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Wireless Networking Software Hardware Linux

The OSS Solution to the Linux Wi-Fi Problem 204

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wait-we-have-a-problem-with-that-now-too dept.
tobs writes "Matt Hartley of MadPenguin.org fame has published an open source way of solving the Linux Wi-Fi problem. He writes, "For intermediate to advanced users, who are willing to track down WiFi cards based on chipsets, live without WPA in some instances or have opted to stick with Ethernet, buying a new notebook for the sake of improved wireless connectivity may seem a little overkill. When a new user faces problems jumping through the NDISWrapper hoops, tracking down WiFi cards from HCLs and other related activities, the end result is almost always the same — they give up. What so many of us, as Linux users, fail to grasp is that projects like OpenHAL are critical to long-term development. The education on what to expect and what not to expect remains a complete load of hot air when articles claim how easy it is to setup wireless Internet on Linux machines. It's downright misleading."
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The OSS Solution to the Linux Wi-Fi Problem

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  • Weird... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdm-adph (1030332) <mdmadph@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:31AM (#20538393) Homepage
    It's like I RTFA, but then again I don't feel like I RTFA. Anyone else notice that? Is there some "Page 2" button I'm missing?
    • by loftwyr (36717)
      Nope, it's just a perfect example of writing a short article with a sufficient level of buzzwords to get Google traffic. The article offers nothing except a byline and truisms.

      The question is, did the /. editor RTFA before he posted it?
    • That's right. I was expecting to read about how somebody solved the problem. But they're just blithering about it. No useful content here, move along.

    • by Fred_A (10934)
      I think that I too spent longer looking for the "next page" link than I spent reading the article (if it can be called that).
      Now I must rest my mind.
    • No, no page 2 button. MadPenguin just sucks, you're not missing anything.
    • Yes I noticed that too. I came away feeling that this is yet another of those word bundles around which to stuff advertising.

      How this managed to get onto slashdot is beyond me.

  • Atheros (Score:5, Informative)

    by Brian Lewis (1011579) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:31AM (#20538399) Homepage
    After spending hours on breaking and re-breaking wifi on my laptop, I went out and bought a $20 wifi card with an Atheros chipset. It has worked flawlessly sense, without having to jump through the ndiswrapper hoops.

    And any time someone new the *nix asks me about wireless, and why it isn't working, I always insist they spend the $20 on the Atheros chipset, as, again, it is damn near flawless.
    • by n9uxu8 (729360)
      Indeed, I keep a few D-Link DWL-530s around just for when folks come a-callin' with linux wireless issues. The card is crap in windows (crashes a lot), but works flawlessly under linux on any laptop I've ever slid it into.
    • And any time someone new the *nix asks me about wireless, and why it isn't working, I always insist they spend the $20 on the Atheros chipset, as, again, it is damn near flawless.

      I use a D-Link AirPlus G model DWL-G630 on my laptop running Dapper Drake. It has the Atheros chipset, but it doesn't support WPA, just WEP in Ubuntu. Other than that, it works fine.
    • by raddan (519638)
      Of course, if you buy Atheros gear to solve your Linux wireless woes, you are rewarding a company for bad behavior. As many people have pointed out, Atheros seems to be deliberately unhelpful, releasing only binary drivers, and no documentation whatsoever. Atheros' bad engineering and refusal to work with the OSS community has lead to workarounds like the following commit in NetBSD:

      "The Atheros HAL on MIPS uses %s7 as a general purpose register, but the rest of the kernel uses it to store the value of curlwp. Sam won't recompile the HAL for us (fair enough), and we can't modify the HAL to use another register because doing so could put us in breach of the license (v. crappy). So, do a save/set/restore on %s7 in KernIntr() and in the stubs that the HAL uses to call back into the kernel.

      "Please note that diffs are not public domain; they are subject to the copyright notices on the relevant files."

      More info here [nabble.com].

      I suggest Ralink-based chipsets as an alternative. I have a couple in OpenBSD-based machines, and one in

    • If you want to look for a well supported wifi chipset just look at this list: http://www.openbsd.org/i386.html [openbsd.org]. If you pick something off that list then run OpenBSD you get a fully functional and supported open source driver and as an added benefit you get to use OpenBSD. :)
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:31AM (#20538403) Journal

    The OSS Solution to the Linux Wi-Fi Problem
    I'm confused, this article did not propose an OSS solution for the Wi-Fi problem at all. In fact, it just told me things I already know from first hand experience that I've posted about before.

