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Monday, December 13, 2010

AT&T Blocks Linux Configuration

Editor note:  In the first 24 hours this blog has been up, we have had 8 clients inform us that they are canceling their AT&T installs scheduled in the next 2 weeks.  Maybe not a big deal but it's a start. - helios

The Old Saying goes...

Pick your battles.

That's not so much saying we should become inattentive to other issues, but it does mean to focus on those things that you can affect.

...And don't become like Chicken Little and make every little thing a crisis.

Pick your battles?

OK, we will.

How's this?

In the past 45 days, I've done a ton of installs.  Of that bunch, 17 of our clients in that 45 days had chosen AT&T DSL for their provider.

For good reason I think...

They offer a two year contract at 14.95 a month for Internet service.

Pretty good deal, huh?

Not if you are a Linux User.

In the past six months we have done a lot of installs with those who had AT&T come in before we installed the computer.  Sure it was a hassle.  We had to go in and manually configure the modem firmware for PPPOE, manually set up network manager and then, if the stars and planets aligned correctly, we could reset the modem and bingo...

We were connected.

Nowdays, not so much.

Starting about two months ago, we noticed that when we accessed the modem page at 192.168.something.or_another, as soon as we focused the cursor in the first field, we got a popup that asked us to install software to guide us through the configuration.

Of course, the requirements were a Windows Operating System and a Microsoft Explorer browser.  Big ActiveX control.

This has tested true with three different modems that AT&T provides or recommends.  Two Speedstreams and the standard white 2wire modem.

Again, this seems to be a new twist...we've never had this problem before.

Bypassing the popup was least at my level of knowledge.  It stood as a sentry against the configuration page.  No matter what we did, we ended up with the instructions to install the software.

Software that required Microsoft Windows or a Mac system.

From the Comments...

"...the unofficial grumblings I got from the AT&T phone reps are that only pirates use Linux. If that's the case, then this is very likely a high up, corporate wide decision and you are going to need to go high up the food chain to reach anyone with any ability to adjust policy."

As a matter of course, I have established the habit of carrying around a small laptop with Windows XP installed in order to do this.  Doing so is absolutely ridiculous and should be unnecessary,

Of course, unless you go into network manager under your Linux install and do the DSL configuration, you won't connect.  You will show connected but you really are not.

That's just fyi.

But to the point.

Linux has evolved as a viable presence on the desktop.  I can point to 1186 cases on point.  And that's just the Linux installs we've done.  That doesn't touch small and medium business Linux Desktop users we've encountered through HeliOS Solutions service calls.

There are way more than you might think.

The last install I did where the client had AT&T DSL pre-ordered prior to my arrival was to me, the last straw.  I gained the subscription owners name, email address and passwords in order to talk to tech support on the phone.  I made no mistake in telling them that I was a Linux User from the beginning.

That seemed to shorten the call considerably.

"I'm sorry sir, we don't support Linux.  You have to use Microsoft Windows or a Mac before we can connect you"


We went around for a bit until I asked to escalate the call to a tier two support specialist.  Tier one refused and again stated the need for Windows or a Mac system before connection could be established.  A tier two rep wouldn't be able to do anything more for me.

OK, fair enough.

From the comments...

"We have AT&T U-verse here. When first installed, it ran great. That lasted about 3 months. For some reason, our download speed dropped considerably. I called support to see what could be done. The first thing out of the techs mouth was, "Open the Windows Control Panel." I told them that I'm running Linux and I know for a fact that the issue isn't with my laptop. They sent me to Tier 2 support and the tech told me the reason the service has slowed down is because I'm running Linux. He said that Linux doesn't run well on a network. I wish I had recorded that statement because to this day, it makes me laugh and infuriates me all at the same time. Clueless people."

I have begun to ferret out those Management-types in our local area who can discuss this with us.  So far, I've been given the run around but that was on the phone.

Tomorrow I will start making public appearances at the AT&T headquarters and I will find out what we can do.

And yes, I've tried to skirt around this and talk to some of their service techs off the record and see how we can fix this.

So far, no calls or emails have been returned.

From the comments...

"Just the thought of this irks me. My mother is an AT&T retiree!"

We've done the only thing we can do at this point.  We've warned our potential clients of AT&T's reluctance to service them by making an announcement on our website.  The announcement is on the top right of the page under "Bits and Bytes."

The best we can do right now is to warn people away from AT&T....

And maybe find the right people to talk to.  We might not be able to get anything done but we can document their reluctance to recognize Linux as a legitimate operating system.

From the Comments...

"...Seems the "quality control" at AT&T could not care less. I received their confirmation email saying a customer support representative would contact me about my compliant.

That was about 3 weeks ago. We are trying to get out of our contract now and switch to Cricket. Not as cheap but I'm sure it's a whole lot better."

So out of the projected 400 installs we will do next year, approximately 1/3 of them will choose AT&T for their provider based on their cheap level of service entry.  These are financially disadvantaged families

That inexpensive point of service doesn't mean much when the person has to go out and purchase a Windows license.

Of course, there is a part of me that knows versions of XP SP3 are, ahem...


Many of the folks we give computers to know this as well.  Will they be tempted to pirate software in order to connect to the net?  Are we to consider such an option?

This is where I am supposed to guffaw and tell you we wouldn't think of such a thing.


One option is to install an "eternally-validated" and pirated copy of XP SP3 via VirtualBox on each computer, then delete the image when we have established the Windows-dependent connection.

But that increases the time of each machine install by at least 30-40 minutes.

And it entails pirating software...that's not the example we wish to set with our young people.

From the Comments...

"I wanted to switch from Comcast to AT&T because Comcast has a bit too many routing problems. This story certainly quenched the idea. I guess AT&T will not see my business anytime soon."

So whether this week's efforts find us someone in management/tech to help us solve this or they tell us to PUAR...that remains to be seen.

At this point, I would be happy with either one.

We will happily publish the names and positions of those who do either.

All-Righty Then


Anonymous said...

What are they going to do when people start telling them:
"Oh we only have android tablets, smart phones and whatever is installed on the TV. We don't have those other big computers here."

Kyle Reynolds Conway said...

So infuriating and disappointing. I hate dealing with these issues on a personal level so I can't even imagine dealing with them on a professional or charity level. Hopefully you'll make some headway. Good luck.

Czarzhan said...

That is so weird. I have been using AT&T DSL for the past couple years. A couple months ago, when we moved to our new place in Melbourne, we upgraded to a higher-speed DSL line, still through AT&T. There was some set-up hoops to jump through, but no real hassle. If they had required a Windows machine to facilitate the connection, we would have been screwed: Both our machines run Ubuntu.

PV said...

It's really a shame that this is what it is now. Hopefully it will get resolved soon. Maybe if you showed them your motto "[no one's use of technology should be predicated on his/her ability to afford it]", they might be a little more willing...then again, maybe not.
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Anonymous said...

I switched to AT&T DSL just recently myself. I was able to do the install using a VM running Windows with passthrough networking. Overall, I haven't been impressed, especially when the built-in DNS server locks up after a few hours.

One thing I've noticed though, is that a lot of these gateways / routers have telnet interfaces that will give you a lot more control and bypass a lot of the BS on the web interfaces. I haven't tried it myself, but it's worth a shot next time you run into one.

Anonymous said...

So whether this week's efforts find us someone in management/tech to help us solve this or they tell us to PUAR...that remains to be seen.


Anonymous said...

Overall, I haven't been impressed, especially when the built-in DNS server locks up after a few hours.

Replace the DNS server setting to use the public DNS servers listed at this address:

This helps especially when you are having problems with extremely slow page loads or they give you an error saying the page cant be found and they take you to their stoopid search page.

