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The OSS Solution to the Linux Wi-Fi Problem

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the wait-we-have-a-problem-with-that-now-too dept.

Wireless Networking 204

tobs writes "Matt Hartley of MadPenguin.org fame has published an open source way of solving the Linux Wi-Fi problem. He writes, "For intermediate to advanced users, who are willing to track down WiFi cards based on chipsets, live without WPA in some instances or have opted to stick with Ethernet, buying a new notebook for the sake of improved wireless connectivity may seem a little overkill. When a new user faces problems jumping through the NDISWrapper hoops, tracking down WiFi cards from HCLs and other related activities, the end result is almost always the same — they give up. What so many of us, as Linux users, fail to grasp is that projects like OpenHAL are critical to long-term development. The education on what to expect and what not to expect remains a complete load of hot air when articles claim how easy it is to setup wireless Internet on Linux machines. It's downright misleading."

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204 comments

Scientist's viewpoint (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538307)

I've been using Linux from the early days, mostly for scientific computing. For that it is great. But the problem is that linux has so many driver complications, and users tend to blame it on the companies that make the devices, and things never go anywhere as a result.

Re:Scientist's viewpoint (4, Interesting)

Walpurgiss (723989) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538419)

I remember feeling that way around when the internet was gaining traction. It was so hard to find a linux compatible modem in stores since almost everything at the time was a winmodem piece of trash that let windows control everything and had almost no on board processing. I couldn't believe how many hardware vendors wouldn't be bothered to make standalone modems, instead opting for the cheaper windows only idea. Though with my current laptop I got lucky, had an atheros chipset that was supported by madwifi. Took some tooling around to get WPA-PSK to work; but it's ok now.

Re:Scientist's viewpoint (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538905)

It's not hardware vendors, it's chipset vendors. They remove logic and offload it to a doze driver. People not using doze lose, unless they get an external unit.

Re:Scientist's viewpoint (3, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538437)

I've been using Linux from the early days, mostly for scientific computing. For that it is great. But the problem is that linux has so many driver complications, and users tend to blame it on the companies that make the devices, and things never go anywhere as a result.
Well, the only driver problems I've ever had with Linux have been with ATI cards (which is ATI's fault) and the aforementioned wireless mess, and I still don't see how this isn't the fault of the companies. But, if I'm wrong, someone please enlighten me.

No problems here (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538739)

I don't have any problems with WiFi. But then again, I use Windows.

It's kind of amazing how Linux can't even auto-detect and auto-config hardware as well as Windows 95 could. Do you guys need another decade or two to figure it out? Rather than whining about how Microsoft is oppressing you, what about doing a little bit of work on this issue? Anyone think that might help?

Re:No problems here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20539061)

You're probably just trolling, but for the record Ubuntu's hardware detection is great. On my laptop wireless, audio, accelerated graphics, mouse, media keys and screen were detected and set up totally automatically. It's a much more seamless install than any version of Windows I've installed (I haven't installed Vista). The last time I'd used any kind of GUI with Linux was more than five years ago - it's come a very long way.

In fact, I've been waiting for the moment when I have to drop down to the CLI to fix something, and it hasn't come yet. It's been a couple of months now. I have access in two clicks to a whole repository of free, useful software, and there's no (non-DRMed) file format I haven't been able to open. It's really a very good operating system.

Re:No problems here (1)

fork_daemon (1122915) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539317)

I don't have any problems with WiFi. But then again, I use Windows.

It's kind of amazing how Linux can't even auto-detect and auto-config hardware as well as Windows 95 could. Do you guys need another decade or two to figure it out? Rather than whining about how Microsoft is oppressing you, what about doing a little bit of work on this issue? Anyone think that might help?
Oh really? Can you tell me why you install all those freaking motherboard, chipset, lancard, wifi, Webcam, etc, etc Drivers on your Windows machine?

Re:No problems here (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539837)

I don't have any problems with WiFi. But then again, I use Windows.

Funnily enough, I don't have any problems with WiFi, either. I use WPA-Enterprise and Fedora 7. Works great.

Used to work under Windows XP, too. Then it decided to stop working. Damned if I can get it going again.

Fucked if I can be bothered.

Re:No problems here (1)

SirSmiley (845591) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540645)

I have a broadcom 4318 on an acer aspire 5002 and I have tried every linux distro that is currently out there (every main one anyways) and I have given up...I have Feisty installed on a partition on my laptop with grub but it hasnt been booted in months, because my xp just boots up and works and thats the way i like it...

I know my broadcom wireless sucks but if everyone has it, make some drivers for it!

