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Archive for the ‘Troubleshoot’ Category

The New Laptop Has Arrived (aka, More Wireless Problems)

with 4 comments

It’s been too long since my last blog post. I’m afraid the time and motivation had temporarily escaped me. But I am back now, with what I hope will be some handy information for someone out there in cyberspace.

I recently ordered a new Toshiba laptop, an L305-S5933, from newegg.com. It was really a great deal; I couldn’t pass it up. Upon initially recieving the laptop, I spent a few hours removing all of the pre-loaded crap software (and let me tell you, there was quite a bit), preventing annoying things from running on startup, and installing the latest and greatest Windows updates. After that, I promptly installed Kubuntu 8.10. I have to note, I found it quite humerous that there is now a Windows installer on the Ubuntu install CD. My what a long way we’ve come from the earlier days of RedHat 5.x when I first got started with Linux.

Actually, I lied, I promptly booted into the Kubuntu live CD so I could give things a go before committing to this distro. And of course, without fail, I immediately noticed my lack of an internet connection (so I guess, more appropriately put – with fail?). Anywho, this is a sticky situation I’ve found myself in a number of times before. I’ve discovered Linux + wireless = a recipe for disaster. That’s one formula I’ve had no problems remembering. There are often issues with proprietary drivers/firmware, etc… So we end up with terrible incarnations like the ndiswrapper and so forth. In this case it turns out the currently released version of the wireless driver for my wireless card was not up to date enough to handle my card. This laptop has an Atheros wifi card, identified as AR242x by lspci, which has the AR5007EG chipset. The driver for this card is the madwifi driver. The project seems to be in a chaotic state, with the stable madwifi driver lacking resources, and apparently two newer versions in the works (ath5k and ath9k, neither of which are stable).

Fortunately, the good folks at #madwifi on freenode tipped me off to a newer version of the driver. Unfortunately, this “newer version” has never been released and therefore must be built from source. You can either get the source of this driver from git (which I’ll leave to you to figure out), or you can find the most up to date snapshot here. I’ll first mention, this process involves a reboot, so it is not possible to get wireless working in the live CD environment. Before we begin, you’ll need to make sure you have both the “build-essential” and “linux-headers” packages installed on your system. Start off by extracting the driver files from the archive:

tar xzf madwifi-hal-0.10.5.6-r3931-20090125.tar.gz

Be sure to substitute the correct file name here. Next “cd” into your newly extracted directory and run:

make
sudo make install

When you “make install”, this should remove the old drivers from your system and install the new drivers. Once you reboot, assuming you are running NetworkManager, you should be good to go. If you ever get a kernel update available via adept or apt-get upgrade, you may want to consider not installing it. If you do, you will have to rebuild this driver in the new kernel.

Do not blacklist the Atheros driver that comes with kubuntu, or you will find your computer will lock up during boot. If this happens, simply use the switch on the front of the laptop to disable the device until you have installed a new driver.

Hopefully I will be back soon with a review of KDE 4.2, which releases tomorrow.

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Written by Kris Wong

January 26, 2009 at 5:04 pm

What’s With Wireless?

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Borrowing a phrase from Jerry Seinfeld, I have to rant a bit… what’s with wireless?  Being an avid linux fan, I’m used to wasting hours troubleshooting obscure, and what seem to be impossible, issues.  But I always seem to have some sort of problem with my wireless configuration.  It’s not that complicated, why does it never seem to work quite right?

I had a linksys router and wireless NIC that just did not want to talk to each other.  The signal wasn’t bad, I had an IP address, my gateway and DNS servers were all setup correctly through DHCP, yet for some reason I could not even ping my router.  I know each piece worked independently (through testing against other devices), just not together.  So I used linksys’s live online help.  The support person tells me the NIC I’m using doesn’t support Windows Vista 64-bit.  1. Vista has been around for over 2 years now, get with the program.  2. It was working before, so it’s obviously possible to get it to work.  Lets just say I returned that hardware for some netgear equipment.

Of course I got the “Range Max” version of the wireless router.  It’s supposed to work throughout the entire house.  I have a 2 bedroom apartment.  I get almost no signal on my desktop that’s maybe 30 – 40 feet away from the router, no major obstructions in the way.  Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. =/

UPDATE: After looking into the issue a little more, there appear to be 10 – 20 wireless networks at my apartment complex in range of my desktop.  Since there are only 3 wireless channels that do not interfere with one another, this is obviously an issue.  Eventually I had to purchase a separate D-Link wireless antenna to increase the coverage at my desktop, and switch my wireless to a channel that would have the least amount of interference.  The net result: I have a decent signal, and am getting 6000+ Kb/s from dslreports.com.  Another option would have been to go with equipment that supports 802.11 n, but this standard is still in draft and the equipment is quite expensive.

Written by Kris Wong

October 3, 2008 at 4:54 pm