Saturday, April 24, 2010

How to activate Virgin Media Broadband using Ubuntu Linux

Virgin Broadband used to provide their service preconfigured as an ethernet connection on their modems. This was linked to the MAC address of the computer connecting to it and it was quite easy to set up. Apparently due to unauthorised modems being used they now they require an activation process to be completed through a web site when the computer is connected to the modem. Until this is completed it is not possible to use the Internet at all. The problem is that the web pages do not permit anything other than Mac OSX or Windows to connect. All other operating systems just give a message that its "not supported".

I had a look around for a solution to this and found a few articles. Some required installation of Opera or Konqueror which is impossible without an internet connection so I went looking for a way to do it with what was already installed on my Ubuntu laptop.

The first thing we need to do is persuade the web browser to announce itself as Windows thereby fooling Virgin Media's web server into running the process. This is done by changing the browser identification string.

  • Launch Firefox.
  • In the address bar type about:config and press return.
  • Under filters type general.useragent.extra.firefox
  • Click on it and change Firefox to Mozilla/4.0 (compatible: MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0)
  • Restart firefox.

Go to any web page and you will get the activate virgin broadband message, click on it and follow the process through.

Some reports say that one of the next buttons will fail to work. This did not happen to me but if it does, look at the page source and look for the URL in the next() Javascript function. Then copy and paste this into the browser address bar to get to the next step.

You will be prompted to download and install some additional software. Just let it download as it will not install on Ubuntu or harm your computer. Keep clicking through the screens as prompted. The process should complete and give you access to the Internet.

Additional Issues
Virgin Media intercept DNS requests and try to correct typing errors in web addresses. This is potentially dangerous as it could take you to one site when you have requested another. To stop this go here: and untick the box.

Setting up the D Link Wireless Router
Follow the instructions in the instruction book for doing a manual set up (without the supplied CD). Follow the wizard for setting up the wireless network. Then follow the one for setting up the internet connection. It uses a "clone MAC address" function to spoof the same MAC address as the computer that was used to set up the connection. I could not get DHCP to connect and I discovered that this was caused by the clone MAC address tool detecting the wrong device.

To correct this open a terminal window type ifconfig and write down the hardware address (MAC address) for "eth0" which is the ethernet adaptor. Then log back into the router and add this as the MAC address manually in the manual configuration part of the Internet set up in the router admin interface. The router should reboot and start working. Because it now has the MAC address in it you can plug computers into the router without them having to be registered with Virgin Media.

Speeding up the loading of web pages
I found that pages were taking rather too long to load. Click here for another article which addresses this problem.

Other Virgin Media Issues
Sadly I moved out of a cable area this year and had to change ISP. I tried to switch to Virgin media's national ADSL service, but it did not go smoothly. You can read the ongoing saga here.