I live in San Antonio and switched to Cricket wireless for my home service. It's comparable with AT&T plus I get better download speeds and it works out of the box with Linux.

Keep in mind the "Internet anywhere" does not work with Linux but the home install with a wireless router does.

Allie Cat said...

When I got AT&T DSL a few apartments ago, back in 2003, I ran into a similar problem. In order to create a PPPoE account that would allow my modem to connect, I needed to run an application on the provided CD- that obviously only supported Windows or Mac. The eventual solution (after talking to a Tier 2 tech who knew what he was doing) was to go to a public computer at my school's library, visit their registration page manually, sign up, go home, log in, and we were up and running.

It may be the case that similar measures are necessary for your clients, and that you need to make sure that they don't end up getting stuck with the router-modem-crapbox things that DSL providers give out these days.

Second-hand DSL modems are a dime a dozen these days- perhaps you should solicit some as donations in order to get around this problem?

NoCaDrummer said...

I have a friend who had AT&T back in 2003. He also had a Mac. One day he found that he couldn't log in to get to his email, so he called them. They told him he had to use Windows to log in and use their service.
After borrowing a Windows PC from me long enough to log in, get emails and send out notices, he dropped AT&T, just as I had done months earlier when I had switched from Mac to Linux.

ZPC Systems said...


I've been doing AT&T DSL installs for the last two years in NC, SC, TN, and GA and have never had a problem. I do this as a service for the people I've switched to Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Debian. Always, ALWAYS ask for the self-install kit. When AT&T offers their $75-150 modem, I always ask people to decline their modem and just order a basic install kit (filters and some useless setup.exe CD).

I then configure a Linux-based DSL modem (usually the Westell F90-series with updated firmware) that I pick up on eBay for $10-20 a piece, using Firefox on a Linux OS, and ship it out to them with simple connection instructions. No Network Manager settings need to be screwed around with. And this Linux-based modem is solid. If they want wireless, I configure the modem for "bridge mode" and toss in a capable WRT54G with instructions.

So, I've basically took on the task of doing these installs for AT&T Linux customers in the Southeast who would otherwise be lost without such support. You can setup a customer's DSL account using any browser by following this link (note that on non-IE browsers, the web app will appear to crash late in the registration process, yet the DSL service still activates).

mattviator said...

Usually these companies make you use windows for the initial set up after that you should be fine. That being said you shouldnt have to! Helios maybe you can work out a deal with another provider? Maybe get a group discount rate for your installs being a charity and all and have them all switch AWAY from AT&T. Also lets not forget At&T was caught red handed in the NSA spy program. Why would anyone pay someone to spy on them?

Anonymous said...

I can only verify this frustrating and unjust state of affairs, because I tried to use the AT&T service about six months ago and got the exact run-around you have described.

I was even naive enough to think the description 'we don't support Linux operating systems' meant that there techs would not 'hand hold' new users into their system; I had dealt with that in the past and really didn't need their tech support. When I received their installation package in the mail, it became abundantly clear that 'does not support' really means 'will not allow Linux to connect to our system'! I was lucky enough to get out of the installation agreement without any penalty charges.

Your efforts to make Linux users of this monopolistic marketing decision is greatly appreciated. We already know that the US legal system will do little or nothing to limit this type of discriminatory business practice, so forewarned is fore-armed is about the best we can hope for.

Thanks again for bringing this to everyone's attention.

Dulwithe said...

So, I was in rural Ontario (that's in Canada, eh) to build my first classical guitar with an experienced multi-instrument maker last month. Their location severely limited their options for high-speed internet. They chose Bell wireless with a USB "air-stick".

So I plug in the air-stick to my linux laptop (my flavor is PCLOS) and my box picks up the device A-ok, but I cannot achieve connection to the internet. I am continually asked for a 4 digit password that didn't exist. (And yes, I tried EVERYTHING possible.)

I phoned tech support, and they tell me "Sorry our device is not supported in linux." End of story.

I did notice, however, that the Telus website offers a Nokia wireless internet stick that is indeed supported in linux (linux support is even mentioned on their website). Problem is, Telus will gouge you to serfdom through their expensive data rates. Only good thing that can be said about the Bell air-stick was that they had an all-you-can-use data plan for about 60-70 bucks per month (still expensive, but considering it is mobile, not so bad).

Certainly this is one of the areas of perpetual frustration as a linux user. Specifically, lack of linux support.

To the HeliOS team - you may wish to contact other ISP's and see if they can match or come close to AT&T's price for user's you refer to their service. If you are doing regular set-ups, this could be a new (albeit small) revenue stream for them. Unfortunately, I really don't think AT&T cares at all about getting the support of linux users. With or without, there won't be much of a change in their profit numbers at all. They have very little incentive to accommodate in this situation.

Matthew Wiljanen said...

I know exactly your problem! I am a network admin for a school uniform company and we just opened a new store in Atlanta, well AT&T is about the only choice we had for internet there. Well this was going to be a full Linux installation of 5 computers, but of course the Netopia DSL Box required Windows to configure and was a PITA even in Windows! But after the configuration was done everything was working great from then on out! That is insane that you cannot autosetup this DSL box with a Java utility or some web interface(without ActiveX controls) so all other OSes and browsers can configure this box. Just my 2 cents worth. Anyways keep up the great work!

Alan Moore said...

This one hits home here too. I talked a coworker who didn't have a computer into buying a Dell netbook with Ubuntu preloaded, only to find out what you've found: AT&T simply won't work without a Windows machine to activate it. It soured her on Linux from the get-go, and it didn't take long before she got rid of the netbook and got something with Windows on it.

It' frankly stupid of AT&T, in my opinion. There are any number of platform-agnostic ways they could accomplish what they need to accomplish here. Can they really not port this process to something open?

realkstrawn93 said...

Just the thought of this irks me. My mother is an AT&T retiree!

Of course, if AT&T supports Android, they can just as easily support Linux. I have absolutely no idea why AT&T has to dis Linux when Android is also Linux and on ~50% of AT&T smartphones!

Anonymous said...

PUAR: Pi$$ Up A Rope

Unknown said...

Perhaps you can help educate me by explaining why you need to use the DSL configuration in the network manager. In the past I've used Actiontec and 2Wire modems for ATM-based Qwest DSL (ADSL modem using PPPoA), and now an Actiontec VDSL2 modem using PPOE. I've never had to bother with the DSL connection: always connected via wired ethernet or 802.11bgn wireless. Never had a problem whatsoever. What is it with AT&T DSL that requires you to change PPPoA to PPPoE and use the DSL configuration?

Unknown said...

@ Stephen

In the past, we've done the same thing but in the last two months, it seems the setup configuration and requirements have least regionally here in Austin. ATT DSL here in Austin is still putting out the SpeedStream or Westell modems for free. Our families cannot afford to buy the better modems that might allow for easier configuration under Linux.

We set it to PPPOE because any router reset will erase all settings under a PPPOA configuration. I don't have the time or resources to go out and reconfigure a modem every time there is a power outage or someone unplugs it. We've never had to do the DSL configuration in Network Manager until recently. There are some bug reports about Network Manager concerning this need for manual configuration so it's something we need to look into.

We are getting emails from Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio with the same issues or problems. We're thinking this might be a regional thing. Waiting for reports from others to clarify.

Anonymous said...


We just moved here from the Bay area and have had the exact same problem. The configuration page pops up that request to install their software and there is nothing we could do to get around it. It was just maddening. I finally got my daughter's laptop and did the configuration under Windows Vista and it worked fine. We are experiencing some DNS failures from time to time but I saw the comment about opendns and I will try that when I get home from work.

Thanks for pointing this out. AT&T tech support stopped just short of being abusive when I told them I used Linux, she even laughed at me and told me to go out and buy Windows.

