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Using Your BlackBerry As a Modem On Linux 135

ruphus13 writes "Now, the suits and the geeks can unite — Barry allows BlackBerrys to serve as modems for Linux machines. From the news post, 'Barry, created by open source software vendor Net Direct, lets you not only sync your contacts and calendar but also use your smartphone as a computer modem. Sure, it's not as fast as T1 or cable, but you can't beat it if you're stuck somewhere with no Internet access. Currently, there are packages available for Ubuntu, Debian, Mandriva, and Fedora (although syncing is not supported on Fedora 9). Most older BlackBerrys work just fine with Barry, but the newest generation of devices — the Storm and Bold — are not yet fully supported.'"
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Using Your BlackBerry As a Modem On Linux

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  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @12:05PM (#26343463)

    I have done this with Mac OS X and a little Samsung Sync. Years ago, for phones that allow you to put software on it. There really isn't much stopping you from doing this.

    • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @12:10PM (#26343539)
      My first experience was using a normal, run of the mill cell phone that had an IR port as a modem -- back in high school. That was beyond annoying, because the alignment had to be withing about 5 degrees, but it worked, and back then 9.6kbps was not unbearable even for the web. These days I do it with Bluetooth when I am traveling, and I can really only check my email via POP3.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I plugged a rectangular modulator/demodulator thingy into my Commodore 64, then attached that to the telephone jack in the wall! We didn't HAVE a cell phone in those days!

        Now get off my lawn!

        • Yours had a phone jack?

          I had to dial the number, and then set the handset into the acoustic coupler. I still don't believe in all this wireless stuff. If I can't see the wire, I don't believe it's connected! How do I know I'm talking to the other person on the end of the wire, and not an impersonator. If my wife were to call me and ask for a gallon of milk, who's to say it's not a KGB agent trying to lure me to kill me and destroy our American way of life. You know those d

      • Bluetooth to my cell is a saviour in low-service areas where I can't find a quick access point.

        I've been doing this for quite some time as well, although some of the new usb-attached modems from local cell service providers are very nice (and work with Linux).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Thalagyrt ( 851883 )

          I used to do that with my old T-Mobile phone, but now I just have a Sprint PCI-E mini card built in. It's a hell of a lot more convenient than using a tethered phone.

          I wrote up a script that uses traceroute to determine whether or not I have Internet connectivity via 802.11 or my wired Ethernet jack, and if not, it automatically connects the Sprint card. When I have 802.11 connectivity it traceroutes to the nearest Google box every 30 seconds or so and if it notices that I'm not going out through Sprint (ya

          • I found a module for the linux kernel amr-modem, which alows you to send modem commands to your phone. I have my Motorola Razr hooked up via USB, and linxu automagically loaded the module, and then i could talk to my phone via Terminal. Although im not sure if you could use this as internet access (thats what i was trying to do, but never succeeded), but basically being able to use my phone as a modem for my laptop. Great idea, except AT&T is kind of expensive to do that.
        • by afidel ( 530433 )
          They SHOULD work with any OS, in order to make the install under Windows easy all of the cell modems I've seen in the last 5 years or so show up as a comm port USB adapter, then it's generally as simple as finding the dial string for your provider.
          • Try it on Linux. They probably show up as /dev/devttyACM# . Or I think that's what it showed for the last time I tried it with a USB phone. You could use it as an EVDO modem, and even send/receive SMS directly with it.

            Of course, blackberrys aren't recognized automatically.

    • by conlaw ( 983784 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @01:13PM (#26344417)
      I agree that this isn't news. Five years ago, I could do this from my Blacberry using software from RIM and T-Mobile. The great part was that the Blackberry kept on recharging while I using it as a modem.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Lord Jester ( 88423 )

        You did it on Linux five years ago?

    • This is really old news, you've been able to do this in Linux by abstracting the BB through bluetooth for quite some time. Here [] is a guide I wrote last January (when I had a BB Pearl for 2 weeks), and I've been doing the same process with my Moto Q smartphone for about a year prior to that.
  • Most corporate comms policies I have seen where Blackberries are given strictly forbid the use of work mobile phones as modems for their laptops, because data charges are so high.