    What confuses me so much (and I really am ignorant in this department) is why the ethernet chipsets were seemingly conquered right off the bat? I tried my first Linux distro (debian) in 2001 and ever since then no matter what the machine, no matter what the distro, no matter how confused I was the NICs always came up ready to go when I installed Linux. I've done this on a lot of machines, from obscure to well known Dells and used most of the major distributions. They just 'worked' and it was good.

    Now, wireless is here and for some reason, there must be a thousand different manufacturers with their own proprietary chipsets with completely different drivers & BIOS data on the flash memory stored in those chips because I've only had Ubuntu work once out of the box on a Linksys PCI WiFi card. Why? Why isn't that standardized? What do the companies gain from that? Is it because of the ever changing standards that the chips are so wacky? Is it because the A, B, G, N, etc. protocols? I don't understand this because I've never coded drivers.

    I understand what MadWiFi & OpenHal are trying to do. I now know to look for "Atheros" chipsets when I buy my wireless stuff but they are often more well known brands and more expensive. A reason I switched to Linux was to save money in college, not spend more on the hardware.

    Maybe a more helpful article would be detailing the real underlying issue--that these no name brands that get huge rebates at CompUSA or where ever (Hawking Technologies, generic boxes, etc.) are targeting Windows because of the number of users. How do you change their minds or show them a market for an OSS driver? Is there a way to even open up a channel of communication with them to discover how to write drivers for their chispets? How do you convince them it's worth their time/resources?

    That would be a solution moving forward.

    The next best thing would be to post an article about how to get started making these drivers. I'm a coder (though not the greatest one) with a little bit of free time. How do I start? How do I get access to the BIOS pages on the chipsets? What do I do with that, how does the Linux kernel use it? What books do I read that teach me how to start with a chipset I know nothing about, have no resources on the data or mechanics and then poke it, prod it until I know enough about it that I can set it up for the kernel to use it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jsupreston (626100)
      I don't understand why there isn't a "fallback" like we used to have on Ethernet NICs. For many years, it seemed like if you couldn't get a NIC to work, you could always use the old NE2000 drivers. You might not have all the functionality of the proprietary drivers, but it would at least get you on the network. Why can't we do the same with other hardware? Heck, we don't even have that fallback anymore with PCI NICs, so you're screwed if your setting up a machine with a NIC not recognized by the OS out of t
      • by LarsG (31008)
        The "every clone card works with the NE2K driver" thing was more of an accidental thing than a deliberate effort to provide a standard fallback.

        In the early years of Ethernet, NICs made by 3COM, IBM etc were very expensive. Novell, which was pushing NetWare hard at the time saw that they would benefit from having cheap ether cards out there. So they made their own card and sold it essentially at cost. Novell was not in the business of making a profit selling NICs, they were in the business of selling NetWar
    • by david.given (6740) <dg.cowlark@com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:57AM (#20538831) Homepage Journal

      Now, wireless is here and for some reason, there must be a thousand different manufacturers with their own proprietary chipsets with completely different drivers & BIOS data on the flash memory stored in those chips because I've only had Ubuntu work once out of the box on a Linksys PCI WiFi card. Why? Why isn't that standardized? What do the companies gain from that? Is it because of the ever changing standards that the chips are so wacky? Is it because the A, B, G, N, etc. protocols? I don't understand this because I've never coded drivers.

      Because wireless hardware is really complicated.

      Typically a wireless card is a microcontroller with ROM, RAM, and a CPU --- usually an ARM. One end is plugged into the radio, of which there are a zillion different varieties. The other end is plugged into your computer.

      Some wireless cards don't have their software on ROM --- which means that in order to make it work, the first thing you have to do is to upload the software from your PC. This is the infamous 'binary blob' problem. That software is highly proprietry and really, really hard to write. So far (although I could be wrong) there are no open source firmware replacements.

