yet another laptop question
February 25, 2013 5:51 PM   Subscribe

I want a new Internet provider. I have a new laptop. I am not froze to the idea of using this laptop if a new different laptop will serve me better. I want to run Ubuntu linux and I want decent speed and bandwidth caps. Currently I am accessing the Internet through a six year old IBM Thinkpad running Windows XP and I have an ISP account with Verizon. Please tell me your favorite low maintenence solutions.

The new laptop is a Dell studio with Ubuntu factory installed. Verizon says they can't hook it up to my existing internet account. I bought it really cheap and that may have been a mistake as Dell also isn't helpful about getting this new computer hooked up. What I want: a new Ubuntu laptop (preferably the Dell sitting on my desk which runs fine but apparently I am too ignorant to connect it to the internet), and to be able to swap out wireless internet providers if better / faster / cheaper service is to be had at no more than a month's notice. If your best answer is too embarrassingly self-serving feel free to memail me or my gmail e-mail address is on my metafilter user profile page.

I am rather mystified that when I started trying do this starting earlier this afternoon by typing "How do I . . ." into google I did not have this computer hooked up in about forty minutes or less so maybe this shouldn't be "tell me like I'm five" but if you could please go easy on me because I am really feeling like a total doofus at the moment.

posted by bukvich to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
Verizon says they can't hook it up to my existing internet account

They are wrong for several reasons.

1) The emphasis here is on "they can't hook it up" because they don't get to use the awful bloated all-in-one program they love on Windows when connecting to your home network and therefore the internet, when a commodity modem/router/access point usually Just Works.

2) They aren't connecting your computer to anything. They're setting you up with subscriber access to DSL or FIOS, and their concerns end at your modem. What you do on your side of the modem is immaterial.

My suggestion is that you keep the six year-old Thinkpad around and have the Verizon guy use that to do the initial config of your modem if he doesn't want to get his hands dirty with the browser interface to the modem. After that you can shove the Thinkpad in a drawer somewhere, and knowing your WiFi password, can do what you like with the Dell Studio device.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:16 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know Verizon's requirements so this is vague, but Inspector Gadget is correct: Verizon are wrong.

You want your ISP to set up your modem, NOT to set up your computer. If you're doing the setup with Verizon on the phone, then use your ThinkPad to do it - they'll probably want you to connect the computer to the modem with a wire. Or maybe they will come to your place and connect their computer to the modem, and do the setup that way.

The modem talks to Verizon and passes "the internet" (IP - internet protocol data) to the wifi router. These may both be in the same box, in which case after Verizon are done with setup your wifi should "just work", so long as you know the name and password for the wifi connection.

I also don't know Ubuntu's wifi configuration, but if it's self-configuring (i.e. you go to a cafe with wifi and it just works) then you should be able to connect from the Dell to your wifi.

If the modem and the wifi router are different boxes, then you may need to configure your router to talk to the modem. Most wifi routers get the internet address automagically from the modem (using "DHCP") and also give out the relevant information to wireless connections (your Dell and ThinkPad). But you may need to know the gateway IP address for your internet connection. How to configure the modem should be covered by the router's manual, or use Google with details.
posted by anadem at 6:49 PM on February 25, 2013

Do not listen to any ISP tell you they even need you to own a computer to set up your internet connection.

Have them set up the modem, plug the modem into a router you buy, and follow the router's instructions. It'll work with any computer on the planet.
posted by odinsdream at 6:55 PM on February 25, 2013

Clarification request: is this a fixed-line ADSL connection, or a mobile internet dongle?

If it's ADSL, the previous answers are correct: it will Just Work, whether your router is wired or wireless. At worst you might have to use Windows once to set up the router, though I've never even had to do that.

If it's a mobile internet dongle... it will *probably* work, even if they claim it won't. I'm writing this through a Huawei dongle which Just Worked when I plugged it in. But in this case I would be a little warier of, say, locking into a 24-month contract without the opportunity to test it first, because I haven't been able to find a definitive list of compatible dongles.

You shouldn't need to change your laptop.

Official support for Ubuntu among ISPs, hardware manufacturers etc. is still somewhat marginal, but in practice most things seem to work fine. Often companies will tell you "definitely no" (rather than "we're not sure") just to avoid being on the hook for support if something goes wrong.
posted by pont at 10:59 PM on February 25, 2013

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