    One of the reasons RIM carved such a niche in corporate phones/PDAs is the "eat as much as you want" (more or less) email access; surfing the net via GSM/TDMA/3G/UMTS is not part of the deal, and billed by your provider as data by the Kb or minute.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What corporations are getting Blackberries w/out unlimited data plans?

      Anyways, I've been tethering my BB with Linux for a while now just using Bluetooth (no special drivers needed). It's slow, but faster than dialup.

      • by fruey ( 563914 )

        Obviously quite a few, because I know several Blackberry owners and clearly unlimited data is just not a priority for any people outside of 24/7 tech support...

        • by afidel ( 530433 )
          We have ~350 BB handsets on 3 different providers and they ALL have unlimited data, I just can't imagine the possible overage charges without it!
      • by trum4n ( 982031 )
        You have to remember that ALL "unlimited data plans" are just false advertising. They are ALL lying.
        • by trum4n ( 982031 )
          Forgot to mention. Verizon will kick you if you do Phone as Modem. And they charge you the Early Termination fee. RAZRs have supported PAM from day one. But Verizon kicked me for connecting once to check my email. Took me 2 lawyers and 3 months to get back on. Verizon is the only service that works at my house, or id be on sprint in a second.
          • Forgot to mention. Verizon will kick you if you do Phone as Modem.

            Since Verizon has a higher-priced plan that specifically allows you to tether your Blackberry, while the cheaper plan you were paying for specifically forbids it, you not only violated their TOS, you did so in a way that very directly takes money away from them. It's no surprise they kicked you off.

            • It's no surprise they kicked you off.

              Only because they are a company with atrocious customer service. A smart company would have a salesperson call the customer and try to sell them the more expensive plan before canceling the contract.

          • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
            Verizon is evil, no doubt, but Sprint is much more evil by far.
            • Worse. They are evil as well as incompetent.

            • Verizon is evil, no doubt, but Sprint is much more evil by far.

              I pay 85 per month for 3g web access and phone-as-modem tethering. Unlimited access. The trick is you have to call them and specifically request those two... when I went into a Sprint store, I was explicitly told that they would not under any circumstances give me both unlimited 3g net access and tethering.

              Until the nice guy at the call center added the info to my account. Then I got my phone how I wanted. Soma FM while cruising down I-95 is the best.

          • by Skater ( 41976 )
            Really? I used to do this from time to time and never had a problem. See this page on their site. []
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vux984 ( 928602 )

        What corporations are getting Blackberries w/out unlimited data plans?

        Many blackberry "unlimited" data plans only include unlimited data destined-to and originating-from the blackberry itself. Data incurred when using it as a tethered modem is usually excluded from the unlimited bb data plan.

        The rationale is that you can really only consume so much bandwidth with the BB itself. After all, its primary an email device with some modest multimedia capabilities. So they can give you "unlimited data" and the limi

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Cell providers also routinely filter data traffic, because they want to charge extra for mobile Internet and fax plans. Verizon definitely does this, and T-mobile kills fax but not dialup users. How this is not a violation of the Sherman act is a mystery to me.
      • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @12:19PM (#26343651)

        They have lots and lots of money.

      • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @01:02PM (#26344219)

        I just got a Storm with an All-you-can-eat(but don't go over 5 GB/month or else!) data plan, but I think it explicitly excepts using it as a modem.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by charlesnw ( 843045 )
          15.00 a month from verizon makes it available to tether. This is on a business plan.
          • While traveling, I signed up for the tethering plan on a Samsung Glyde. It was expensive, but when I was in an EVDO with at least one or two bars, I had no trouble consisently getting ~680Kbps down.

            I have to admit, their network really is better. My brother picked up an iPhone and the voice quality sucks and he's constantly dropping calls. My wife also has AT&T and doesn't have the voice quality issues, but still has dead spots and dropped calls.