      Even once you have the card programmed and running, you still need to talk to it. This usually involves a driver that needs to know how to talk to the wireless card's host hardware (the bit between the microcontroller and your computer), the firmware itself (which may have different command sets for different versions of the firmware), and sometimes you even need to know implementation details of the radio chipset. That's a lot of information you need access to, and it all interacts in rather horrible ways. (Also, FCC regulations may mean that the vendors aren't allowed to give you information that could be used to, say, make the card operate on unauthorised frequencies...)

      It also doesn't help that the Linux wireless layer isn't terribly well designed: the abstraction layers are in the wrong place, which means that in order to write a driver you have to duplicate a lot of code. That's one reason why the BSD operating systems typically have better wireless support. Their driver framework makes it a lot easier to write wireless drivers.

      The good cards usually have well-designed firmware on ROM with a sufficiently abstract interface that implementation details aren't exposed. They're easy to support, because the vendor can change the implementation without having to change the driver. The bad cards have firmware that's loaded at run time that exposes lots of implementation details that the vendor can't tell you about because the third party whose radio chipset they're using made them sign an NDA. (Or just because they don't want to. Broadcom fits this category.) They require lots of unpleasant reverse engineering.

      So, in short, wireless drivers are hard because wireless cards are really complicated.

      • by grahamm (8844) <gmurray@webwayone.co.uk> on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:07AM (#20539001) Homepage

        Typically a wireless card is a microcontroller with ROM, RAM, and a CPU --- usually an ARM.
        As wireless cards are intelligent with their own processor it should have been relatively simple for a high level API to have been defined (in a similar way to VESA for display cards) by which all wireless cards communicate with the host computer.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WhiteWolf666 (145211)
          You would think so, no? Why not use TCP/IP?

          Frankly, its a shame that you can't get the equivalent of a PCI (or PCI-X) "wireless bridge". I would love a DD-WRT box that went into my system, and managed all aspects of my networking for me, addressable via some kind of internal IP address scheme.

          This would give you all sorts of cool abilities; control it via your browser or any sort of "internal" application (something like Apple's airport stuff).

          Hell, even given basic engineering skills this wouldn't take mor
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
          Or, to take a closer example, there should be something akin to the Bluetooth adapter USB device class. In fact, I don't understand why there isn't one.
      • by DaveCar (189300)
        Some wireless cards don't have their software on ROM --- which means that in order to make it work, the first thing you have to do is to upload the software from your PC. This is the infamous 'binary blob' problem. That software is highly proprietry and really, really hard to write. So far (although I could be wrong) there are no open source firmware replacements.

        Hmm, surely the "infamous 'binary blob'" problems is where you are running a binary blob on your computer's CPU (like nVidia drivers, or HAL). Thi
        • by david.given (6740) <dg.cowlark@com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @04:03PM (#20543847) Homepage Journal

          Firmware is just firmware - it runs on a different CPU and only has access to the device. Binary blobs run in your kernel space and could (potentially) mess with anything on your system.

          Ah, but the firmware on the wireless card is running, effectively, at a higher privilege level than your kernel --- it can do things totally outside the kernel's control. Even if you are legally allowed to redistribute the image, how do you know what it's doing? Given that all your network traffic is passing through that thing, and that it's got complete unsupervised control over all the radio bandwidth it can eat, and that on some interfaces (such as PCI) they can even access host memory... there's a lot of scope for malicious behaviour. Without source, they can't be audited. That's what I mean by the binary blob problem.

          (The firmware source code probably includes lots of deeply patented and proprietry frequency-hopping and radio control software, which the FCC would be deeply unamused to have people play with; most likely there's also going to be a third-party embedded operating system, too, to make it all go. It would probably be a legal nightmare to release source.)

          (You're right in that there's not much difference between uploaded firmware and firmware in ROM --- it's just a variation of the same problem.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ncc74656 (45571) *

        So, in short, wireless drivers are hard because wireless cards are really complicated.

        Here's an idea: on one card, combine a wired network controller (RTL8139 or whatever) with a wireless bridge. It'd be like plugging a bridge into the network jack, but everything's already in one place. Conceptually, it's not much different than the way internal modems used to be built: combine a serial interface and the guts of an external modem on one board. Just as the internal modem appeared to your computer as j

        • by adolf (21054)
          Why make it an all-on-one-card solution? It seems to me that there's some big advantages to having an external, independantly-positional antenna with regards to potential for alleviating reception problems. In the case of a desktop box, getting the antenna out of the snakepit of grounded cabling and expansive sheet metal behind the box is a huge advantage.

