[sf-lug] wifi on linux (notably laptops)

jim jim at well.com
Thu Feb 4 08:19:02 PST 2010

hi, robert, 
   thanks for the note. nope: the tools that i know 
of on ubuntu 9.04 seem not to let either me or 
others who are more technically savvy than i get 
this particular broadcom 43xx chipset to work, with 
the notable exception of alan, who got it working 
until the owner later rebooted. 
   but my question is more general: as i witness 
others cracking against this same box (and others), 
i've noticed that they have different mental models, 
some of which are better than mine. it's my mental 
model that i want to improve. 
   think of the problem as "if network manager does 
not seem to work, what tools do you turn to?" 

   using the wifi problem as an example, what are the 
tools and files to use to diagnose problems of 
installation and configuration? yes, i've looked and 
looked in various documentation and found a lot but 
nothing that relates everything needed to solve 
software control of hardware in a general way. 
   below is my attempt to list what's needed. i'd 
bet the list is incomplete. 

here's the stack expressed generally: 
tcp/ip in the kernel 
device driver 

command line and/or gui tools: 
network manager (this seems useless at times) 
ifup and ifdown 

files and directories: 
/lib/firmware/ <kernel_version>/*.{bin,fw,ucode} 

i keep thinking it would be nice to look up some 
hardware and find the files needed to be in each 
directory along with tools to use to diagnose 
successful installation and configuration. i haven't 
found such. 

On Wed, 2010-02-03 at 19:17 -0800, Robert Fletcher wrote:
> Hey there Jim,
> I've run into some laptop wifi problems in the past with Ubuntu, but I
> find that the more recent versions support it pretty well without too
> much mucking about.  I'm running a Dell XPS M1710.  On my laptop as
> well as others running more recent versions (9.04, 9.10) I've had luck
> by first plugging into a wired connection, running a 'sudo apt-get
> update && sudo apt-get upgrade' and then checking out the restricted
> drivers under System->Administration.  I think you can probably get
> the necessary drivers off of the CD as well.
> Hope that helps,
> Rob
> On Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 6:58 PM, jim <jim at well.com> wrote:
>           my ignorance is getting in the way.
>           i'm sure there's some kind of ladder or hierarchy
>         that, once understood with terminology nailed down,
>         could help make sense out of diagnosing not only how
>         come the <BADWORD> wifi isn't working but other things
>         as well.
>           the specific problem is to get wifi working on a
>         dell inspiron 1545 that's got a broadcom 43xx chipset
>         and on which we've installed ubuntu 9.04.
>           i'm looking for a general mental model that uses
>         standard terminology for the pieces that play togethers.
>         my current impression is the cast of characters includes:
>         network manager (ubuntu)
>         /etc/modprobe.d/
>         ifup
>         iwconfig
>         iwlist
>         wlan0
>         lspci
>         lsusb
>         lsmod
>         dmesg
>         wep and wap
>         tcp/ip
>         firmware
>         ndiswrapper, drivers
>         realtek, atheros, intel, <BADWORD> broadcom
>         * up at the top are the applications such as browsers
>         and email clients.
>         * beneath the apps is the TCP/IP stack.
>         * below that there's some other stuff
>         * then there's firmware and drivers ("kernel modules")
>         * down at the bottom is the chipset.
>         recently found links:
>         http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/b43
>         http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1266620&page=8
>         someone claimed that post 79 had info to get the wifi working,
>         and it did until the guy who achieved the success left and the
>         laptop owner rebooted.
>         http://www.linuxhomenetworking.com/wiki/index.php/Quick_HOWTO_:_Ch13_:_Linux_Wireless_Networking
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