      • I'll say it again: T-mobile USA has an unlimited data plan (HSDPA/edge/gprs) for 24.99 a month. 9.00 a month more to get exchange access. I got it working in linux and blogged on it at [] It's really not that expensive compared to the other carriers.
        • by nxtw ( 866177 )

          I'll say it again: T-mobile USA has an unlimited data plan (HSDPA/edge/gprs) for 24.99 a month. 9.00 a month more to get exchange access. I got it working in linux and blogged on it at [] [] It's really not that expensive compared to the other carriers.

          They charge $9.00 extra for Exchange access? Or $9.00 extra for BlackBerry connectivity to Exchange?

          Exchange ActiveSync support (with a compatible phone) only requires access to the Exchange server via http or https. Compatible d

      • I work for a telecoms, and they are handicapped because traffic is encrypted all the way to your corporate BES (Business Enterprise Server). They don't know what they hell you are doing on a blackberry, running a VoIP client or simply browsing. They can not do tiered charging or DPI. No tiered internet either. booohoohoo.

        This is also why BlackBerry is such a corporate hit. Privacy is pretty much guaranteed over the wireless channel.

        Now now, before you go to that porn site, your BES server admins can do pret

      • by nxtw ( 866177 )

        Cell providers also routinely filter data traffic, because they want to charge extra for mobile Internet and fax plans. Verizon definitely does this, and T-mobile kills fax but not dialup users. How this is not a violation of the Sherman act is a mystery to me.

        I have yet to see any internet filtering on AT&T (after four and a half years) - even on their consumer plans.

        What do you mean by saying that Verizon and T-Mobile block dialup and fax use? CSD is an extra feature that actually requires modems to

    • T-mobile USA has an unlimited data plan (HSDPA/edge/gprs) for 24.99 a month. 9.00 a month more to get exchange access.
    • Got my Blackberry (Pearl) at Sams Club and got a deal for unlimited data including email browsing and modem, through TMobile. Not the fastest connection as you'd expect but certainly good enough for email, and its 128kbps more than nothing. Ive been at client sites that had very restrictive net access, and routed entire subnets through my laptop and phone to get some engineering services working, like remote desktop and TRAC/subversion at remote sites. Again its slow, but it was way better than nothing and
  • If it's anything as slow and difficult as it is on Windows, then it's really not worth the effort. Tethering a BB on Windows, even without a corporate policy, was exceedingly difficult and the speeds were pretty horrible.
    • by fruey ( 563914 )

      Surfing from my Nokia 3G phone using it as a modem gets me about 512kbps which is reasonable - about 64KB/s which means most web pages render in less than 10 secs...

      Outside of 3G coverage it's painful though. In any case, on a Blackberry you can already install GMail, Opera Mini & you have corp email... not bad.

      The rest of the functionality (sync, charging, etc) seems way more interesting. Most hotels & cafes offer free or inexpensive Wifi anyway if you need your fix.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Hotels, inexpensive Wifi, right.... Try more like $8-20 per day for most of the places I've stayed if it wasn't free.
    • Tethering a BB on Windows was exceedingly difficult...

      Huh. Worked flawlessly for me. And Blackberry support was just outstanding, talked me through the setup step-by-step and didnt even talk down to me. Now as long as my phone is within 10' Bluetooth range it will connect via BT and dial-up if no other network connections are available.

      I just got a Dell Mini9 with Ubuntu (and love it) but really wanted the same BT modem capabilities. I cant wait to try this 'Barry' thingy out!

  • My crackberry 7520 is about a third the speed of dialup, with much higher latency..

    can't picture using this as a modem.

    • 9.6kbps is acceptable for email access, assuming POP3 (though your blackberry will already do this, so what would be the point?). It is also decent for IM, although Jabber is too bandwidth heavy so you'd want to stick with something like IRC.

      Also, this IS dialup, it just isn't v.92 56k dialup.
    • My crackberry 7520 is about a third the speed of dialup, with much higher latency..

      That is a bummer. On the other hand, the number of times I've paid oingo boingo (or somesuch) $7 for just a few minutes of WiFi at an airport to sync my Outlook in/outboxes during a layover, the bar isn't very high.

