Raspberry Pi and Frontline SMS

on · · 14 comments · 1,050 words · read ~14,605 times.

(I think I'm the first person to try this - so I decided to document the process.)

A few weeks ago, I won a Raspberry Pi at the #OTA12 hackday. It arrived on Friday, so I thought I would turn it into an SMS server using the incredible FrontlineSMS.

0. Setting up the Pi

This is the easy part. Follow the excellent guide on the eLinux wiki. Essentially, download the Debian image, extract, and dd it onto an SD card.

The hardest part was finding a full sized SD! In the end, I found an old adapter and stuck in a 2GB micro SD card.

1. First Boot

My first boot was a failure. Nothing appeared on the screen. So, I switched off the power, unplugged every lead, plugged them back in, and powered it on. Success!
raspberry pi first boot

The first thing I did was ensure the operating system was up to date.

Check for updates:

sudo apt-get update

Then, apply those updates

sudo apt-get upgrade

This took a few minutes.

Finally, set up SSH or VNC if you plan on using the machine remotely.

2. Dongle Hardware

FrontlineSMS maintains a list of USB dongles which work with its service. I used a Vodafone branded Huawei E220. Sold as Vodafone K3565
3G Dongle Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi only has 2 USB slots - the dongle was slim enough not to interfere with the other USB cable, but it did mean I could only run either a keyboard or a mouse without using a hub. It's recommended that you use a powered USB hub - although my keyboard and mouse didn't seem to draw too much power.

3. Frontline SMS

Downloading Frontline SMS via the commandline (using v1.6 because v2 isn't ready for Linux yet)

wget http://frontlinesms.com/download/secure/FrontlineSMS-distribution-


unzip FrontlineSMS-distribution-


cd FrontlineSMS-distribution-

Gave an error - FrontlineSMS requires Java.

4. Installing Java

The Java install takes about 140MB of disk space. After downloading and extracting FrontlineSMS, I only had about 220MB of free space. I deleted the FrontlineSMS zip file and had 234MB free. Just about enough room!

sudo apt-get install openjdk-6-jdk

Wait several minutes and you'll be good to go.

5. Running for the First Time

Frontline SMS requires a GUI.

Running a GUI is as easy as typing


The resolution was set at the slightly odd dimensions of 1264*672 - which meant there was a large black border around the screen.
Raspberry Pi Resolution

Open a terminal (Start, Accessories, LXTerminal, then type

cd FrontlineSMS-distribution-

After several minutes of waiting, FrontlineSMS started!
Frontline SMS Raspberry Pi

However, no matter what I tried, I couldn't get FrontlineSMS to detect the dongle. The OS could see it fine (using "lsusb" and "dmesg"), but it just didn't appear to be detected by FrontlineSMS.
FrontlineSMS unable to connect

A delve into the commandline, showed this error:
FrontlineSMS ARM

librxtxSerial.so: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory
(Possible cause: can't load IA 32-bit .so on a ARM-bit platform)
thrown while loading gnu.io.RXTXCommDriver

6. Installing the Correct Libraries

We need to load the correct (ARM) version of rxtx.

sudo apt-get install librxtx-java

Find where the install process has dumped it

find . -name "librxtxSerial.so"

It should show you two location - the first being where the correct version is, the second where the FrontlineSMS version is.


All we need to do is overwrite the incorrect version.

cp /usr/lib/jni/librxtxSerial.so /home/pi/Desktop/FrontlineSMS-distribution-

Then, run


And, after some warnings and waitings, you should see
Raspberry Pi Frontline SMS Success

Hey Presto! FrontlineSMS up and running on a Raspberry Pi!

(Oh! I finally worked out how to do screenshots! install scrot and run "scrot -d 10" to take a screenshot after 10 seconds.)

7. Manually Sending an SMS

Running FrontlineSMS via Java on a 700MHz ARM device is very slow. It is possible to talk directly to the dongle and manually tell it to send SMS.

First, I installed picocom.

sudo apt-get install picocom

To find out where the dongle has been installed, type:


Which will give an long output, which should contain some text like this like this:

option 1-1.2:1.1: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
usb 1-1.2: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB0
option 1-1.2:1.0: GSM modem (1-port) converter detected
usb 1-1.2: GSM modem (1-port) converter now attached to ttyUSB1

The dongle installs itself in two places - ttyUSB0 & 1. It's the first one we want.

