Safari Doesn't Like The Novatel 2200

As temperamental as Safari on the Mac can be sometimes, I've come to love it as a very reliable browser. Firefox is too slow and leaks too much memory, Chrome is… let's just say that Google isn't my cup of tea. After a brief period of about 2 months of not using my VirginMobile Mifi, I decided it was time to dust it off and reactivate the service. Since there are no wireless hotspots near my office, without my MiFi it's very difficult to do any kind of blog posting or research on my MacBook Pro. The Virgin Mobile MiFi unit is actually the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200 and is the same unit that is sold by Verizon. The Virgin Mobile's device is actually borrowing bandwidth on Sprint's CDMA network.

On the device, there is a Mac OS X driver to allow the unit to work as if it were a true USB dongle. I made the mistake of installing it, and it completely jacked up my Safari experience. Either it was a poorly written driver, poorly ported driver, or something in Safari didn't play nice with it. After the restart from the installation of the driver, I noticed that Safari would endlessly bounce in the dock and after a short while, the Spinning Pinwheel of Death (SPOD) would rear it's ugly head. I checked the processor usage in Activity Monitor and nothing was abnormally taxing my processor.

After about 10 minutes troubleshooting (intermittent reboots, shutdowns, pitching the PRAM several times, turning the wifi on and off, resetting Safari, deleting .plist files, and deleting three Safari extensions), I decided that the root cause of the problem was the driver that prompted me for an installation. After some quick research online, I couldn't find a single website - not even Novatel's own website - that could confirm the driver was compatible with OS X Lion. I quickly decided that in order for my problems to go away, I had to delete the driver. Easier said than done.

As of the writing of this post, I still have not found exactly where the network interface drivers are for third-party devices like Blackberries and 3G/4G cards are stored, but I did find a .plist which seems to have corrected the problem. There is a file com.apple.wwand.plist (found in Macintosh HD/Library/Preferences/com.apple.wwand.plist) which contains the meta for third-party WWAN cards like the USB dongles you get from your wireless carrier.

By deleting this file, it will remove the device from the network interface list in the Network pane of OS X's System Preferences.

With this file removed, I launched Safari and it fired right up. When the old .plist was loaded, Safari wouldn't let me reinstall my Safari extensions (I have three). After I dumped the .plist, I was immediate prompted to install the extensions after double-clicking on them from the desktop. After a restart, everything continued to work as it had prior to the installation of the device driver for the MiFi.

If you have a Novatel MiFi 2200 hotspot and you're running Safari 5 on Lion, I do not recommend installing the Mac OS X driver, lest you have problems similar to mine. It took me about an hour of screwing around in my Library folder (both root level and user level) to find the right solution. My advice is for you to save yourself the grief and avoid it altogether. The MiFi will still work wirelessly for both service and configuration and I've found no reason that would compel me to plug it into my MacBook Pro.