      On the other other hand, as soon as somebody sends me a 7MB powerpoint attachment, I would be hosed.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Outlook allows you to setup profiles and set attachment size limits on each, it's very common to set it up to grab headers and body without attachments on dialup, this would be the same.
      • Yeah, if I'm roaming in the US, my provider charges me 8 dollars a meg for traffic.

        My regular plan includes 25 meg a month, believe it's 8 dollars a meg over that as well.

  • Why? Can't we already just do..

    modload usbnet
    dhclient usb0

  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @12:19PM (#26343649) Homepage

    9 years late, we can welcome RIM to the new millenium.

    Seriously, most geeks will have used cell phones as modems for years. I certainly did it back in the last millennium. In the old days, IR was the way to connect. Then when you got fed up trying to keep the phone pointed at the computer you got a cable.

    Bluetooth replaced all that nonsense. And, today, we have software that turns your phone into a Wireless access point, allowing you to share your connection with the entire room.

    Here's hoping I never have a job that forces me to give all that up for a Blackberry!

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uhhh, this is just Linux. Blackberries have been tetherable since lord knows when, but it's been windows only.

    • by Nursie ( 632944 )


      And why is it not as fast as cable.? 3G over here in europe can be used with a variety of laptop/phone combinations and is really quite snappy.

    • I've been using my Blackberry as a modem for a long time, both with Windows and OSX, and both over Bluetooth and USB.

      So this appears to be a purely Linux thing. This shouldn't just pertain to Blackberry, but pretty much any phone that can act as a modem. The Razr makes a decent modem, again over Bluetooth or USB.

    • What software turns a phone into an access point? pdanet just works ad hoc
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @12:27PM (#26343747)

    I tried to do this with my Pearl when we went on vacation. Thought I could use my laptop on the trip when we wanted to find where to go, etc.

    First roadblock is the cost. I pay $30 for my Blackberry data plan, can browse the internet... unlimited data they say. Except if you want to tether it to a computer that is another $30.

    Then half way through the trip it just plain stopped working. I had to "reboot" the Pearl to correct the problem, where rebooting means pulling the battery out.

    Otherwise I actually felt the speeds were decent, faster than dialup... probably 120k/sec, and this was over old-school GSM(not 3G).

    • by fruey ( 563914 )

      Old Skool GSM is 9.6kbps, aligned with the fax standard. Anything above that is something else (maybe UTMS?)

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You must be on AT&T. I have the same setup (BB Pearl, AT&T) and you are also limited to 5GB of data on their "unlimited" plans, whether via the phone's browser or tethering. They advertise on the main web page and in print ads that it's unlimited data, then when you actually read the EULA before confirming the purchase it's listed as limited to 5GB.

      Granted, I doubt I'll ever use 5GB either in-phone or tethered (I don't download big files on the go) but it's something they should put out there in the

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by charlesnw ( 843045 )
      May I ask who your carrier is? T-mobile USA it's 24.99 for unlimited data, and it tethers easily. I wrote a howto on it at [] It's 9.00 for exchange access.
  • Not practical... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @12:30PM (#26343779)

    This just isn't really practical. I just came back from a trip in Central America, and Internet access was easier to find than land or cell phone service. I have a feeling it's that way in lots of developing countries. My phone was useless. There were very very few land lines, but I could hop on one of many computers at hostels or Internet cafes and check my email.

    • As it is now, you are probably right, but I think that landlines will go away as new technologies emerge.

      As far as TV is concerned: in Germany the remote parts were scheduled first for DVB-T, if I remember correctly. In remote areas it can be cheaper to just put a few antennas up than to upgrade the cable/telephone connection of every single farm.

      A lot also depends on the dataplans available. In Germany competition is doing its work nicely at the moment: decent "unlimited" 10 GB dataplans for UMTS-modems ar

  • The article mentions that the software allows a linux laptop to charge the battery.

    My eee has always been able to do this without any software, anyone else?
    • It's more of a kernel module thing. The EEE distro might have included that module in it's kernel build. It's not an upstream module, or at least it wasn't last I checked. Barry includes the module and is installed as part of the suite.
    • You probably had the module preinstalled? Or did you do a clean install?

