-SIM or EAP-AKA to authenticate. "Aha!" I cried, deftly enabling EAP-PEAP and disabling the other EAP protocols. In so doing I also then found that the settings for EAP-PEAP allowed you to set up another layer of EAPs, which were also defaulting to EAP-SIM and EAP-AKA. This time I enabled EAP-MSCHAPv2 and set my username and password for MSCHAPv2 accordingly. Feeling rather pleased with my own powers of reasoning, I tried connecting. Result: No network, no way. "EAP-PEAP Authentication failed"

  3. The "This is starting to get a little ridiculous" approach. I happen to know, from setting up my laptop with this network, and from the iPhone setup guide, that you have to accept UNSW's security certificate to connect to the network. I also happen to know that the Authority certificate that the uni is using is called UTN-USERFirst-Hardware, and is issued by a company called Comodo. It is available for download here. I cleverly determined that this CA isn't installed on the E71, so maybe the poor phone can't authenticate the certificate it's being presented with. Not knowing a huge amount about certificate chains and all that, I installed those certificates onto the phone from the comodo website. This in itself didn't change anything. So I went one step further and in the EAP-PEAP settings, I set the Authority Certificate to be the UTN-USERFirst-Hardware certificate that I had just installed. Result: The phone takes a really long time thinking about connecting before finally failing in exactly the same way as before. Not happy.

  4. The "Somebody out there must have worked this out already" approach. I wrote a blog post about my troubles and will wait for some kind soul who finds this through Google to comment on the post with their experiences, be they positive or the same as mine.

Seriously. Any Symbian S60 users out there who have worked out the voodoo that makes these little suckers want to play nice with Uniwide? I'm a little bit perplexed by it all.

And while you're here, you might as well comment on this too: does anybody else have issues connecting to some wireless networks with a "No Gateway Reply" error? This is unrelated to the Uniwide network, as it seems to happen consistently at my parents home network, which is just a regular WPA-PSK network, with MAC restriction, and it also occassionaly happens at my own home (oh the shame...)

So although I am pleased with my E71 and it does what it's told most of the time, I am also looking forward to the next firmware update, which will hopefully be not to far away, thankyou, Nokia.

Obligatory Countdown

It's not an LTS, but it's still important! Not sure if I'll immediately upgrade yet. I'll have to weigh up the new features against the high likelihood of something breaking... Still, it's after thesis is due so I might have a little more time on my hands to fiddle with configs again.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Finally joining all the other smart people out there, I have got myself a Nokia E71. It looks a little something like this...

(Source: Wikipedia, released under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, author Mark Kamichoff)

It's a little beauty. No, it's not an iPhone. I won't compare it to an iPhone either, because unless you've spent considerable time using and exploring a device you don't really have enough knowledge to speak to it. And I haven't used an iPhone much.

But I love my Nokia E71. I won't bore you with the specs, they're all here. It's pretty much the phone that I wanted to have two years ago and couldn't find. Given that I've entered into a two year contract with the good folks at Virgin Mobile, I'm hoping it will keep working for at least that long! A few firmware upgrades along the way wouldn't go astray either, just in case you're listening, Nokia. There's already a few well-documented bugs and omissions that I'm sure Nokia will be keen to correct.

You'll probably start to see some blog posts from this device too, as it's the first device I've had that's been able to do the take photo/write blog post/upload to blogger bit all on its own. My old Nokia 6280 had a camera but had issues getting things to Blogger. My old Palm T|X would happily make blog posts, but had no inbuilt camera, so I either had to Bluetooth them over (ick) or grab them online somehow. But it also only had Wifi, so blogging was still tethered to my house, really.

I'm sure I could rave about all the little things the E71 will let me do now, but you probably don't want to hear it. Perhaps I'll spread that ranting out a little over a few blog posts. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This existence is fleeting...

It's taken me a couple of days to actually post this, but here is a sobering reminder that the expression "safe as houses" is a little over-rated. There used to be three houses in this shot. Now, only a flat sandy patch and the orange instrument of their destruction.

Don't get too attached to the bricks and mortar of this world. It'll all wind up like this, eventually! And you don't even have to be a Christian to acknowledge that particular truth.