Connect by issuing this command

picocom /dev/ttyUSB0 -b 115200 -l

Which will give you the output

port is        : /dev/ttyUSB0
flowcontrol    : none
baudrate is    : 115200
parity is      : none
databits are   : 8
escape is      : C-a
noinit is      : no
noreset is     : no
nolock is      : yes
send_cmd is    : ascii_xfr -s -v -l10
receive_cmd is : rz -vv

Terminal ready

From now on in, we're typing commands directly into the dongle. You cannot press the delete key! Copy & paste, or be careful when typing!

First, to make sure everything is working, we type


We should see this response


Next, set the dongle to text mode


Again, the response should be


Let's send our first SMS!


This will not say "OK", rather, it will prompt us to type a message


Type your message, so the screen looks like

> This is a test

DO NOT HIT ENTER. Instead, hit CTRL and Z at the same time.

You should see a response like

+CMGS: 193


The number is the "sent items" reference. Within a few moments, the SMS should have been received.

You can send an SMS to the dongle. To check for messages, type the command


You should see all the messages in the inbox

+CMGL: 0,"REC READ","+447700900000",,"12/06/19,13:53:19+04"
+CMGL: 1,"REC READ","+447700900321",,"12/06/23,17:16:29+04"
+CMGL: 2,"REC UNREAD","+447700900555",,"12/06/23,23:27:48+04"
This is another test

To quit picocom, hold down CTRL, then hold down A, then hold down X.

A collection of links I found useful when writing this blog post
For unlocking Huawei modems

Share this post on…

14 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi and Frontline SMS”

  1. Did you try it with SMStools ? I'm looking for a way to do a cheap SMS to Web gateway to place in various locations around the world to accept SMS messages for access to a server.

  2. garagedeveloper says:

    Which vodafone sim are you using pay as you? contract or what. Ive had this dongle it can receive messages find i just cant send any. Vodafone say its barred.

  3. svbito says:

    This post came exacly in the right moment! I was researching ways to implement my own SMS-gateway via scripts and it popped up. Great writeup, I will try your instructions as soon as possible.

  4. Brice says:

    Hello, did you try to put Android on your Pi and install SMS Gateway app ? SMS Gateway allows you to send SMS by http request, just by getting http://x.x;x.x:9090/sendsms...phonenumber...text...password
    I'm really interested by a network SMS gateway, and the easiest way is getting SMS Gateway on a Android device, but don't want to buy an smartphone, and I search a small device like Pi running Android with GSM possibilities.
    I'm interested by your opinion on this idea.

    1. I think you're probably better off buying a cheap Android phone. A Huawei Blaze is about £40 - including £10 PAYG credit. That's about the same price as Raspberry Pi and - while not as customisable - is perfect if you want a cheap and fast Android device.

  5. Nick says:

    Hi! I just tried this and thought it was going ok, replaced the librxtsSerial etc but then I get a mismatch java error on startup,

    Native lib Version = RXTX-2.2pre2
    Java lib Version = RXTX-2.1-7
    WARNING: RXTX Version mismatch
    Jar version = RXTX-2.1-7
    native lib Version = RXTX-2.2pre2

    Did you get this when you did it!!??

    1. Lars says:

      Mismatch is just a warning.
      Start Fronline graphically under x. It should work.

  6. Lars says:

    I can't fix the problem you described "A delve into the commandline, showed this error:"

    Followed all the steps but still getting the same error. It freaks me out to fail that short of the finish.

    Help appreciated.

  7. Adel says:

    any ideas on the vodafone newer K3770 models? when i dmesg i dont see any modems listed, but i see the usb module listed? i was trying the 2nd approach (since i dont have java installed on my pi - im using the Raspbian “wheezy”).

  8. Danielle Murray says:

    I noticed the comments above are quite old but still give it a go. I have just installed sakis3g and followed all the steps necessary for connecting a SIM800 board to my Raspberry Pi2B. When I run sakis3g to connect to network I press Connect 3G, then Custom tty but I do not get a list of APNs. I am on Three UK, put that in with/without UK but no luck.I can't seem to get connected, this is the steps that prevents me from connecting. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.


What are your reckons?

All comments are moderated and may not be published immediately. Your email address will not be published.