T-Mobile USB Broadband for Mac: Worst Mac App Evar

I’m in the UK for a couple weeks, so I got a T-Mobile GSM Broadband adapter. (This is the one from ZTE, by the way, apparently they offer several). Rather than hook into the OS in a nice, neat way, they include their own crapware that you have to install. Danger: If you install the software on Snow Leopard, it will ruin your OS and make your system unable to boot. Read on.Thanks to David Glover’s blog post on the issue, I was able to recover. But, damn, what a pain! The ZTE driver uses libcurl. Fine. But it decides that, rather than put libcurl in its own application resources, it will replace the one in /usr/lib. That is wrong on so many levels. Not only was /usr/lib/libcurl already there, but when you do that on Snow Leopard, you break the OS. Nothing works. There is no excuse for application software to clobber a system library file during installation, and there’s no way to know—as the user—that that’s what it did or will do.

It may be possible to make a copy of the /usr/lib/libcurl.4.dylib library, do their software install, and then copy it back. It’s dangerous. I ended up finding a friend with a Mac and booting into Target Disk mode, and then I could replace the file. People who don’t know what that means will have to find a Mac service center, Apple store, or a tech-savvy friend. But that’s not what this blog post is about.

Suckiest App Evar

The crappy app that you get with the USB stick is clearly slapped together using a template, demo app that came with XCode or something.

MyApp

  • The menu has a “Preferences” item that is greyed out (but there is a settings button in the window. Why isn’t that hooked up to the Preferences menu?).
  • The File menu has a bunch of options: New, Open, Open Recent, Save As, Print. etc. None of these make sense. Perhaps they didn’t realize they had a menu? Perhaps they didn’t realize they could eliminate the entire menu?
  • The Edit menu does what you’d expect. Lucky them.
  • The Window menu has a Hide/Show toolbar (also grayed out) and a Customize Toolbar (also grayed out).
  • And my favorite: The “Help” menu has one item: “MyApp Help.” They forgot to do a search and replace on “MyApp” throughout their project. Though it does bring up the right PDF file for documentation.

SMS

And then there’s the SMS feature. I’m not sure I understand why I want my mobile broadband adapter to send and receive SMS. but it’s there.

CPU Usage

There’s the fact that I have this dumb program running the whole time that I am using teh interwebs. It uses a visible amount of CPU, ranging from 0.6% to 1% when just sitting idle. Since it is adding zero value to my Internet experience, this just takes up space in my dock, desktop, and RAM. And it’s burning a little CPU as well.

Engrish

Lastly, there’s Engrish. If you don’t know what Engrish is, go take a look at Engrish.com. They have error messages in the software (from reading /Applications/T-Mobile Mobile Broadband Manager.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/LanguageTokenList_TMO.txt) that look like this:

  • The request has been time out!\nTry to terminate the communication!
  • If disable, you will not be able to install the SW of T-Mobile Internet Manager to other computer until enable it again.
  • SIM card capacity is not enough!

In fact, of the 232 strings in that file (which correspond to messages you might see in a dialog box or error), 75 (about one third) have an exclamation point in them. One error message even has 3 exclamation points in it.

Conclusion

It turns out that the device works. But what a pain. I lost half a day to trying to recover without a second mac. When I got the second Mac to fix my own Mac, all was well in about 5 minutes. After that, it works flawlessly.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: T-Mobile USB stick 120 (ZTE MF626) on Snow Leopard « David Glover

  2. The SMS feature is there so that you can order the multi-day access bundles from T-Mobile, which can only be ordered by text message.

    Previous versions of the software lacked this feature, so unbelievably, the multi-day access bundles were restricted to Windows users only, purely based on the fact that the Mac software sucked so much.

  3. Pingback: How to fix Snow Leopard after T-Mobile mobile broadband has killed it :: Aaron Russell

  4. Carl Williams

    Aside from the SMS feature, I don’t think you need the manager app at all once you have the drivers installed – you can connect using the modem status icon thing in the OS X top menu bar, once configured. I have the Huawei E160 T-mobile stick, and I never use the manager software for connecting, just for SMS. If you send the bundle-activation SMS by putting the SIM in a regular handset, you can avoid the manager software completely.

    Apparently you can get suitable modem drivers from Three, from Telstra or presumably from ZTE themselves. The ones from Three look recent, might even be 64bit. You can also look inside the T-mobile installer package and grab just the modem driver part – I had to do that to get the Huawei one working with Snow Leopard. I also had to get an updated manager program from T-Mobile Austria (the UK website doesn’t carry it.) T-mobile UK are worse than useless in any of this. (Also note that these sticks are subsidy-locked – you’ll need to unlock it before trying to put, say, a German T-mobile SIM in a British stick.)

    I’ve yet to try installing drivers for the ZTE stick – I just bought one for my girlfriend and it seems the ZTE is what you get these days, cheaper than the Huawei one I guess.

    The actual T-mobile (UK) connection, once up and running, works fine and seems good value, good coverage where I’ve tried it, and so on – it’s just the software and support which suck mightily.

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