          So as long as the concept is improved upon by having a separate antenna, why not go even a step beyond that and use whole separate radio?

          Newegg, for ins
    • by MBCook (132727)

      There are a couple of reasons. First, there is a history behind ethernet. The specs were at times more open on chips. There were standards that people would adhere to (like the NE1000, if I remember the name right). On top of that, there is the fact there is nothing harmful in an ethernet card. Worst case: you pollute the network.

      With WiFi cards, many of them are basically software defined radios. On top of that, there are 11 channels of which only some are legally usable in each country. So if you exposed

    • by Vellmont (569020)

      What confuses me so much (and I really am ignorant in this department) is why the ethernet chipsets were seemingly conquered right off the bat?

      Heh. I suppose it might look that way from the perspective of someone starting at Linux from 2001. As I remember it, getting ethernet support was a very similar battle, and I started with linux in 1994. There certainly was some reverse engineering that had to take place back then. Until only the last 5 years I've been surprised when ethernet "just works". I susp
    • by balthan (130165)
      What's the REAL Solution though?

      Install Windows.

      (Turnabout is fair play.)
    • Linux and FOSS in general are not a promise of a free lunch, you may get one, but nobody is offering that.

      As for being aggravated for spending in hardware, add up how much it would cost you to have equivalent versions of all the software you use in Linux and soon you will realize that the few bucks you spend in a Wireless card pale in comparison with the spiraling costs of running a Windows machine.
  • but it is a mess. When I upgraded from Ubuntu Dapper to Edgy my linksys 11b card stopped working. That doesn't inspire confidence. But I went out and bought an Asus card (11g this time) which said it supported linux on the side of the box. That worked with WEP, but there were still some hoops to jump through to get WPA working.

    Now all laptops come with built in wifi things are even harder. I really don't want to be choosing my laptop based on what wifi chipset it uses (or having a card sticking out the si
  • I agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cjonslashdot (904508) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:38AM (#20538493)
    In fact, I am an experienced IT professional, and I have only a vague idea what you are talking about. The fact is, I do not spend my time studying the innards of Linux: I have other kinds of issues that I worry about. I am sure I could get a WiFi card working on Linux if I put my mind to it, and edit the right files, find the right drivers, and upgrade the BIOS as required, but I have no inclination to spend the many hours required to learn all those picky details - which I will then forget because I will not use them again. The fact is, if one has to do this, you can kiss Linux goodbye for the typical user. If Linux cannot be made to work with most (like 99%) built-in and third party devices (graphics, WiFi, sound, Bluetooth, etc.) out of the box or with *easily* found drivers - without having to edit files - then it is not a viable desktop for the typical home user. Further, it should be installable from Windows - without having to create an ISO disk and boot. These are far bigger issues than whether the scheduler is "fair" or whether the GUI is KDE or Gnome. Who cares if you can't get it running with an hour of point-and-click effort? It will then never be adopted by the masses, unless manufacturers decide to ship it pre-installed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zombie Ryushu (803103)
      I'm an experienced Linux User, and you sound like someone I know.

      Editing files has nothing to do with it. Generally, Under Linux, Wifi falls in three catagories. Those that do work. Those that work with NDISwrapper, and those that don't work. Those that work with NDIS wrapper NDIS wrapper installs the drive for you. Those that work out of the box will simply work out of the box. Those that don't work will sit there and stare at you and do nothing. There is a minor special exception for the BCM 43xx, you hav
      • by Viol8 (599362)
        "Those that work with NDIS wrapper NDIS wrapper installs the drive for you"

        If you mean you manually point ndis at the .inf file which gives it enough info to do the rest itself yes. Other than that i'd hardly call the process automatic.
    • In fact, I am an experienced IT professional, and I have only a vague idea what you are talking about. The fact is, I do not spend my time studying the innards of Linux: I have other kinds of issues that I worry about.

      LOL. You don't need to spend your time studying the innards of Linux any more than you would with any operating system. Just buy supported hardware. That's what "IT professionals" do, as does any reasonably informed consumer.