Re:Scientist's viewpoint (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539037)

When companies release specs, the community writes drivers. Those drivers are included with the kernel, compiled as modules by distributions, and everything just works. When a company doesn't release specs, we can't do that. It really is the companies fault. Vote with your wallet, don't buy hardware without open source drivers.

Re:Scientist's viewpoint (0, Flamebait)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539467)

"When a company doesn't release specs, we can't do that."

Sure, you can. It's just harder. If people have time to spend on worthless hacking like making an XBox run Linux, they should have the time to do something useful like reverse engineering these WiFi chipsets.

Medion (1)

Virgil Tibbs (999791) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538343)

Since i have a Medion Mim with some proprietry medion chipset, i'm stuck with no wireless for ubuntu.. :(
the driver doesnt work with NDIS wrapper either...
of course...
that doesn't stop me using debian stable on my desktop!

Re:The all OS solution (3, Interesting)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540653)

Since i have a Medion Mim with some proprietry medion chipset, i'm stuck with no wireless for ubuntu.. :(
the driver doesnt work with NDIS wrapper either...
of course...
that doesn't stop me using debian stable on my desktop!


It's not pretty, but I found a solution which even works with old Windows 95 (for testing) and enables full WBA encryption. It works on any OS that can use the wired NIC in a machine. Are you ready...

Use an access point which is capable of Client Mode operation. I use a D-Link AP in client mode. I configure it with my browser. It requires no software install of any kind. Testing was done on the D-link AP and now a Linksys 54G router has been added to my travel pack because it cost less (lucky find, a version 4 for $12 at Goodwill).

I have been running wireless with an AP in client mode since Breezy Badger. Upgrading the firmware to DD-WRT has added the client mode. As a bonus, you get to use high gain antennas with much better range than a stock laptop provides, and the power is adjustable for use in poor signal locations. The router does the site survey for you internally, so you don't even need to know the SSID ahead of time. It is as simple as switching to either client or client bridge mode, scanning, choosing an AP, and picking the encryption and entering the key. After that it's net, nothing but net.

There are hardware solutions out there. The package may be a little big and bulky and not run on self contained batteries, but it provides excellent connections in hotels in marginal reception areas. With the external box, it can be positioned in a window where the neighbors open AP may provide better bandwidth than the hotel provides. I went to a Starbucks once not knowing the wireless wasn't free (T-mobile). I was able to find 2 unsecured APs from inside Starbucks to use instead. Nobody at Starbucks was the wiser. It beats getting busted for sitting in a car leaching on some residential street.

Weird... (5, Insightful)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538393)

It's like I RTFA, but then again I don't feel like I RTFA. Anyone else notice that? Is there some "Page 2" button I'm missing?

Re:Weird... (1)

loftwyr (36717) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539011)

Nope, it's just a perfect example of writing a short article with a sufficient level of buzzwords to get Google traffic. The article offers nothing except a byline and truisms.

The question is, did the /. editor RTFA before he posted it?

Mod parent up. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539067)

That's right. I was expecting to read about how somebody solved the problem. But they're just blithering about it. No useful content here, move along.

Re:Weird... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20539115)

Absolutely! This article was like a wisp of stinky fumes that came and went before the senses could register what the smell actually was! However, here's my take on what it might of been about? Yes, it's true that Linux is still a step child when it comes to products mass marketed to technology junkies such as us( Please tell us something we didn't know already). Anyways, the problems with Linux goes deeper than just a single attribute such as WiFi. I spent my weekend trying to get MRTG or Cacti functioning to avail and alas here is Monday. Honestly, I think my problem might lay with my MySql program since it's giving access problems. To stay on track though with my point; Linux is still HARD to configure. I think manufacturers would like to market their products and have them work immediately. That's why most go down the Windows route.

Re:Weird... (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539857)

Linux is based around the attitude "Deny everything that is not specifically allowed". This makes it hard to configure, because you have to configure it properly -- or else it won't work.

Windows is based around the attitude "Allow everything that is not specifically denied". This lets you misconfigure it outrageously and still have it work -- until someone else gets in and messes with it.

Re:Weird... (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539153)

I think that I too spent longer looking for the "next page" link than I spent reading the article (if it can be called that).
Now I must rest my mind.

Atheros (5, Informative)

Brian Lewis (1011579) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538399)

After spending hours on breaking and re-breaking wifi on my laptop, I went out and bought a $20 wifi card with an Atheros chipset. It has worked flawlessly sense, without having to jump through the ndiswrapper hoops.