      My blackberry (8320) will not charge on my Ubuntu laptop. It won't charge on Windows before installing the drivers either. I found bpowerd for linux before this article, but I haven't got around to installing it, since the binaries are only for 7.10 and 8.04 and I usually charge from a wall socket anyway.

  • Is it possible to use other cell phones as well as modem for Linux boxes ? My old Nokia connects with a USB cable and works as a modem on my windows laptop thanks to a special driver, but I never tried it under Linux. I don't think Nokia provides Linux drivers.
    • One word: VirtualBox.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I just switched to a Nokia 6133 using t-mobile, and I've set things up so the laptop connects to the phone via bluetooth, and I set up a normal PPP connection using GPRS/EDGE. I also have the cable, but it is more convenient to use bluetooth (however, I discovered when my house lost power for 5 days and I needed to check email, that the bluetooth drains the battery much faster). I do have to subscribe to the unlimited data service on t-mobile, and speed depends on whether I can get GPRS or EDGE. Here is
    • Yes with bluetooth. I've be doing it with Nokia phones and Linux for 2-3 years.
    • I bought one of these several months ago and set it up as a USB modem quite easily. AT&T gives you the instructions for tethering this device using PPP and Windows Dialup Networking. Specifically, they give you the modem initialization string, the username and password, and the number you have to "dial" to set up your connection. All of this can easily be moved over to Linux. I easily got it working using KPPP and a 'sudo route add default ppp0' command. The connection is great : 3G with an average down
      • I use At&T also to tether (iPhone) and I'm a but confused about the PPP, isn't that used for dial-up? I thought on EDGE/3G there was no need to dial? I certainly have never noticed needing to.
        • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *

          I use At&T also to tether (iPhone) and I'm a but confused about the PPP, isn't that used for dial-up?

          Until recently, I was using a Treo 650 and Bluetooth tethering. PPP is used to set up and tear down the connection, same as if you were still using a dialup connection. It was a pain to set up on Linux at first, but once set up, it was easy to connect and disconnect.

          I'm now using a jailbroken iPhone 3G and PdaNet to tether over WiFi; if PdaNet used infrastructure mode instead of ad-hoc mode, it'd be

          • Unless something has changed pdanet also doesn't provide a bare connection, instead it sets up a a small lan on 1918 address space and then uses a proxy of some sort to manage tunnel the connections out. This has the downside that, at least in my experience, the connection afforded by PDAnet is very limited in what you can use it for. Plain old TCP connections seemed to work mostly alright but any UDP or other non TCP traffic just fell flat; so if you want to browse websites it mostly works, if however you
            • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *

              at least in my experience, the connection afforded by PDAnet is very limited in what you can use it for

              In my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience with it so far, it's handled every sort of traffic I've thrown at it. The only bit of weirdness is that links at Multiply [] often don't load on the first try, but a refresh gets it working. Web browsing, mail reading (over IMAPS), and SSH all work. That covers pretty much everything I do on a regular basis (I tunnel SMTP and VNC traffic through SSH).

              You menti

              • Since your iPhone (or whatever device you're using to run PdaNet) is acting as a router, inbound UDP traffic to your computer gets blocked the same as it would if you put something like a WRT54GL or an old PC running LRP between your net connection and your computer.

                This isn't accurate, normal NAT "routing" generally works at layer 3 and works irrespective of which transport protocol you are using. Actually I'm currently sitting behind a "WRT54GL" and passing traffic over a UDP openvpn tunnel. The connection provided by pdanet is some form of TCP proxy which, at least when I tried it, didn't seem to allow any sort of openvpn-like udp traffic.

        • by quenda ( 644621 )
          It emulates a dial-up modem. You dial something like *99#. The PPP link is from your PC to the phone, unlike an old dialup modem where the PPP protocol connects to a remote server.
    • by quenda ( 644621 )
      No special drivers needed. The nokia phone just looks like a standard USB or bluetooth serial port. BT can be a bit fiddly, but USB is easy. Isn't it the same with all brands? I'm surprised to find that blackberry is a problem.
  • I've been doing this with my Curve 8320 without Barry for some time now, via blueZ and rfcomm under Gentoo on my laptop. It's relatively stable and has enough bandwidth for casual web surfing. I was able to get up to 20KBps down / 11KBps up over EDGE.