Seems the "quality control" at AT&T could not care less. I received their confirmation email saying a customer support representative would contact me about my compliant.

That was about 3 weeks ago. We are trying to get out of our contract now and switch to Cricket. Not as cheap but I'm sure it's a whole lot better.

James Mason

Halikar said...

Having just gone through this with my own home network, where I'm using an older computer with a dedicated linux based firewall to do the DSL connection dirty work (Smoothwall for those who are interested), the unofficial grumblings I got from the AT&T phone reps are that only pirates use Linux. If that's the case, then this is very likely a high up, corporate wide decision and you are going to need to go high up the food chain to reach anyone with any ability to adjust policy. And if it's that high up, then it's very likely they are taking this stance as part of the wider "support the music and movie industry against piracy" policies AT&T has been pushing and are going to be more likely to listen to the money rather than the customer. Rather stupid in my opinion, but a lot of corporate thinking lately seems to follow that pattern.

Ed said...

Could you get configuration support for the DSL modem from the modem manufacturer? If not with a modem purchased through AT&T, what about for a modem that was not purchased through AT&T ?

Anonymous said...

This just might work for those who are stuck with AT&T crap:

whydoubt said...

Similar experience in OKC. A couple of months ago, the next-door neighbor's modem went out. So AT&T sent a new one, a 2wire.

Ubuntu was the only OS on his computer. I came over to help, but when I got stuck in the registration, my plan was to come over the next day with the User Agent Switcher extension to see if that would get me further.

By then he had called up AT&T and they had gotten it working, so I don't know what all went on. I will say the neighbor is nothing if not persistent when it comes to getting customer service.

Anonymous said...

Not only Linux users wanting to avoid getting locked into systems without Linux support but also all other individuals interested in Anti-Trust between Microsoft, Apple and other industries [ISP, Banking.. ] that adversely affect FOSS or Linux Competition, may be interested in knowing that Bank of America Online Banking now has a TOS featuring a disclosure policy requiring that the user obtain an access point to their online banking from a computer equipped with one several specific Microsoft or Apple branded operating systems. Note that under the terms the user may elect to use 'another' operating system to actually access their Online Banking but that they are simply REQUIRED to obtain access to their Online Banking featuring Microsoft or Apple branded operating systems, as an availability, and for purposes of Official Disclosures required by U.S. Law.

David said...

I know I live in England but a similar thing was happening with Virgin media here. They required you to log into their website and set up from there but only Windows/Mac were supported. They lost a hell of a lot of customers in the year previous to this. They now no longer require you to do this as the new modem/routers they give you do the authentication for you. Game over 1-0 to Linux. Keep knocking on the door chaps they will eventually let you in, money talks.

Anonymous said...

Here (in the Netherlands), the ISP's offer standard hardware along with the subscription. Meaning hardware which is OS independent for configuration/maintenance tasks. Just plain cgi based webinterfaces, or through telnet.. heck both.
No altered firmwares, or homemade modem/router boxes, like AT&T does.
Cisco, Thomson, Fritz, etc are the leading brands for those devices here.

Anyway, good luck with the situation. DSL is an open technology, and should be handled/offered as such. Not closed down...

Unknown said...

I set up AT&T DSL under linux about 6 weeks ago using the sbcyahooreg/sbcyahooreg PPPoE account and the site - does this no longer work?

Unknown said...

@ Ryan

No, it does not. We used to do the same thing but within the past two months, they've placed a popup over the top of the configuration page, demanding we download the configuration software. There is no way around this.

We've talked to people in San Antonio and Dallas verifying the same problems but in places like Sturgis South Dakota and New Jersey, this problem does not exist.

We're not sure why the regional difference but we're working on finding out.


Shannon VanWagner said...

A friend of mine, whom I setup with GNU/Linux, encountered this same problem with Verizon DSL in NJ. The only difference is that we were able to get around the "walled garden" and then were able to get the modem connecting with the Internet after we established the pppoe login via their website. I did a writeup of the problem at my blog (be warned, it's bit long-winded)

I've heard that Verizon has since changed how they do things and that if you go directly to a specific page in the browser, you'll get your Internet activated or something like that.

Something I would point out to ATT is this article that received thousands of comments and diggs at The rucus became so big that the newstation did a follow up, and named Verizon in the process. Anyways, I think it probably helped Verizon change their ways.

I will be writing ATT a *cough nice letter about this. Total baloney it is.

Feedback works, if you can get enough people to chip in.


Anonymous said...

As for regional differences: Qwest and Verizon are the incumbent telcos in South Dakota and New Jersey, respectively. So there is no reason to expect the same policies to apply there (unless AT&T is offering DSL service outside of their home region).

If there are regional differences within AT&T, they likely follow the organizational lines of the old telephone companies that merged back into AT&T.

Texas is in the old Southwestern Bell territory, along with Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas.

Even within the old 5-state Southwestern Bell territory, Texas had a long tradition of going their own way. Within the company, the other four states were commonly referred to collectively by their initials as MOKA, because they were more similar to each other than any of them was to Texas. So it wouldn't be surprising if this draconian policy was limited to Texas.

-- From a former SBC employee

Unknown said...

Would something like the NoScript plugin for Firefox stop the popup over the configuration page? You may have to download the add-on elsewhere first obviously if you can't get the internet working without it!

Unknown said...

When I got AT&T DSL, I was able to bypass the registration page by simply manually configuring the modem through the web admin interface using instructions I found on the 'net.

I did the entire thing on fedora. That configuration software doesn't do anything more than hand hold you through the modem config so even they say it is mandatory,it certainly wasn't for me.

I agree that AT&T needs to get their stuff together and make the process accessible to the less technically inclined but right now I'd rather seem them spend their energy getting IPv6 rolled out.

Anonymous said...

AT&T needs you on Windows for the convenience of their spy software.

Michelle Minkin said...

@ Tony

When I got AT&T DSL, I was able to bypass the registration page by simply manually configuring the modem through the web admin interface using instructions I found on the 'net.

Sure, most all of us could when we first got ATT DSL. Now sitting on top of that web admin page sits a box demanding you install their software. You can't close it, you can't go around it and you can't shrink it down to get by it. If you close it and try to fill out the form, it pops up the screen demanding you use Microsoft Windows to install their configuration software.

I thought that was least it was to me.

AT&T needs to be called on the carpet about this.


Anonymous said...

We have AT&T U-verse here. When first installed, it ran great. That lasted about 3 months. For some reason, our download speed dropped considerably. I called support to see what could be done. The first thing out of the techs mouth was, "Open the Windows Control Panel." I told them that I'm running Linux and I know for a fact that the issue isn't with my laptop. They sent me to Tier 2 support and the tech told me the reason the service has slowed down is because I'm running Linux. He said that Linux doesn't run well on a network. I wish I had recorded that statement because to this day, it makes me laugh and infuriates me all at the same time. Clueless people.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to switch from Comcast to AT&T because Comcast has a bit too many routing problems. This story certainly quenched the idea. I guess AT&T will not see my business anytime soon.

Unknown said...

I'm an Ubuntu user, and I have had to call ATT for help with configuring my DSL connection. I made sure to not mention at all that I was a Linux user, and instead used an old unsed Windows laptop when following their instructions.

Anonymous said...

"only pirates use Linux"

err... won't pirates just use pirated copies of windows and not have the problem in the first place?

Aren't Linux users exactly those who are not pirating?

Anonymous said...

We do not have AT&T over here (Europe). We seem to be lucky.

What might work, it sometimes works for me, is to download the page directly to file (block pop-ups+javascript and save, wget, http over telnet if you must).

Then edit out or disable the popup window javascript. Fill in those parts you already can and save. Essentially, add the base address in the head tag (192....).