      Granted, most hardware is designed for Windows, but then again, mo
    • Linux should be installable from Windows? Does it also then follow that Windows should be installable from Linux?
    • by forkazoo (138186)

      In fact, I am an experienced IT professional, and I have only a vague idea what you are talking about. The fact is, I do not spend my time studying the innards of Linux: I have other kinds of issues that I worry about. I am sure I could get a WiFi card working on Linux if I put my mind to it, and edit the right files, find the right drivers, and upgrade the BIOS as required, but I have no inclination to spend the many hours required to learn all those picky details - which I will then forget because I will

  • by Kludge (13653) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:40AM (#20538525)

    a complete load of hot air when articles claim how easy it is to setup wireless Internet on Linux machines


    I just installed Fedora 7, and I am managing multiple wireless networks with NetworkManager, no configuration at all. Zilch.

    Of course, I have a 5 year old Dell. People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work. No. You have to be selective. That's why my 3D desktop runs on Intel video.

    Buy companies that support open source from the beginning, dammit, or other companies will never see the use of providing drivers or specs PERIOD.

    • Of course, I have a 5 year old Dell ... That's why my 3D desktop runs on Intel video.

      5 year old intel video? for 3D? *cringe*
      • by dk.r*nger (460754)

        5 year old intel video? for 3D? *cringe*
        Don't worry, he's not talking about Vista.

      • by cerelib (903469)
        You actually don't need much hardware for stuff like Compiz. I was able to turn Compiz on when I was using Ubuntu Feisty and it was a very smooth experience. What hardware did I have? A laptop with 1.6 GHz Pentium M, 768MB main memory, ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 32MB ( a laptop bought 2 years ago when it was not even cutting edge ). That is essentially an augmented R100 ATI chip. I think what matters most is that the driver is of good quality. The X.org radeon driver is very stable and works very well an
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work."

      The horror!

      "Buy companies that support open source from the beginning"

      I want an operating system, not a political movement.
      • by Ginger Unicorn (952287) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:08AM (#20539027)
        I want an operating system, not a political movement.

        then support that operating system by buying hardware that it is allowed to interact with by the vendor. activism is also sometimes pragmatic you know.

      • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:19AM (#20539185) Homepage

        I want an operating system, not a political movement.

        Richard Stallman didn't want a political movement either. He wanted to work around a flaky printer [faifzilla.org]. Unfortunately, reality can be such that a political movement is necessary in order to obtain the things that many of us think should be able to be taken for granted.

      • I want an operating system, not a political movement.

        Windows, OSX, HPUX, AIX.

        Your choice.

        If you use Linux you are buying into an ideology of how to ensure users are free to modify the software they are using. Don't like it? Don't use it, quite simple frankly, or use a distribution where you get a list of supported hardware and a provider with whom to whine, at least you would be paying for the privilege and would expect some service from your hard earned cash.

        • by Guppy06 (410832)
          "If you use Linux you are buying into an ideology of how to ensure users are free to modify the software they are using. Don't like it? Don't use it,"

          And this is why you're not going to be on the desktop.
    • by dslauson (914147)

      "People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work. No. You have to be selective."

      Of course, you are right, but that's the problem here. Having Linux increase market share on the desktop means reaching the people who don't know jack about hardware (or software, or computers in general outside the realm of word processing and web surfing). Most of these people would have no clue know where to start trying to determine a particular piece of hardware's Linux compatibility. That's

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work.

      And they're generally right, because most people run Winblows.

      If your preferred solution is to use stone age hardware, much as the Pilgrims must have done, then why aren't you running BSD?

    • by gillbates (106458)

      Of course, I have a 5 year old Dell. People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work. No.

      Not to troll, but Windows users have been able to do this for the past 15 years. People who know nothing about hardware, engineering, recompiling kernels, or editing config files have been able to install hardware in Windows since Windows 95. Granted, a lot of the cheap hardware had buggy drivers, but they could at least get it to work for a while.

      What gets me is that the Linux com

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nmos (25822)
        What gets me is that the Linux community still believes, in 2007, that auto-detection of hardware isn't worth the effort.

        On what planet exactly? End user distros have been auto-detecting hardware for at least several years now. On average I'd even say that given a bare computer plus a Windows CD and a Ubuntu CD you're more likely to have everyting work on Ubuntu.

