Getting my wifi card to work on linux. (My old laptop)

Note: This is my old laptop now!

Getting this wifi card working has been hell, a real hell I tell you.

I own a Aspire 1511LMi laptop, a true windows only laptop from Acer but why did I buy such a windows only laptop when I’m a linux user ? Well I simply didn’t think too much about it when I bought the laptop, I had chosen a totally different laptop for that matter, a MSI one tho I really doubt that had made my linux experience any better really ;-)
But when I finally went to buy the MSI laptop it was out and I really needed a laptop, so I just took a very similar laptop, except it was 64bit AMD which was okey since I knew my OS, Fedora Core had a 64 bit version so I just went for it, plus I got a dvd burner in this one, not the MSI one.

The basic specs are:

  • AMD Athlon 64bit 3000+
  • nVIDIA GeForce FX go5700 64MB (it’s actually working very well, suprised the hell out of me)
  • 512M DDR SDRAM (upgraded to 1256M tho)
  • 60GB ATA/100 HDD
  • DVD-Dual and a DVD Burner :)
  • 4 in 2 memory card reader (heck I never use it, would gladly swap it out for a real soundcard, Audigy 2 ZS platinum :P)
  • IEEE 802.11g (Never seen one hardware cause me so much trouble)
  • Gigabit Ethernet

Rather nifty computer to tell the truth, most of the things work by default in linux, both on knoppix and FC.

But now to the wifi horror! I really didn’t care about getting my wifi to work since I always think it’s just slow to use wifi at home or were you can plug a cat-5 cable, so I have owned this laptop for around 8 months and only not long time ago started bothering with the wifi, why did I do that ? Simply because I’m holding a workshop at PHP Conference in Amsterdam 2 May and it would be pretty darn stupid not to have the wifi working while I’m there :-)
So I first started browsing my hardware list but shortly finding out that it of course didn’t detect the card thus it doesn’t show up in the fine hardware list thingy that Fedora Core has, so I just figured it must be using the same chipset as the gigabit ethernet card and so I checked up on it’s version and it was broadcom, known for not supporting linux but I went on and tried to locate what chipset of the wifi broadcom family my laptop had, both sweaping through google, broadcom and acer site gave me nothing and it got me verrrrry frustrated so I just gave up since it was around 2 months until the conf would start at the time, then later on I decided to give it another try and found a sticker on my laptop saying “InviLink SignalUp” which I later found out that it’s the name that Acer users on “their” wifi/network cards so the hunt began again but leaving me yet as clueless as before but 1 or 2 weeks a go my friend and co-speaker at the workshop in Amsterdam Klaus Guenther aka. Thesaur brought my attention to this site here which I’ve suprisingly never noticed before nor found in any of my searches, which is odd o_O

Now that site has wealth of info about my laptop so if you’d like more specs on it then visit that site and it also contains info about quirks it has on linux and how to get past many of those and it has been a great resource for me and actually led to me getting the wifi working in the end, so extra thanks go out to C. Casteyde and Klaus.

Now C. Casteyde tells us there what chipset the wifi thing has Broadcom Corporation BCM94306 802.11g so my first thoughts were right! But at least I get the model number also :-) So C. Casteyde got that wifi to work by using ndiswrapper using drivers found at … just search for my laptop type, anyhoo, I went there and installed ndiswrapper and all good with that, it installed just fine and now I downloaded the drivers and install, ran modprobe and etc. loaded the drivers but the horror just started there, the drivers denied to run because I was using a 64bit system and the drivers were 32bit!!!!!!! :( :( :( Now I started wondering how C. Casteyde could run it then on a 64bit system if I couldn’t and I came to the conclusion that he only tried it with a 32bit system installed so I just gave up and even forgot to remove ndiswarpper with modprobe -e and that kernel version was locked up when I restarted sometime later, just didn’t want to start, so I had to boot into older kernel and remove and do a full reboot :/ Just so unused to reboot a linux system ;)

Note I’m running 2.6.11 “FC edition” the kernel that fucked up was .10, dunno if it makes a difference since ndiswrapper complained about 64bit OS not the kernel ;)

Now just this evening I started my search again and started again on C. Casteyde site and got over to google and started searching for the chipset + linux and some other words and finally stumbled upon this post to the ndiswrapper site … It’s for SUSE 9.1, sure but it led me to the right drivers and I could install them, I could scan my access point (and finding couple of other unprotected APs at the same time ;)) and wow I was happy happy joy joy by then and now I actually could add wlan0 as network device and congfigure it and voila there it was, my wifi had conntected!!!!! :D

Then I started playing with my router and decided to protect my wifi connection a bit better, even tho I have the 64bit WEP key before, which is usually enough in most cases but I decided to require a simple user and password … did that, deactived my wlan0 connection and hmm couldn’t connect again and it seems that either wifi on linux or just FC network things don’t support on adding user/pass to the connection … So I got “locked out” but luckely I had my eth0 still connected so I just configured back else I’d have to stand up and walk whole 4m to another computer and change there! ;) Actually the router gave me a hard time since the web ui really sucks, ZyXel 660 PW or something like that, at least it has been giving me troubles on FireFox at times, but it was japping something about turning a static WEP key of to take the auth required thing of and it got me insane and then I fixed it :-) I stumbled upon this article after getting my wifi up and running, it’s interesting and FC2 is used as an example there so it’s also a good resource for people in similar problems as me

So as conclusion, getting wifis to work on Linux can be a bit daunting but well it works in the end it seems :-) Ndiswrapper is a life safe since many companies don’t want to give OS hackers access to their specs or help them make drivers for their chipsets, which is a pitty, but OpenBSD has been doing great in getting vendors to open up a bit and actually what got me inspired to try to get the wifi working again was this kerneltrap post about OpenBSD 3.7 tho I’m a bit dissapointed to see Broadcom not under the list of good vendors :/ So it goes I guess … I’ll just have to be more careful in my selection of laptops in the future.


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