Take that page with you and load THAT page in the browser when you want to configure. You then can fill in the page and send it to the router. If your browser does not do it, you might try telnetting into the router and simply do a get or post request with the page.

Obviously, this only works if there are not too many unknown specifics and server (router) side data.

If the javascript is too complex, you might have to get an experienced javascript programmer to manipulate the page.


Coy Cardwell said...

I am the IT Director at a company that uses Linux for one of it's flagship products.

Many of our clients use AT&T for bandwidth, including one of our remote offices.

I will do everything in my power to give AT&T the boot and let them know why, in as many places as I can.

Calling us hackers for using Linux goes beyond simply idiocy.

Ben said...

I'm a field tech for a small computer/high voltage company in my city. I personally swear by Linux for my own computing needs. And while we (as a company) don't do many Linux installs at all, we do a fair amount of basic network setups like this.

That said, I'm wondering if it would be viable to simply bridge the modem and set up a router to handle the PPPOE. Any experience with something like that?

I say that because we'll typically bridge an AT&T modem so the router (which almost every home and business has now-a-days) doesn't create double NAT and DHCP issues.

Unknown said...

This is an issue with some newer Linksys routers as well; you cannot log into the htpasswd popup with the standard, default user/pass. Instead, pull out that Windows machine and install the wizard!

Anonymous said...

I was a network engineer with a local ISP here in Southern IN and have a lot of experience with DSL. Most boxes you get that are called modems are just layer 2 bridges from the telco ATM network and the ethernet network. The only configuration those would need is setting the VPI/VCI on the ATM side-but that should have been done before it was sent out. There is no other configuration needed for the modem itself. I do remember BellSouth (before being bought by AT&T) used 8/35 for all customer end VPI/VCI connections so all modems could be configured the same.

Now on the telco end they just need to have you added to a radius server so the computer on the modem can login with PPPoE. Now I don't know how AT&T does it but we just manually added people to the config file as the orders came in. I assume maybe AT&T has some type of automated system to do this.

One thing I always recommended to customers was to use some type of "DSL" (really just a dual ethernet nat device with a PPPoE client built in) router if they had bought the 2wire modem we sold. That makes supporting things much easier. That might be the easiest thing for you to do on these installs-use a DSL router of your own choosing with the DSL modem/bridge and just call AT&T up to have them do whatever they do to register things. Don't mention Linux or anything else, just tell them you are setting it up for someone else and you need to have them configure/register it on their end and you should be ready to go if they will do it.

P.S. cardinalximinez-there is no DNS server "built in" to these router/nat devices. They pick up the ISP's DNS servers from the PPPoE authentication server-radius where I worked. Our DNS servers were run on RH Linux boxes (used to be on Sun boxes with Solaris but RH contracts were cheaper). I haven't checked AT&T's servers but I would bet they are some heavy duty servers that don't "lock up".

Anonymous said...

i work for at&t (3+ decades) and know for a fact linux is an approved os that is used on their servers as well as some desktops. those who make uneducated claims are just as infuriating to those of us on the inside as to the 'common' customer, so don't think those are the entirety of at&t's knowledge.

that being said, also realize that the true problem is the software/hardware comprising the new modems you are now seeing, and the service reps/tech support personnel most likely have no clue of any workarounds; i say this after having repeatedly been faced with the 'script-readers' while requiring support. your best bet is to google for any workarounds for those products you find yourself forced to deal with, possibly even contacting the manufacturers to see if they may be able/willing to help, especially given your particular situation.

Micah Nordland said...

We have Verizon, and I can configure the router/modem thru the web interface just fine, the problem is that if I configure anything but the admin password, one of our computers or our printer can't connect to the network. Two computers on Linux, 1 Windows 7, 1 Vista, 1 Xp

Greg Neumarke said...

Something to try:
Since they do support Macs, and Macs don't support ActiveX, might there be a way to change the user agent response from your browser and fool the system into thinking that you are on a Mac. I wonder if that would get you into something usable.
Here is a firefox add-on that lets you change it:

Anonymous said...

Most of the time I lie to the technicians on the phone about my OS. But I'm a systems administrator and I can get away with it until the problem is resolved.

I did have a nice experience with one local ISP. They asked me to go to the "Start" menu, and I sighed heavily and just said "I don't run Windows." The technician paused for a second, then proceeded to respond with "Oh you're a Linux user, this should be much easier." Then she helped me with my issue very quickly. I was in shock. Not only did she quickly help me with my issue, but she didn't even assume I was running Mac first.

Too bad I don't have that ISP anymore.

Unknown said...

A somewhat 'Out-of-the-box" suggestion based on what I had to do to configure a GIGABYTE EE171-PR printserver: Use Wine to run the installer/setup tool. I haven't tried it on the AT&T software, but it might actually work (quick browse of WineHQ didn't find an entry).

Anonymous said...

I found this to be very interesting:

Read under the first box, "Shared Hosting"

Anonymous said...

What about people who are only using the Internet to hook up their Wii or Playstation 3 system? I'm used to Internet service providers supplying a modem that will just hand out one IP address for you to use over DHCP, and let you worry about the rest. If you have a Windows 95 computer, it works. If you have a Mac, it works. If you hook up a game system, it works. If you hook up a router that uses IP masquerading to share the connection between multiple devices, it works. Basically, it just works. Why would anyone do this differently?

I understand if they want to support the purchasing of your own modem, that you have to enter your info and the modem MAC address to make it work, but that should be doable with any web browser. Why hamstring your own business by making it proprietary. In this day and age with Microsoft's steadily declining percentage of the market, it looks to the past rather than the future.

I would wonder if they had made some kind of deal with Microsoft to use ActiveX for configuration. Lately, though, it seems that even Microsoft acknowledges ActiveX as a security risk and doesn't push it for much anymore. Perhaps they made an exception in this case?

John Hardin said...


> Calling us hackers for using
> Linux goes beyond simply idiocy.

They're not calling us "hackers" for using Linux, they're calling us thieves.

Unknown said...

I cannot believe they could be so incompetent. I would try and start a petition if I were you. Linux is largely becoming mainstream with Android operating system and the Chrome OS. Ubuntu is now a widely used term.I would be happy to spread around a petition to stop this absurdity. Your story has been picked up by linux today. Try sending out to Wired, Gizmodo, and The Consumerist. All the pr you can invoke will help. Speaking from the hearts of all your fellow commenter, we support you in this absurd battle.

Unknown said...

Really disappointed to hear AT&T do about this. I'm from Denmark, so luckily I am not affected by shady business practices such as those. However, I'd like to point out that pirating Windows might not be necessary.
The WINE project ( has come a long way, and has recently started implementing ActiveX in the integrated Internet Explorer "functionality" (which is based off Gecko, actually). Until AT&T reconsiders doing stupid stuff like that, try the ActiveX functionality in WINE.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering, has anyone tried getting around this using IE under wine ( It's gotten me out of some jams like this in the past (though I still prefer to vote with my wallet and stop dealing with companies like this).

Olof said...

Living in Sweden as I am I have never experienced this kind of trouble since I started using Linux some 10 years ago. Quite the contrary in fact. The times I've had trouble and calling the support I've stopped the scriptreaders and asked them to escalate Me to tier 2 directly. There the technicians were litterally fighting over who gets to service Linuxusers instead of Windowsusers as it is a change of the daily routinge of reinstall restart reboot for them.
I feel for you.

muthii said...

The solution I came up with is to get a different brand of modem than the one at&t ships to u, I got a netgear all I needed was my username and pass to set it up. I still kept the at&t modem as they will not trouble shoot connection problems if u tell them u are using a different brand modem. One time my connection was down and several at&t guys said they could get into the at&t router but it was not sending back a response but when I plugged in the netgear it showed no signal only for the engineers to come 2 days later to come and tell me the cable to our apartment complex had been severed and he had to fix it.