        And just recently, I bought an ASUS motherboard, and tried to install Slackware 12.0 on it. And you know what happened? The kernel hangs after re
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:42AM (#20538551)
    WiFi, USB and Video

    Are the three things I get embarassed talking about when trying to promote Linux to non-technical friends and family. All they want it "to do stuff". As the article mentions, they won't spend time fiddling with drivers, checking if the hardware will/might/won't work.

    They have a real expectation that they can plug in whatever they choose to a PC and it will just work. This is their experience of (modern) MS and they won't accept any less from an alternative.

    Until peripherals become seemlessly operable ordinary people will steer clear of Linux.

    Until the applications (and I mean video playing in particular) just work, with no drama and no crashes (Kaffeine, why do you insist on popping up messages saying "The specified file or URL was not found", when you're playing it?) we're backing a loser.

    • Device manufacturers, especially the cheap ones, tend to use cheap/quick/easy chipsets that often have Windows-targeted reference drivers, or they cobble their own. NOT all of these work at all well (I've had endless problems with cheap USB drives gagging a Win98 box 'cause their legacy drivers are crap.) But, the Windows monopoly has meant that there's immense Windows-centric inertia in low-end commodity peripherals.

      This will slowly change as Linux gains desktop traction and Vista drives users toward The P
    • USB? These days I pop in a USB stick and it shows up on the desktop in seconds. I don't know what you're talking about.

      Video? Granted, I had to install some extra codecs via Applications->Add/Remove Software, but that's not more difficult than telling someone to download DivX or a codec pack. I've been playing video almost every day on my Linux box (I download a lot of anime fansubs) and it has worked fine since 2002/2003. Today I can setup the codecs in 10 seconds. Just what are you talking about?
      • by petes_PoV (912422)
        USB? These days I pop in a USB stick and it shows up on the desktop in seconds. I don't know what you're talking about

        Yeah, pick the easy one :-)

        OK, now do the same with a webcam.

        If you're lucky, it'll start up once - assuming you have an application that will display it's output. Remember I'm talking about "Plug it in. See the picture."

        Now unplug the webcam and stick it back in. Maybe in the same USB slot, maybe in another.

        Even with notionally supported webcams (Philips models) I've never managed

      • by Toby_Tyke (797359)
        I think when he said USB, he was talking about USB devices in general. Sure, flash drives work, but I personally own four USB devices (all fairly new) which just don't work, at all, with Linux.

        And when he said video, I'm assuming he was talking about capturing and editing video, not playing WMV files. I have heard this is an area where Linux lags far behind XP and OSX, but it's also an area about which I am completely ignorant .
    • by iabervon (1971)
      My experience with USB has been that it basically always works perfectly with Linux, except for old devices that came out before there were USB standards for those things. My experience has been that Linux has better USB support than either Windows or OS X. Of course, Linux does have the issue where it supports a USB device, but there's no obvious point to start interacting with it (great, you've got a scanner. Now what?)

      WiFi has actually been improving greatly in the past year, since there was somebody act
    • by vishbar (862440)

      Agreed with most of these points, but what's wrong with video? I've never had video under Linux give me problems--in fact, under Ubuntu, I found it far easier than playing videos on Linux.

      WiFi, though, is definitely an issue, as is Plug-N-Play. I would also add printing to the list. Note that I don't have a printer at home, but my friend told me it was a bitch for him to get his printer running under Linux. Has it gotten any better?

      Agreed 100% about the drama and crashes...like another poster said, m

    • by nmos (25822)
      they won't spend time fiddling with drivers, checking if the hardware will/might/won't work.

      If they won't spend a little time finding out what hardware will work well with Linux then they should stick to Windows XP (but not Win2k or Vista because they both have the same problem). That's Ok, really. There are plenty of users out there who are savy enough to use Google and plenty more will get a Linux geek to take care of this sort of thing for them. There are even some who will (shudder) just go out and
  • by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Monday September 10, 2007 @10:56AM (#20538805) Homepage
    I'm confused. The past three notebooks I've owned have all been immediately recognized as using WiFi cards with accompanying drivers.

