[conspire] (forw) Re: Ubuntu help?
rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri May 18 16:35:18 PDT 2012
----- Forwarded message from chaz at chazbrenchley.co.uk -----
Date: Fri, 18 May 2012 23:59:09 +0100
From: chaz at chazbrenchley.co.uk
To: rick at linuxmafia.com
Subject: Ubuntu help?
In a ballpark sort of way, how much would it cost to have you come
round here and make Ubuntu work on my computer? (Assuming you were up
for that kind of low-level work.)
(This irritates the hell out of me, because I've been using Linux
almost exclusively - first Suse and now Ubuntu - for twelve years or
more, but they made it that bit too easy, so I never really learned my
way around the command line, and now that I need it I just don't have
So, the position is that I bought a cheap HP box, on the assumption
that there'd be nothing in there too new - but it has an ATI video
card, which seems to make every distro trip up. A standard boot from a
Live CD just produces a black screen; if I boot with "nomodeset" in
the boot command I get a basic screen - the VESA driver, I think -
which looks awful. I know I ought to be able to download fglrx or
alternatives - but that's the second half of the problem, that I can't
get internet access. I stupidly assumed that all PCs these days would
have a wireless card. Not so. So I bought a USB plug-in, and Ubuntu
12.04 recognised it out of the box, and found the network - and won't
connect. Keeps asking for the password, which I supply (correctly),
and it dithers for a couple of minutes and asks again. Other people
have had this, and the internet suggests various remedies, which I
cannot make to work. Sob.
So: is this the sort of problem with which you are willing to engage?
And if so, roughly, what's the going rate? I feel like I've failed
Geek 101, which really distresses me, but...
PS - see you at BayCon, I hope?
----- End forwarded message -----
----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----
Date: Fri, 18 May 2012 16:27:40 -0700
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: chaz at chazbrenchley.co.uk
Subject: Re: Ubuntu help?
Organization: If you lived here, you'd be $HOME already.
Quoting chaz at chazbrenchley.co.uk (chaz at chazbrenchley.co.uk):
> Rick -
> In a ballpark sort of way, how much would it cost to have you come
> round here and make Ubuntu work on my computer? (Assuming you were
> up for that kind of low-level work.)
I'm really sorry, but I just don't have the available time, Chaz.
I'm a professional system administrator who's on a 24x7 on-call
commitment most of the time.
A group of friends and I do help people solve Linux problems on 2nd and
4th Saturdays at my wife's and my house in Menlo Park (near Stanford
U.). It's a group that for in-joke reasons is called CABAL. Please
> So, the position is that I bought a cheap HP box, on the assumption
> that there'd be nothing in there too new - but it has an ATI video
> card, which seems to make every distro trip up.
Ja, unfortunately the most ominous adjectives encountered in hardware
intended for Linux use are 'new' and 'inexpensive'. The latter is
perhaps surprising, but the manufacturers of some of the very cheap
components tend to be irrationally zealous in protecting the secrecy of
their hardware designs, which delays open-source coders in figuring out
how to make well-functioning drivers.
> So I bought a USB plug-in, and Ubuntu 12.04 recognised it out of the
> box, and found the network - and won't connect.
So, along the lines of the above, I see two possible sources of
1. USB is less a standard than a cheap bus over which standards might
be invented on the fly. Each separate USB device thus tends to pose
unique and new driver issues.
Thus, if I wanted to add wireless to a cheap HP _desktop_ box, I would
have eschewed USB and found a suitable wireless card on PCI form factor.
However, USB is not in general _that_ problematic, just a bit cheesy and
problem-plagued. More than likely, your problem is:
2. Many designers of wireless chips, especially the cut-rate cheap
ones (**cough** Broadcom **cough**) are irrationally zealous in
protecting the secrecy of their hardware designs, fail to cooperate with
the open source community, _and_ tend to make key functionality
(especially hardware initialisation at power-up time) depend on
binary-only 'firmware' files that they then completely fail to permit
the open-source community to redistribute. Since the open-source
community is diligent about avoiding copyright violation, they cannot
lawfully (and do not) include those 'firmware' files in Linux
Hence, workarounds are required to pull down those 'firmware' files off
the Internet and install them with the necessary file names under
/lib/firmware, whence the starting Linux kernel finds them and loads
them into memory and uses their contents to initialise the wireless
For example, here is an Ubuntu package, b43-fwcutter, that when
installed and its main program executed reaches out across the Internet
to find a set of published MS-Windows drivers for Broadcom 43xx wireless
drivers and extracts ('cuts') from the drivers the firmware image, and
copies it to /lib/firmware .
More details and background at:
> Other people have had this, and the internet suggests various
> remedies, which I cannot make to work. Sob.
You should be aware that, with Ubuntu specifically, much of the advice
you will get on Ubuntu-specific forums is really awful. In particular,
in looking for Ubuntu-related pages about Broadcom wireless 'firmware',
my Web-searching immediately found discussions on ubuntuforums.org where
the main advice was to fetch and kludge into one's Ubuntu system the
extremely bad 100%-binary drivers from Broadcom rather than use the much
superior open-source b43 driver with the necessary 'firmware' file
fetched and put into /lib/firmware . Unfortunately, the Ubuntu
community is pervaded by questionable ideas that will make your life
harder over the long term rather than easier.
> PS - see you at BayCon, I hope?
To be sure!
I could make a point of bringing some Ubuntu and related resources with
me to the convention. If you and I have time, I may be able to help
you. This is in the large category of things that I am willing to do at
no charge given available time that I am not willing to do for a fee.
----- End forwarded message -----
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