Charles Weldon Witt said...

In San Antonio Texas, I am using Clear "At Home" service. It seems to work without any stupid Windows/Mac only requirements. FYI "At Home" modem works any where you take it: e.g. hotel, etc.

GrueMaster said...

I'm outside Portland, Oregon, and I am stuck with either Comcast (atrocious on multiple levels) or Qwest DSL for high speed internet. I use Qwest, as they allowed me to keep with my ISP that has supported my Linux needs since 1999. It costs me nearly double, but in the long run it is worth it, especially since Qwest uses MSN as the ISP by default. The only problem I have had was with defective dsl modems Qwest kept sending me. I ended up buying my own from Best Buy, and haven't had a problem since.

I wonder if any of these DSL modems could be wiped and a more generic firmware installed? The modems are usually cheap from Best Buy or online. Might be worth the purchase to have one to experiment with.

RussH said...

Has anyone posted to AT&T customer care - either on Twitter or facebook? We're usually pretty good at jumping on problems that are fixable. or

I'd see what I could do myself (long time Linux user) but wrong part of the business, outside the USA etc, etc.

Anonymous said...

Wait, wait, wait... Are we talking about the same At&T that brought us UNIX??!?!?!?!?!?

Perhaps if instead of saying "I use Linux" we say "I use a UNIX-like operating system"?

AT&T not supporting linux?!?!?! Oh, brother!!!

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend and I dropped AT&T a few months ago due to many broken promises regarding network speed and reliability. It's nice to have another reason to have left, even though I certainly didn't need one.

Jamyn said...

If you'll send me a copy of the page, I'll send you a GreaseMonkey script that'll bypass the prompt. From there, it should be a simple matter of installing the GreaseMonkey plugin temporarily (in FireFox or Chrome), completing the install, and removing GreaseMonkey if you prefer not to leave it installed.

It shouldn't take more than 2-3 minutes tops to add/remove the addon.

My email is: if you'd like to send me a copy of the page in question.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a former 2Wire Teir1 Tech Support monkey, I can vouch for the following:

- ATT does not care about their customers, even though they say they do. I can go on for days as to how fucked up working for 2Wire (AT&T Branded) help desk is, right down to the ways they encourage turnover rates though fucked up practices of "surveys") Protip, 0-4 stars on a Survey is equal to a 0 against the support tech. Even if you have a glowing review about the tech, if it's not all 5 stars, they're getting booted.

- This practice (The IE only install feature) has been going on for a while. Resently it's been working on Safari as well with a app install, but here's the break down of what's going on:

* The DSL modem comes preconfiged with walled garden setup since most of the customers who do order AT&T's service are not the most technically brightist of people. (Sadly, I did have a good share of people who got Interent Service WITHOUT HAVING A PC TO START WITH)

*The Purpose of the software is two-fold, the first is to hold your hand and direct you to the AT&T registration page, and the second is to take that information and add it to the Router's PPPoE settings.

That's it.
That's all you have to do.

By the way, 2Wire's equipment will always be to access, and the default "password" is the unit's ID (Which is printed in brackets, in the middle of the three scanbars on the bottom.)

Don't mention that you have a linux system, but instead, call about "manual setup". Teir1 gets hounded on for trying to display any knowledge beyond the unwritten "phone script".

PS. Bonus points for anyone that's being very unhelpful: mention that they're not displayed enough "sympathy". It's part of the script to say how "I'm sympathic to your issue".

Anonymous said...

When switching to Cricket or another vendor, please be sure to tell the new vendor why you switched. Hopefully it helps forestall any changes to their service in the future.

Anonymous said...

...the unofficial grumblings I got from the AT&T phone reps are that only pirates use Linux.

First: how many installs of Windows are pirated? (Compare that number against zero Linux installs that are pirated.

Second: if that comment referred to content thieves, it's pretty moronic. Such people aren't going to use AT&T's crappy, unreliable DSL service - much less, the entry-level $14.95 DSL - for downloading pirated media.

I had that "service"; it used to take me over 12 hours to download a Kubuntu ISO torrent. Nobody's using that service to do any real "pirating".

Anonymous said...

AT&T Linux support notes:

"AT&T High Speed Internet — Customer Self-Installation"
..."Windows 3.1 or UNIX / Linux operating system at this time. Linux operating systems are compatible, but not supported."

# VDS for Linux OS
* Basic
* Enhanced
* Premium

AT&T Connect
"What are the minimum system requirements for the Web Participant ?"
..."Linux users: Any flavor/version of Linux capable of
supporting the indicated browser versions."

Anonymous said...

"He said that Linux doesn't run well on a network"

Does this guy know that the wall street servers run on Linux? This includes his company's stock exchange.

Matt Parnell said...

Just install wine, and then install IE. By doing so you can just run a native browser on top without having to pirate windows or do anything else so difficult as to waste a laptop with windows running on it.

Anonymous said...

AT&T's anti-social customer support in this case certainly doesn't surprise me. I'm a U-Verse subscriber and a few months ago, I had a mysterious service charge on my bill. When I called to inquire about the charge, I was informed that I had been charged for them sending out a technician to replace a malfunctioning U-Verse router. Mind you, this isn't *my* router, but technically *their* router. Furthermore, they do not offer a customer install option, so a qualified technician *has* to come out. Essentially, they tried to charge me a fee because their own equipment broke. In the end I didn't pay the fee and it was waved "just this one time". After which I informed them that if this happened another time, I would find a new provider. I've never found AT&T to exhibit exceptional tech support in any of my dealings with them, but I felt this particular scheme to fleece their own customers had reached a new low for backdoor revenue streams for any large company, AT&T included.

Anonymous said...

Since AT&T is a pawn of our government, maybe they want those NSA back doors that are in Microsoft products.

Garp said...

I've had fun with ISP support on the phone when it comes to Linux before. After being jumped through hoops a few times with them I've taken the default position of lying: "Yes, I'm running Windows," waiting until they tell me what they want me to do and then replicating and equivalent under Linux. Rarely does it go beyond pings, traceroutes and making sure your browser is set up right anyway.

Jose_X said...

Ken, it's always possible as well that the problem with level 2 tech is that the employee felt threatened by Linux. There may have been a sabotage attempt by a worker when the London Stock Exchange was went live with a test to one of their Linux systems (to which they were switching from MS dotnet). To rule this case out, consider asking them if that is the company view on Linux and if they would put that in writing?

Consider opening up this query page from your location and presenting the likely "Linux" results to the techy.

You might also let the techy know that Linux is used on 90%+ of the top supercomputers in the world:

Or is used by major stock exchanges, Google servers, and many others.

You have no shortage of material (including UNIX/BSD ATT connection), and you probably incorporate it into your advocacy business (but if not, consider providing a FACT SHEET on Linux server capabilities and resources so that your clients will be a bit armed should they ever get into similar conversations with ATT or others).

Ken, can you make public the specific page hyperlink that gives you problems? Or consider posting the first webpage you get (after saving it to file) and then any other pages that the community tells you they need (the first page will give that information but you might need to be attached from Houston or to that modem to seek out the remaining pages). The community might be able to find an automated solution if the problem is merely due to the web interface. [noscript was mentioned and the proper greasemonkey firefox script might be able to do the job automatically. You also had the comment that started "What might work, it sometimes works for me, is to download the page directly to file..."] This sort of solution (assuming one exists) may work without knowing any more details about the hardware modem (eg, if it bridges or what layer 2 or 3 protocol it uses).