    Seriously, I think the article is trying to find a solution in the wrong area. If I want a laptop and I plan to use Linux (which I always do) then I plan to get a wifi card compatible with such. I have no idea how ndiswrapper works and have no plans to ever use it.

    My most recent notebook - an HP/Compaq nw9440 - came with the option of a Broadcom or an Intel wireless card. I went with Intel for the simple fact that I know intel works.

    Sure enough, wireless was up and running as soon as I installed SUSE 10.2 on the machine. (It initially came with Vista but I upgraded pretty quickly.)

    The answer to WiFi is to ensure the manufacturers supply drivers - open source or not - to their chipsets, since they're no longer putting them in the firmware. Intel does. I believe Broadcom is now. Anybody else?

    End of story.
  • by eno2001 (527078)
    That's the "solution": buy a new laptop with a newer WiFi chip in it? Did I miss something. I'll be the first to admit, that WiFi is very difficult to set up in most Linux distros is you don't have the right chip (A lot of Broadcom chips are a bear to set up with NDIS Wrapper, although I have done so successfully every time. It's not for the beginning user), but I think that telling someone to buy a new laptop is an even bigger turn-off. It's basically the capitalist equivalent of RTFM. Frankly, I thin
  • by ishmalius (153450) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:02AM (#20538939)
    I thought that this was going to be the thing that saved wireless on Linux. Instead of needing kernel support, along with deep knowledge and source code in order to build a loadable module, all you need to know is the wlan_ng API, and compile your driver for that. Much simpler and cleaner. And you would then need only the same API for all of your discovery tools, GUIs, etc. But except for a couple of handheld Linuxes, I haven't seen it deployed much. Anything would be easier than the cranky PCMCIA and hotplug frameworks.
  • Major Pain (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TargetBoy (322020)
    This was a major pain for me as well.

    I had read that WiFi has "solved" in the latest release of Ubuntu and have long been wireless in my home network, even for the desktop machines.

    After trying all the non-NDISWRAPPER options, I finally used that tool and was able to get WiFi up and running, but even with that, it fails to initialize properly about half the time and I have to manually restart networking.

    Combined with not having support for the latest NVIDIA drivers available through the package manager and
  • Buy Intel (Score:4, Informative)

    by kilgortrout (674919) on Monday September 10, 2007 @11:21AM (#20539231)
    That's generally the solution to the wireless problem in linux. Get a notebook with an intel based wireless card built in. And if you don't want to fool around with graphics drivers for 3d acceleration, do the same - buy a laptop with integrated intel graphics.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by osho_gg (652984)
      Mod parent up. Intel wi-fi chips drivers are open sourced and work reliably well. I have been using ipw2200 driver in my laptop for last 3 years and it has always worked well across multiple kernel versions. Osho
  • by rg3 (858575) on Monday September 10, 2007 @12:30PM (#20540365) Homepage
    My laptop came with a Broadcom 4318 chipset. The support for it is flacky and it only seems to work properly using ndiswrapper. Some days ago I decided I was going to try to buy a USB wifi device that was compatible with Linux. If possible, its drivers had to be already part of the vanilla kernel. To my surprise, those devices exist! They are the ones that have the ZyDas zd1211(b) chipset (the "b" one is better). I thought it was going to be hard to find one of those specific devices, but no. They are present in a wide range of USB wifi devices. I went to the two main malls in my country they had one of those devices each. Piece of cake. Furthermore, a USB dongle can be used in future computers very easily, and don't take power unless they're plugged in.

    http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/zd1211rw/devices [linuxwireless.org]

    You only need the device, a vanilla kernel and firmware, which can be downloaded from SourceForge.net, and it's also probably available for your distribution as an official package.

    http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=129083&package_id=187875 [sourceforge.net]
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``If possible, its drivers had to be already part of the vanilla kernel. To my surprise, those devices exist! They are the ones that have the ZyDas zd1211(b) chipset (the "b" one is better). I thought it was going to be hard to find one of those specific devices, but no.''