  • It would be news when I can send data and text messages over my unlimited (on nights & weekends) voice connection when I don't want to exceed my unnecessarily limited [] data quota.

  • TuxMobil provides a survey of Linux compatibility and configuration guides for different Blackberry models []. Currently only four guides are listed. Not much yet, but a start. But I guess the number of guides in the TuxMobil Linux and mobile phone section [] will increase soon.
  • I'm on a sprint USB aircard and get about 1.5down and 380 up with a latency of around 90. I use this connection in my home with a cradlepoint router. Which will also tether your blackberrys including storm for those of you running something other than ubuntu or fedora. My question is I've heard tethering slows down the connection is that true? Id rather pay $60 for a phone i can tether than $60 for an aircard that only does internet.

    Also back in october? I heard at&t's ceo said they will be offering
  • I plugged in my shiny new Nokia E71 into my Ubuntu 8.10 machine and it automatically started configuring it. I have no need to use it in this manner so I stopped it, but it seemed like it would work fine.
  • For AT&T customers in the US with 'unlimited' data plans, this is very likely against the terms of service []. As long as you keep data usage light, you'll probably be fine - but if you start doing massive downloads and they look closer, your service may get terminated.

    From the link:

    Prohibited and permissable uses

    ... Furthermore, plans(unless specifically designated for tethering usage) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection kits, other phone/PDA-to computer accessories, Bluetooth® or any other wireless technology) to Personal Computers (including without limitation, laptops), or other equipment for any purpose

    • Very good advice, but I would like to add to it. The key is consistency, if for instance you own some sort on low end smartphone and usually use 10mb a month and suddenly you start using 2gb that is a huge red flag. On the other hand if you are a power user (Most iPhone, many BB, and other high end models) then you are probably already using a few hundred megs at least and the bounce in usage will be far less noticeable. The last thing to remember is no matter what NEVER exceed 5gb of data in a month, this
      • Yep, definitely - nobody's going to complain if your usage doesn't increase dramatically, because they'll have no reason to look at you in the first place. I find that tethering is great for when I need to ssh into servers and get tired of the crappy ssh client on my device - I use it to transfer the same amounts of data I would if I were using the client on the device. But I'm not going to go out and start running bittorrent via blackberry - that'd be a quick way to give them reason to look at my usage pa
  • Now people will be able to read his e-mails!!
  • even if you have "unlimited" there are TOS that forbid this. They have all done it.
    • Huh? Then why does Verizon offer a tethered modem option? If I pay for that, they'd better expect me to use it.

      I've used a BB8830 with VZ service for a year with no problems.

      I've been using a BB8820 with AT&T service for a month. It's much slower that VZ's service, but VZ wasn't that fast anyway.

      The biggest thing I had to do was edit the init strings in F9, but I had to do that even in Windows for AT&T.

  • Seriously, it is. Nowdays, any 'smart' phone should be able to do this, and without any weird command line voodoo (i.e. messing with AT commands).

    Case in point : My Nokia E61i was really good about it. Here are the steps : 1) plug into Ubuntu, 2) surf web. No drivers to download, no configuration needed, it just works.
  • Nice. :\ (Score:3, Informative)

    by AdamWill ( 604569 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2009 @07:36PM (#26350985) Homepage

    Well, this was a nice article.

    It obliquely credits my own article on the same topic - written a whole one day previously - while describing it as a 'review' of Barry. No, it isn't. It's a guide to the exact same topic covered in this article, only it's a hell of a lot more useful, because my article tells you exactly what packages to download for what distributions, and how to actually use them. Rather than just saying "oh, look, this application lets you do this, isn't it cool?"

    Would've been a lot more useful to link to me. But then, my server probably can't take the load, so I should be thankful. :) []

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.