[conspire] Fedora 12 wireless hell

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Apr 21 21:54:06 PDT 2010

[I'm choosing to respond to CABAL's mailing list, but not simultaneously
to SVLUG's, for this reply.]

Quoting Ehud Kaldor (ehud.kaldor at gmail.com):

> SVLUG <svlug at lists.svlug.org>, conspire at linuxmafia.com

Gee, I do wish people wouldn't crosspost across multiple mailing lists.

Among other things, you will tend to cause problems for the listadmin of
each mailing list you include in your crosspost.  (I could detail those,
but maybe you'll take my word for that.)  It's not just that I'm vaguely
in favour of being nice to listadmins, but, in this specific case, the
two specific listadmins affected are going to be Rick Moen and Rick Moen.

> I am stuck on a big change in my life. After a couple of happy years
> with Ubuntu, I decided to hop distro and try Fedora with my new laptop
> (Dell latitude E6400). Everything seems to be solvable (as there is no
> Linux in PnP) except for the wireless. After it not being there after
> the initial and appearing after the first 450 updates in yum, I cannot
> get it to find a network. Sometimes it sees them and fails to connect
> but mostly the Network-Manager list is empty.
> Lspci claims it is a Dell 1370 hiding a Broadcom 4312 [xxxx:4315].

What a bummer, eh?  

One of the drawbacks of using big-name OEMs like Dell is that their
general attitude is that you shouldn't need or want information on the
specific chipsets, because Dell Is Your Friend[tm].  So, it's often a
bit challenging to determine which chipsets are in a particular model,
and the OEM also sometimes changes those chipsets without changing its
model number.

Anyway, time to research the Dell Latitude E6400.  I find:

That page claims that the E6400 comes with one of these four.  (That is
another thing the big-name OEMs do:  You'll often get whichever miniPCI
form factor wireless card they could get cheapest that week, and it's a
bit unpredictable which one you'll get.)

 Dell Wireless 1397,
 Dell Wireless 1510, 
 Intel WiFi Link 5100, 
 Intel WiFi Link 5300

Could be incomplete or out of date, though.  

Just a thought:  Since this thing's going to be a miniPCI card, very
likely you can just pop open an access door on your laptop and verify
for yourself, by visual inspection, (1) what model of wireless card it
is and (2) what model of wireless chip it's based on.

lspci is a pretty darned good judge of such things, so I'd put a lot of
credence in its claim that it's a Dell 1370 miniPCI card using a
Broadcom 4312 chip.  However, no harm in looking up "Dell 1370 chipset"
using a search engine.  This page claims the Dell 1370 uses "the dreaded
Broadcom 4318 chipset, which seems to stand out among Broadcom wireless
cards as particularly quarrelsome":

(By the way, it might be that there's negligible difference between
Broadcom's 4312 and 4318 chips.  Seems likely enough.  And this page
refers to them as bcm43xx chips, supporting that notion:
http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/software-os/f/3525/p/18460596/18592325.aspx )

The ubuntuforums page goes on to give slightly but not severely
Ubuntu-centric advice on installing ndiswrapper, finding a compatible
MS-Windows wireless driver EXE archive, extracting the Windows drivers,
and configuring ndiswrapper to use them.  

Despite being worded in terms of Ubuntu, it seems a valuable page in
that it describes all the little fiddly bits that would otherwise give
you pain.

Here's something you'll need to know:  Like an increasing number of
manufacturers, Broadcom doesn't furnish functional firmware _as ROMs_
for cards based on its chips.  Instead, that firmware is furnished as
firmware _files_ that the OS needs to lob into the RAM related to the
adapter in order to initialise the thing.  You know, "BLOBs", Binary
Large OBjects.  I'm _extremely_ sure that Fedora does not include that
BLOB / firmware file in the Fedora 12 media, because that file is
proprietary.  All you need to know is here, and it even talks about


Morever, that page talks extensively about the preferred open source
driver for BCM43xx chips, which driver is called b43.  Check your system
to see if Fedora includes that driver.

And, you know what?  I'm betting that your sole problem is not having
that firmware image, so you may now be in luck.

> Did anyone have any good advice, or am I doomed to be distro-bound? Help...

If the above doesn't help, then -- seriously -- bag it.  That is, I'd
say lose the Dell 1370 miniPCI card (i.e., unplug it), and put in
something decent that's not based on a Broadcom or Marvell chip.  It's
not like they cost a lot, and they just plug right in.

I'm not saying Broadcom is uniquely bad at dealing with the open source
community among chip makers, but it is definitely at least _among_ the
worst of an unreliable lot.  I consider "Broadcom" to be something of a
swear word.

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