      Congratulations, my friend. You have reached enlightenment! Despite what some people would have you believe, Linux hardware support is actually really good. There are also plenty of vendors, even of wireless chipsets, who cooperate with th
  • package it up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darth Cider (320236) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:23PM (#20541285)
    I installed Ubuntu on a computer I found at the local landfill, thrilled that it had a wireless card until discovering that ndiswrapper would be necessary to get it online. (No ethernet card.) It took hours to find all the necessary ingredients and instructions. They're all in different places. Why can't they be in just one place, with scripts to install everything automatically? Even if there are hundreds of cards, requiring more-than-hundreds of install packages, it would save millions of hours of frustration for linux newbies.

    Ndiswrapper works very well, once it's set up. Kudos to the team for their efforts.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday September 10, 2007 @01:30PM (#20541447)
    Linux is the result of a lot of people who don't want to be slaves to somebody else's megalomaniacal vision. Linux is a concrete expression of freedom and self-direction and all the good things society can be. Sharing and openness and ingenuity, etc.

    WiFi is an expression of exactly the opposite. Microwave signals are a bad idea for a number of reasons.

    --Here's a neat item worth considering. . .

    The Neurophone, (look it up), demonstrated that one could transmit messages via electrical impulse through the skin and have those messages understood by the subconscious. When the subject being programmed is in a dissociative state, (you are in a dissociative state when you watch TV or play a video game), it was demonstrated that one could send instructions to the subconscious through the skin and thereby implant hypnotic suggestions. Subjects would follow these suggestions, believing them to be their own thoughts and ideas. They'd never heard the instructions given to them verbally. They had received them by direct electrical impulse. This isn't science fiction.

    Okay. So cellphones, when outputting a 10 htz modulated signal, can directly buzz the brain with much the same effect. What a great system for delivering instructions!

    Mind control is frighteningly easy. Heck, the Russians figured out how to beam voices directly into a person's head using EM back in the sixties.

    WiFi in my house and on all the time? Um. . , gee, no thanks. There's enough garbage signal floating around my town as it is without beaming my own personalized source through my own home 24/7.

    Now people will argue with this up and down. Fair enough. They can make their own decisions and refuse to acknowledge the information available. They don't want to be laughed at. But the cool thing is that Linux, for a number of reasons, is incompatible with this mode of social control. --You have to really really want it to microwave your head before it will comply. Now don't you think that's interesting? I sure do!

    If you refuse to follow the leader and refuse to install your very own mind-control device in your home, then, well by gum, you don't even need a tin-foil hat. Bonus!

    How sure are you that the impulses which guide you to follow self-destructive, limiting patterns at key moments of your life are really coming from within yourself?

    The Matrix has you. Have a nice day!


    -FL

    • Clarification. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fantastic Lad (198284)
      Actually. . . I was just reviewing my own post here and realized that I'd described poorly the process by which the messages-through-skin thing worked.

      The Neurophone, (look it up), demonstrated that one could transmit messages via electrical impulse through the skin and have those messages understood by the subconscious. When the subject being programmed is in a dissociative state, (you are in a dissociative state when you watch TV or play a video game), it was demonstrated that one could send instructions
  • Just use Intel (Score:2, Informative)

    by beeblebrox (16781)

    My laptop purchase algorithm automatically filters out laptops without an Intel wifi adapter (and Intel graphics, but that's another story).

    Intel has a solid track record [intellinuxwireless.org] on Linux driver development done right, going back years. They just Get It, while most others don't. My current Thinkpad with a 3945 has worked, with WPA, networkmanager et al with virtually zero problems as soon as Kubuntu was installed.

    Atheros' recent AR6K family may become an option in the not distant future, as they finally remov

    • by LionMage (318500)

      My laptop purchase algorithm automatically filters out laptops without an Intel wifi adapter (and Intel graphics, but that's another story).

      Just to pick nits, if you're "filtering out," you're typically removing something as an option. But really, you meant the opposite of this (as was clear from the subject and the remainder of your comment). You probably should use "selects," as that is what you are doing -- choosing something, not rejecting it.
  • I just bought a laptop with an Intel motherboard and built in wireless. Worked flawlessly out of the box with Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon with WPA. There's a reason Dell ships with Intel chips. I'd rather support a smaller company, but I have to balance that with my need to have a working (secure) internet connection.
  • It may seem cheesy and a copout, but my solution to these problems have been to have a USB powered external Ethernet to Wireless bridge. Just configure it to connect to a list of set access points (or connect to whatever open one is handy). Works like a charm.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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