Since ATT probably supports many customers with Linux, it might be a decision on their part not to support Linux for this cheap service. It might be part of a Microsoft deal or they might not want savvy automatic workaround if they are relying on closed source ActiveX and Windows for the degraded performance.

Thanks Ken for what you do, and, if you keep pushing this with ATT, I'm sure you well know this only stands to lead to a media event of some sort that will bring positive attention to Linux and the work you do and negative attention to ATT. [And maybe let the techies know that you want to record their opinion in order to be able to pursue potential antitrust actions against Microsoft or to write a letter to government representatives .. or for some other reason. They may lock up but they may instead open up and be more honest.]

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The latest version of wine (1.3.9) was just released with ActiveX support for it's browser. See if that fixes your problem.

Yasth said...

http://homeportal/mdc is the answer if you need custom access to a 2wire router

Anonymous said...

I live in the Detroit area and use the cheapest broadband available, which happens to be AT&T. It costs $14.95 as an introductory rate and is slow as molasses.

They have been using an Active X control for configuration for as long as I can remember, maybe ten years.

You simply are forced to initially set up your connection with a laptop or some other computer running Windows and then switch over to Linux. PPPOE used to be supported but they turned it off a year or two ago. Now you must simply use your DSL modem as a DHCP server.

Anonymous said...

"... the tech told me the reason the service has slowed down is because I'm running Linux. He said that Linux doesn't run well on a network."

Whenever I run into this kind of foolishness, I ask to be escalated, and state clearly that I want someone who actually knows what they're talking about.

If the hapless tech-support person hasn't been actually rude, I'll preface my request with a kind acknowledgment that s/he is stuck with following some inadequate support-script, and I don't blame them, personally.

If it seem like it might be helpful, I 'll throw in some advice against inventing "plausible" sounding excuses when the script fails them, and a nugget or two of real information (eg. most of the internet, including most of their own servers delivering internet connections to their customers, run on Linux).

Common courtesy has a benefit here -- you are much more likely to be escalated as a "difficult issue" rather than as a "difficult customer".

B Swiss

TurboBorland said...

I had this problem when I became a member of at&t about a month and a half ago. I called tech support and explained that I did not need their software and that I needed an account for which I couldn't setup. I wish I had saved the link, but there is another link that he gave me over the phone (after about a half hour trying to explain the situation) which passed me right on over this annoyance.

Debian flavor - Firefox browser
Houston, TX

***It is slow as shit, though. My neighbor has the same thing (windows w/ 2wire modem, same $14.95/month plan) and it's so much faster than mine currently is. Like almost double the speed. I don't know why this was a problem and I'm in an apartment. My neighbor is on a different grid than I am, so I kind of just chalked it up to that.

Gavin said...

AT&T can hardly be considered a singular entity at this point in time:

It is more akin to a container rather than a package these days. A parent company that no longer tries to micromanage its worldwide holdings. It is easy to surmise that AT&T the parent company has no clue what AT&T phone reps are saying to any of the AT&T customers. AT&T is most likely too big to be effective, regardless of whether or not they care. But do they?

AT&T has been in the news quite a bit over the past 5 years, and rarely in a good light. Just one example would be the Apple vs AT&T wireless issues surrounding iPhone data performance and iPad email security. (There is not enough space on this blog to list ALL of AT&T's lawsuits and allegations over the past 5 years!) Whether or not AT&T the parent cares about what AT&T the children do is a moot point if they are unable to enforce anything whatsoever.

In any case, AT&T sold everything UNIX-related in the mid 1990s to Novell. (We all know where that went!) So they got out of the UNIX/Unix/BSD scuffle long ago. Of course, it is interesting to note that the antitrust shattering of AT&T back in 1983 allowed AT&T to commercialize System V in the first place...

It is a good point, also, to consider what some of the others have said about households with no computers at all. If AT&T is only supporting Apple's Mac OS X and MS's Windows, what is one to do if one only have gaming consoles, Apple TV, eBook readers, and smart phones?? There is a large majority of 20-something people in the US who have no land line telephone and share a single computer among friends. I have met quite a few of them who "stay connected" with only a smart phone. These are people who pay more for their cell phone than for their vehicle! And how do they do this? By saving money where ever they can. I imagine these are prime candidates for this specific AT&T DSL plan because it is a cheap internet connection that will only be used occasionally and it costs less than a land line! Perhaps more important to AT&T's bottom line: this new generation of 20-something people represents the future, both in terms of being 40-something paying customers someday and in terms of setting the trends that the generations after them will follow. These are not fads - we are talking about the new standard.

Gavin said...

I would also like to point out that not all Windows users would be willing to put up with this issue, either. I know dozens of Windows users, from gamers to certified professionals, who would tell AT&T to shove their proprietary software somewhere else. Just because you can install this sort of software on your computer does not mean you will. What does this software do? Does it suck down resources? Can it be uninstalled or deactivated either temporarily or permanently? From my own experience with ISP software, if it needs to be installed on a Windows OS, it is no better than a so-called "driver" for a winmodem. Like I would install that on my own system! Heck no! I would say AT&T has a bigger issue on their hands than merely not working with Linux. They are forcefully cutting off non-Apple and non-Windows users, as well as deterring any Apple and Windows users who know what the **** they are doing!

You know what I would do if it were me? Especially if the phone rep would not escalate my call to tier 2? I would keep them on the line while I rolled up a new virtual machine, installed Windows on it, installed the tools, and ran it through all the updates. If they hung up on me, I would call back, explain the situation, AND START ALL OVER AGAIN WITH THE NEW PHONE REP! I bet you anything they would "magically" find a way around this after a few times, if not the first. And I do not pull any punches. I would spend a week straight doing this if necessary. And it would serve those tier 1 phone reps right to cross me!

Sheaiden said...

I encountered the same thing with Comcast here in MN. Exactly the same. Not even Wine worked. The way I got around it was by calling the contact number, and then telling them that I didn't have a windows machine. I informed them that I was a systems administrator who needed internet for my work machines, and all those were required to run linux (a stretch of the truth, but substantially true). Comcast was decent enough to accept this and activate my modem over the phone.

After reading the notes, I realize that my own excuse is not an option here, because of ATT's belligerence. I think in your place, I would give an attempt to saying that I ordered the DSL because I only have a playstation 3 and an XBox, and don't have a computer at all. Get the phone operators to do their job. It's all about managing the perception; mentioning Linux marks you as "the enemy" to these employees of the developers of the defunct UNIX products...

Of course, the core issue (the reliance upon ActiveX exclusively, as well as the anger towards Linux) is not able to be addressed in that moment when you're trying to get an internet connection working for a family that is overjoyed to finally have a computer at all. The important thing in that moment is getting the connection running.

I recently left Comcast, and among the reasons I gave them were the abysmal reliability, and the hassle to initialize a connection when you don't have windows. That's the place to address the larger issue: on the way out.

One more thought, though: Many companies (comcast, best buy, and according to the poster here, ATT) have migrated their top troubleshooters and mediators to twitter. It may be worth contacting someone there when you encounter these issues, as even the consumerist has praised the twitter-based "incident response teams" that many of the most reviled companies have appointed. Often those people have real power, too...

Anonymous said...

This from the company that invented UNIX!

United against said...

I know that I have dslextreme and they go through the AT&T lines because I am no where near dslextreme. I have not had issues but of course I do not deal with AT&T directly. When I had Pacific Bell a long time ago they sent me a disc to get DSL working. Now I just let the computer connect via dhcp and have no issues. Like I said though I do not have AT&T but do go over their lines.

Anonymous said...

