Wednesday, August 23, 2006

wireless is easy?

Just received a used Dell laptop as my official work laptop since I was too impatient to wait my turn to get a new one.  The official specs are Dell Latitude D610 with a high resolution (1400x1050) screen and built-in wireless.  There are a few issues running the latest version of Ubuntu (LTS) on it.  First of all, the display does not work at full resolution for the built-in monitor, or for my external monitor at work.  The best I can do at the moment is 1280x1024.  The second issue is the wireless card does not work out-of-the-box.  Since a network connection is far more important than fixing fuzzy fonts, I set out to get wireless working first.  Here is what I found...

Step 1:

Determine what kind of wireless device you have built into your sytem.  The easiest way to do this is look at the output of the command "lspci" and search for something wireless-ish.  On my system, I have the following line:

0000:03:03.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4318 [AirForce One 54g] 802.11g Wireless LAN Controller (rev 02)

Step 2:

Search google for detailed instructions from someone else who has already got this device working :)

A simple search directed me to this HOWTO with some very useful information:

Step 3:

It appears that the Broadcom chip is already supported in the latest linux kernel provided by Ubuntu.  However, the firmware is proprietary and cant be distributed.  Therefore, you have to install a package called "bcm43xx-fwcutter" and manually download the firmware.  Once you do that, simply run the extraction tool:

sudo bcm43xx-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware <downloaded file>

and reboot.  Suddenly your wireless card is automatically working :)

Step 4:

Get a nice network connection tool like NetworkManager installed so that you can automagically switch between wireless and wired connections when appropriate.

sudo apt-get install network-manager-gnome

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