[conspire] (forw) Re: Ubuntu help?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon May 21 20:36:17 PDT 2012

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Mon, 21 May 2012 20:35:17 -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.

Hullo again, Chaz.  I did some research on your hardware to 
identify its fundamental parts, which in the jargon are called its
'chipsets'.  (We'll describe the couple of those that create your driver
problem, but pass over many others.)  

I'll be talking a bit about hardware in general, and drivers in general,
and how they come together.

Chipsets matter because those are the actual support target for an OS's
hardware driver.  You might think you're picking a driver for 'ASUS
USB-N13', but, on a fundamental software level, you need, select, and
load a driver for Ralink RTxx70 series wireless chips.  Usually, that
additional layer of complexity is concealed from the user.

> The computer is an HP p6 2108-p, with an AMD Radeon HD6370D graphics
> card.  The USB network adapter is an ASUS USB-N13.

Let's leave the USB wireless adapter for later, and talk about the main

HP Pavilion p6-2108p:  Uses a rebranded AMD A55 (aka Hudson D2)
motherboard.  In the past, we talked about motherboard design in terms
of the northbridge chip and the southbridge chip:  Those were the high-
and low-speed 'buses' of the motherboard, respectively.  The nortbridge
was where the CPU, video chip, and RAM connected.  Everything else, the
slower ports (USB, sound, PS/2, firewire, Bluetooth, hard drive adapter,
etc.) connected to the southbridge chip.  

The AMD A55, however, takes integration a step further and merges all
northbridge and southbridge functions into a single highly integrated
chip, thus creating what they call a 'Fusion controller hub' bus.  AMD's
A55 motherboard hit the market around Autumn 2011.  Which, in driver
terms, is very recently -- and is the source of some of your troubles.

Basically:  Once a new chipset emerges, Linux driver coders start the
process of crafting support for it, either with or without help from the
hardware manufacturer (which differs widely depending on the
manufacturer, some being indifferent or hostile to open source).  Then,
that driver enters standard code (Linux kernel and where appropriate the
X.org video drivers), then that standard code percolates out to new
releases of Linux distributions.  So, very new chipsets are often a

AMD's marketing department refer to the sum of the montherboard's CPU
and video chip as a 'APU = Accelerated Processor Unit', because (I
_believe_) there actually is no longer a separate video card, that
function being provided by a single chip that combines CPU (or maybe
just close-linked CPU support -- not sure), graphics, memory controller,
expansion-card management (PCIe), memory access, and video
accelleration.  Yours is of a mid-2011 vintage called 'AMD Llano', aimed
at desktop computing.  More at:  

The CPU itself is a 2.4 GB AMD Dual Core E2-3200, plugged into a socket
type called 'FM1'.  Video functions are 'AMD Radeon HD 6370D'.  That
video circuitry uses shared memory, i.e., has no dedicated video RAM and
instead uses RAM from main memory and access it across the APU bus.
D-Sub + DVI video output.

RAM:  Two slots, each capable of accepting PC3-10600 DDR3 240-pin SDRAM
sticks of 2GB or 4GB each.  (Non-HP sources suggest they'll _also_
decode up to 16GB sticks.)

Ethernet:  gigabit.  Possibly Atheros chip?  Possibly Realtek RTL8111E chip?

Sound chip:  Possibly a VIA chip? 4-channel HD audio.  3 audio ports.

USB 2.0:  Provided by the AMD A55's Fusion controller hub.

Basic Linux support:

AMD Fusion controller hub support in the Linux kernel showed up starting
with release 2.6.38 on March 14, 2011.  

Video support:  Video support requires both a small kernel driver and an
X.org video driver.  

  (a) Open source:  The open source 'ati' / 'radeon' driver in the X.org
  collection supported AMD Llano APUs (such as AMD Radeon HD 6370D) 
  starting with xf86-video-ati driver versions 6.14.3 that was included
  with X.org release 1.11.4 in November 2011.  (Note:  Ubuntu 12.04
  Precise Pangolin does provide X.org release 1.11.4.)

  However, I get the vibes from a lot of Web-searching that the
  ati/radeon driver does not really support the AMD Radeon HD 6370D.

  (b) Proprietary:  ATI Catalyst aka fglrx (proprietary, binary-only) 
  display drivers support AMD Radeon HD6370D, and doubtless did so first.  
  Catalyst / fglrx proprietary drivers are not shipped by default with
  Linux distributions, for a number of reasons, probably including lack
  of permission.  If you have no better choice, you have to retrofit 
  them after OS installation.

  Follow these instructions:

USB wireless card:  As I mentioned, your ASUS USB-N13 device is based on
a Ralink RTxx70-series chip.  The Linux driver for that chip series that
is provided by / within the mainline Linux kernel is called 'rt2870sta'.  
('STA' is a suffix designating 'station' as opposed to AP = access point.)

The driver I mention supports the entire RT2800U[D] and RT3000U[D]
series of USB 802.11 draft-n wireless chips.  You may come across 
references to an older driver called rt3070 or rt3070sta:  That is
obsolete and was merged into rt2870sta.

There is also a separate and even newer driver called rt2800usb that
definitely supports your card:  http://wiki.debian.org/rt2800usb

At the command line (terminal window, try:

sudo modprobe -v rt2800usb

The above attempts to load the rt2800usb driver into the currently
running kernel and then quizzes the system wireless interface
configuration utility (iwconfig) to see what interfaces exist.
A successful result would look like this:

$ iwconfig
lo        no wireless extensions.

eth1      no wireless extensions.

wlan0     RTxx70 Wireless  ESSID:"11n-AP"  Nickname:"RT3070STA"
          Mode:Auto  Frequency=2.462 GHz  Access Point: Not-Associated
          Bit Rate:1 Mb/s
          RTS thr:off   Fragment thr:off
          Link Quality=10/100  Signal level:0 dBm  Noise level:-104 dBm
          Rx invalid nwid:0  Rx invalid crypt:0  Rx invalid frag:0
          Tx excessive retries:0  Invalid misc:0   Missed beaconrt2870

If that doesn't work, try the other (rt2870sta) driver:

sudo modprobe -v rt2870sta

Again, see whether a wireless interface shows up.

If one of those works (and I'm pretty sure one will), add its name to 
system configuration textfile /etc/modules, like this:

sudo gedit /etc/modules

The 'gedit' editor will open up to let you edit /etc/modules.  Add 
a new line down at the bottom containing just the name of the driver.
Save and exit.  Now, the driver will be automatically loaded whenever
you reboot.

I hope that helps.

Cheers,                         Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio
Rick Moen                       Is like being nowhere at all.
rick at linuxmafia.com             All through the day as the hours rush by
youtube.com/watch?v=86FRyKBVTsw You sit in the park and you watch the grass die.

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