It's official, Google, Nokia, Intel and Novel are pirates just to name a few.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience with Comcast (only HSI provider in my area). When the technician came over to my place and got the place connected, he came inside to set up the modem. This requires a computer. The only computer I had at the time was a linux machine (ubuntu). He was amazed when he saw my computer. Still he gave it a try. Nope, not possible, need Windows and IE.

Anonymous said...

The funny thing about this is that I work for a company that monitors AT&T's servers. the requirement for the job is a knowledge of Linux. The Desktops used to monitor are Linux. The Servers are Linux. So for them to say this is a load.

Anonymous said...

I just did an install today on a brand new 2wire modem (purchased from an AT&T store). The activex screen was there when I went to the friendly named url, however, going to allowed me to run the setup there and no activex requirements appeared. A few basic questions and then the ATT account name and password were asked and then everything finished just fine.

Unknown said...

I just did an install today....

Are you in Texas? We've had the same reports in other parts of the country but here in Texas, we are getting confirmation of the identical problems in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

Comments above explain why this might be.


ATT Agent said...

I work as a Tier 1 DSL customer service representative and would like to dispel a few things here.

First of all, our own internal documentation has those who use the Linux operating system within our scope of support as long as they are using a supported browser. I am disappointed myself that one of my fellow agent used the word "pirate" to describe Linux users, but such a comment is no more indicative of AT&T having a policy that Linux users are pirates than a server at McDonalds laughing that you're getting the Diet Coke with the super size showing that McDonalds has a policy against those who drink Diet Coke.

I have certainly helped users on Linux systems register for our service, not to mention Ubuntu. Where the support confusion has come is that our installation disk will only work on Windows and Mac systems. That is certainly true. At the same time, I haven't heard an uproar that Microsoft Word doesn’t work on Linux (without wine, of course). Programs rarely work on every single operating system, and that is the case with our installation disk.

That said, there is a simple way for non-Windows and Mac users to register online as long as they are using a Web browser. As long as the dsl light on the modem is green, new users can type in the ip address and that will take them to the registration screens bypassing the downloads that won’t go through on non-Windows/Mac.

Users, including those on Linux, can then fill out their account info and set up a member id or get back an existing one. The only difference is after configuring a home page, an error will occur and at that point the user needs to enter their new member id and network password in the gui of the modem.

Let me assure you … there is no company policy or rule that we immediately hang up and not help Linux users. If this happens to you, I recommend asking for a supervisor or escalation to tier 2.

Brenda Jameson said...

Where the support confusion has come is that our installation disk will only work on Windows and Mac systems.

That isn't the point. No one who has any clue to what they are doing is going to insert a Windows or Mac configuration disk on a Linux install. The problem is either in the modem firmware or on AT&T's end where a script pops up a page that insists a configuration program be installed. Of course, it demands a Microsoft Windows environment to do so.

As far as the address goes, I've been dealing with this same problem with friends and family for about two months now and if that is all it takes to bypass the popup from Hell, you have my gratitude. I've searched the internet for such a magic bullet before and haven't found it. The only address most of us know to go to is the one listed on the bottom of the modem, ie.

As far as getting to tier two support in my location, the author of this article isn't the only one to have been refused escalation because they were a Linux User. It happened with me with three consecutive ATT DSL CSR's.

You won't convince me there isn't something on their screen telling them not to escalate a Linux user. I've never been refused escalation before I called with an AT&T activation in Linux.

cwizardtx said...

I just rolled out AT&T DSL in two separate jobs in the last two weeks. One was standard issue sticky PPPOE with a static IP and the standard issue little silver motorola DSL modem. Configuring the modem to be a bridge via the web interface was painless and took about 10 minutes and required no active X controls. The same thing is true of the AT&T U-Verse install. AT&T 1st tier support is usually poor regardless of the OS you are using. Issues that are entirely unrelated to OS at all are almost always met with "what".

JeffHoogland said...

I went through this same headache earlier this year. Since then I've kept a (legal) XP VM around for just such purposes. Shame I have to, but it is the world we live in.

Occaisonal AT&T user said...

"... the tech told me the reason the service has slowed down is because I'm running Linux. He said that Linux doesn't run well on a network."

I'm inclined to agree with the Tech on this, at least on AT&T's IPv6 network. IPv6 DNS on Linux is slower than molasses.

It is a bug in the IPv6 routing that needs to be fixed before everyone is forced to switch.

Kevin (Whizard72) said...

Does anyone see these exact trends happening now? I sure can...

First they ignore you,
Then they ridicule you,
Then they fight you,
Then you win.


John Hardin said...

@ATT Agent:

If that indeed does work, then consider how much bad press AT&T could have avoided by simply checking the user agent string for a browser running on Linux and automatically redirecting to that site rather than blindly asking the user to install ActiveX components.

If you have any contact with the guys who maintain the registration website you might mention that failing to do this is generating a good bit of public ill will towards AT&T DSL. They might actually fix it.

Unless, of course, as DaveD suggests, AT&T isn't going to lose sleep over driving customers away from a low-profit-margin service...

Gavin said...

ATT Agent - "I am disappointed myself that one of my fellow agent used the word "pirate" to describe Linux users, but such a comment is no more indicative of AT&T having a policy that Linux users are pirates than a server at McDonalds laughing that you're getting the Diet Coke with the super size showing that McDonalds has a policy against those who drink Diet Coke."

It is precisely the fact that AT&T as a whole does not correct the words and comments of the offending agents that leads people to believe that AT&T as a whole does not care. Inaction can say as much as action. And inaction itself can carry elements of responsibility and liability. All tier 1 agents are customer-facing employees of AT&T, which means by default that they are representatives of the company. What they say is what AT&T is saying to its customers specifically because AT&T is allowing them to talk to customers on its behalf. Ergo, this is what AT&T is communicating to customers, whether or not it intends to do so.

From the many independent comments on this blog post alone, it is clear that more than one tier 1 agent is giving the same lines to customers, which you claim is NOT what AT&T is intending to communicate to its customers. (And I certainly have no reason to disbelieve you.) If it is true that AT&T is not intending to say these things to its customers, what changes are being made to rectify this issue? If the answer is none, then it seems clear to me that AT&T does not care. If the answer is anything else, then AT&T at least cares about this issue. But even so, if AT&T does not directly address the issue of offending comments made by its tier 1 agents to its customers, then the changes will always be less than a solution.

Personally, I see the fact that multiple tier 1 agents are being allowed to say these sorts of comments to customers over the course of multiple phone incidents, regions, and months as being indicative of a careless company or subsidiary, especially since phone support always comes with the de facto "your call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes" line. You cannot tell me that every single incident being described in these comments has gone unnoticed. If customer-facing employees of the company for which I currently work were caught spreading lies to customers, they would be terminated on the second offense! There is no "three strikes and you're out" when it comes to lying to customers! Not for this company! And yes, I know for a fact that this has happened, so this is no idle threat from HR.

Does there exist a similar HR or corporate measure within AT&T? If so, is it being exercised against your offending fellow tier 1 agents? The answers to these questions would be very telling. I encourage you to open a dialog with your own supervisors and/or managers concerning this topic, because I can tell you right now that someone is dropping the ball somewhere. This blog post and its comments alone are proof of that.

Paul F. said...


AT&T just left my house. The truck is still in my driveway. I just switched from AT&T ADSL to VDSL (Uverse) without a problem save one.

The website would not appear on Ubuntu even though I had an IP address and was talking to the 2wire. Tracepath showed that all traffic stopped there. The technician pulled out his laptop (running Windows), connected, and I walked through the online registration process on the same website with it.

The part that I don't get is now that I am being routed, the registration site works for me. I suspect that User Agent Switcher would have solved the issue.

As you can tell, I am now online. As a Linux user, AT&T customer, and CCNA for over a decade (each), I can honestly say that it was no big deal.


