[sf-lug] last night's meeting: getting wifi to work on a laptop

jim jim at well.com
Tue Nov 17 09:10:56 PST 2009

   at last night's sf-lug meeting at the cafe 
enchante, someone (who's name i didn't catch) 
showed up with an HP laptop running a late 
model fedora OS with what seems to be the 
standard problem that wifi didn't work. we 
booted it up with an ubuntu 9.10 "live" cd 
and what do you know--wifi worked! 

   we didn't have time to explore further, so 
i'd like to summarize a couple of points. boot 
up with a "live" cd, and if that does enable 
the wifi, try to: 

* figure out the chip set that implements the 
wifi. a good way to do this is to look at the 
/var/log/dmesg file or to run the command 
$ dmesg | less 
   the dmesg command presents the information 
that's in the /var/log/dmesg file along with 
some additional information gathered during 
   i recommend looking at the /var/log/dmesg 
$ less /var/log/dmesg 
for the reason that the less program lets you 
move up and down in the file, while piping 
to less lets you move forward only. the info 
about the wifi chips is in the file (if it's 
there at all), near the end of the file (the 
/var/log/dmesg file reflects what the system 
components are in the order that they're 
discovered at boot time). the three most common 
chipsets are broadcom, atheros, and intel. you 
can use the grep command to search for each 
$ grep -i Broad /var/log/dmesg 
$ grep -i Intel /var/log/dmesg 
$ grep -i Ather /var/log/dmesg 

* discover the driver that's needed for the 
wifi chipset. 
   use the lsmod command and look through its 
output for anything having to do with wifi: 
$ lsmod | less 
   use the ls command to inspect the firmware 
for the system: 
$ ls /lib/firmware/$(uname -r) 
   and look for names that seem to match the 
wifi chipset name. 

   probably a good idea to use the internet to 
verify that your system actually does use the 
wifi chipset and driver you believe you've 
identified along with any info about the distro 
you're using and the correct package to get (and 
see if there are any problems others have had 
and solved). 
   (recall this is for people who can't seem to 
get wifi working and use a "live" cd that does 
get wifi working--use the above commands while
the "live" cd is still running.) 

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