Paul F. MA
A+, Network+, Server+, CCNA, CCAI

Anonymous said...

@ Paul

The technician pulled out his laptop (running Windows), connected, and I walked through the online registration process on the same website with it.

And would you have connected if the tech did not hook up his windows laptop to do this?

I can honestly say that it was no big deal.

Sure, with an AT&T tech at one's elbow, it probably wasn't. What about those who get a desktop or laptop with Linux as their only OS and there isn't a tech right there to help?

I think that was the point of the article. The author totally agrees. If you have a windows laptop, all is blue skies and rainbow-crapping unicorns.

Without that crutch, I am guessing not so much.

Tucanae Services said...

I have to inform you but this is just not an AT&T issue. Many of the Cisco product line requires a browser that supports active x controls or your can't manage the box. That's not so bad as their enterprise line has IOS. But the SMB targeted devices do not and yet still have the active x requirement for the web interface.

Gavin said...

Paul F. - "I can honestly say that it was no big deal."

But... you said yourself that your Ubuntu system would not work. So... how can this not be a big deal if you have no access to a Windows system?

As in, what if there had been no tech with you? Or what if that tech had had no Windows system?

Sure, if you have access to a Windows system right then and there, it would certainly be "no big deal" for that particular instance. But failing that, I would think it would be a very big deal!

Basically, I do not understand what you said.

Anonymous said...

Why would a Linux user need to pirate software we have everything we need under GPL. That just shows how little At&t knows.

Jeremy Allison said...

This Saturday (Dec 18th) I ran into *exactly* this problem when setting up my In-Law's new AT&T DSL service.

They only run Linux, I only run Linux. I hadn't seen the ATT Agent's comment about using the address, so I told the web page I was using Windows and clicked "ok" and let the whole process go ahead using the Wine installation on my Ubuntu 10.10 laptop.

It worked :-). So Wine is now at the stage where it "just works (tm)" for some pretty sophisticated tasks. Can't thank the Wine guys enough.

And AT&T, if you'd just put the address in your quickstart docs, it would save a lot of technical users a lot of trouble.

Remember, the technical users are usually the ones who set up and most importantly *recommend* services to non-technical users.

Just something to ponder.

(Love this blog btw. Thanks Helios !)

Jeremy Allison,
Samba Team.

Anonymous said...


The technician who did my install had done another Linux install, one day earlier. It really was "no big deal". The tech was not allowed to leave until everything just worked. That is his job. His supervisors have that expectation.

He programed my remote to control the TV. He set the picture to 1080i. He had me Google a random superhero. He even called me before he left, from my driveway, to make sure that the phone install worked.

The ADSL that we just took out worked for me for the better part of a decade. The VDSL is working fine. I have previously referred other Linux users in the area to AT&T without issue. I can honestly say that AT&T's service in our area has been working without incident. (No, I am not paid to say that).

The official line from the technician is that they are not trained to support the Linux OS. It is a shame, but the tech took notes as I walked through a wireless connection from the 2Wire to Ubuntu. I then disconnected the wireless and repeated the procedure over Ethernet. He took some of my cards just in case another customer needs Linux assistance.

Maybe I was lucky and got a great tech, or maybe the community is going about this the wrong way. AT&T technicians are people too. Perhaps they will be willing to learn if we stop belittling them for a lack of support and just teach them.

Complaining loudly to corporate is an effective tool, but it is not the only one in our arsenal. We are a grassroots culture. Another use of our time and effort would be to train the techs that come to our door. Cause Linux to spread from the bottom up. Corporate will get the message in due time.



Sum Yung Gai said...

Paul, you're missing the point. AT&T techs should emphatically not be speaking to their customers on the phone like that, your own personal experience notwithstanding. And what if that technician hadn't been there when you were home? Remember that Ken is talking about DSL installations that have happened before Ken gets there. That means...NO AT&T TECH PRESENT to "not be allowed to leave" until things are working, as you put it!

This policy by AT&T is terrible. This should be taken up the chain, not just to AT&T, but also the FCC. I say, get a new provider and to hell with AT&T. They're not even the original AT&T, but rather Southwest Bell Corporation who simply renamed themselves AT&T, and SBC has always been terrible.

Anonymous said...

I had the same problem for a customer who has ATT and switched over to Linux a few months ago. All I had to do was re-register the modem via firefox by using the customers ATT user name & password they give when signing up. I advised them to cancel their ATT account. Was it a firmware update on their end that screwed everyone?

Anonymous said...

I haven't had any such rudeness from AT&T's support yet but should one tell me Linux is 'bad at networking' or some such foolishness I know what my reply would be. "Son, in this economy you might not want to go slagging the company's products like that." When they gave a shocked answer I'd then ask him if he was bright enough to know that Android was just Linux with a lot of Google marketing magic sprinkled on top. And that speaking of Google, perhaps he would share his vast knowledge of network ready operating systems with them so they could stop using a product that 'is bad at networking' in their vast infrastructure.

Bill in South Carolina said...

Today, at approximately 8:30am, I receive a call from Edwin Wheeler of AT&T. I believe he is in the office of the group president for internet operations.

He said he had been referred a letter I sent regarding support for Linux. I told him my concern was slightly different; that I understood that AT&T would likely not affirmatively support Linux due to its small market share, but that I didn't understand why AT&T would effectively lock out Linux users by requiring ActiveX controls in order to access the configuration pages of certain DSL modems. His response was that AT&T does research to decide what is best for the majority of its customers. I asked him what about ActiveX is best for most customers. He said he didn't know the answer to that question. I asked him if he was aware that, as soon as ActiveX was required by all DSL modems, that effectively 2-3% of his customer base would depart. He said that he felt that most Linux users have some method available to utilize ActiveX controls.

I asked him if he was concerned that, by tying the use of AT&T technology to the use of Microsoft technology that effectively locks out alternative operating systems, that AT&T might be adjudged anti-competitive. He replied that he was being asked to speculate about something that hasn't happened and that he wouldn't do so.

I thanked Mr. Wheeler for his information and ended the call.

dax said...

the Tier 2 support are idiots and lazy. They can (and should be able to) bypass the routers' config page. I know because I worked as a Tier 2 support for AT&T back then.

You can either hard reset the modem which will put it into 'Bridge mode' and configure PPPoE via Network Manager (or pppoeconf).

Or you can ask for a Westell modem. If they'll charge you for it, threaten to cancel so they'll give it out for free. Westell modems are easier to work with than 2Wire (which gave me tons of problems back then, too many firmware and hardware issues with 2Wire).

If the rep still insists that they don't support Linux (which they do but unofficially), ask for someone who knows how to configure a Linux connection. Maybe ask for their Coach (don't say Supervisor). Finally, if they still won't go the 'extra mile' (which they're obligated to) threaten to escalate that call to the Presidents Office (termed Presidential Escalation), that'll scare them into doing their research. But if they genuinely don't know, then a more polite representative from Presidential would be able to find someone who can configure it for you.

Their non-support of Linux stems from their lack of knowledge, not because of policy.

Armil@att high speed internet said...

Truly it is a hassle:In the past six months we have done a lot of installs with those who had AT&T come in before we installed the computer. Sure it was a hassle. For it will take so much time.

Anonymous said...

Since you are in San Antonio, can you recommend an ISP that will work with Linux? I have just gotten a new Linux machine and cannot figure out how to set it up with ATT DSL. I did the tech support chat earlier and they referred me to a branch of tech support that you have to pay for. Yeah, right.

Not to mention that the DSL has become unbearably slow recently.

Jason said...

Can't you use Firefox with the IETab addon?

Unknown said...

No, tried that along with user agent switcher and other addons. They've blocked us fairly well it would seem.