And any time someone new the *nix asks me about wireless, and why it isn't working, I always insist they spend the $20 on the Atheros chipset, as, again, it is damn near flawless.

Re:Atheros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538799)

If you follow your rule for 3 peripherals, then you might as well just get XP or Vista and then you don't get "damn near flawless" you get "flawless" wireless :)

Seriously, this seems like wireless networking circa 1999.

Re:Atheros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20540451)

"If you follow your rule for 3 peripherals, then you might as well just get XP or Vista and then you don't get "damn near flawless" you get "flawless" wireless :)"

What if you want to put your Windows wireless device in monitor mode for finding those hidden SSIDs? Generally with these commodity Windows drivers that is a no-go. But you can with almost all OSS wireless drivers. And XP and Vista is may not even be an option for some people who refuse to support that company's lock-in agenda.

Re:Atheros (0, Troll)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538803)

"I always insist they spend the $20 on the Atheros chipset, as, again, it is damn near flawless."

So it's "free" as in "you have to buy new hardware?" Even when the built-in adapter "just works" in Windows?

Will "Go buy new hardware, n00b" be the successor to "RTFM?"

Re:Atheros (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538985)

Will "Go buy new hardware, n00b" be the successor to "RTFM?"

It's no different than buying a PC from Dell and then expecting to be able to run Mac OS X on it. If you want to run certain software, you have to buy hardware that it's compatible with.

Re:Atheros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20539459)

It's $20.

GNU/Linux Works. Windows does not. (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540615)

So it's "free" as in "you have to buy new hardware?" Even when the built-in adapter "just works" in Windows?

If "just works" means mostly does not work, yes. The fact is that Wireless is just as big or bigger a pain in the ass for Windows users and they have other larger problems too.

The easy way to deal with this problem is to bring a live CD to the store. If the laptop does not work, don't buy it. Be sure to try things like power management. Any modern distribution will use kde's new interface and the laptop should sleep and hibernate on demand. If it does work, you know the thing will work well for the life of the hardware which is more than you can say for any version of Windows.

The only time you want to go looking for wireless cards is when you get hardware second hand or at a substantial discount. Even then it's a good idea to take the laptop to the store and try out cards until one works. Makers will often swap chipsets out so the only way to really know a card works is to see it.

Re:Atheros (1)

n9uxu8 (729360) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538903)

Indeed, I keep a few D-Link DWL-530s around just for when folks come a-callin' with linux wireless issues. The card is crap in windows (crashes a lot), but works flawlessly under linux on any laptop I've ever slid it into.

Re:Atheros names/brands/sources would be nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538935)

So, which cards are these? Is there a single easy to parse page with the actual names and brands of cards that most likely will work with linux? Is there a company out there that just does that, provide linux friendly wifi stuff, so there is less hoop jumping and google wandering about?

Re:Atheros (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20539053)

Try getting an Atheros-based 802.11n card working at n-speeds.

Re:Atheros (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539401)

Well, if you have to buy new hardware, then you're quickly eating away at any potential cost savings that *nix may provide most users. When I buy PC's for my business, I don't even look at the hardware inside. It always works (I use Windows XP), so I can get away with buying $50 PC's from the thrift shop. I know the reasons are complicated, but the fact is that buying special name-brand hardware takes both time and money.

Re:The cost of hardware (1)

DFDumont (19326) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540897)

If the only factor you have in purchasing hardware for your business is the initial capital outlay ($50), then you are missing about 80% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for your IT expenses. Perhaps you are a VERY small business and your three laptops sharing a Linksys wireless gateway to the cable modem are all you need. Good for you! If your business ever grows, keep in mind things like administrative loading (the cost of the time for administrators to keep the servers and desktops running) and cost of failure (the productive time lost while all the PC's are being wiped and reloaded after a virus infestation). Hardware is cheap. People to run it cost money.

Re:Time and money. (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540977)

It always works (I use Windows XP), so I can get away with buying $50 PC's from the thrift shop. I know the reasons are complicated, but the fact is that buying special name-brand hardware takes both time and money.
--


My friend, you just hit the main reason I have an Ubuntu laptop. I had an older IBM Thinkpad. It was running Windows 2000. It got to the point when I would go to a meeting and someone wanted to give me a copy of their report or presentation, I could not read their thumbdrive. It was most often the case of Windows is serching for drivers for the new hardware. To make matters worse, there was rarely wireless internet on location. That got old fast.

Here is the situation. A hundred bucks for XP and a few hundred more for newer versions of Office so I can open the new documents and Power Point slides, and a subscription to another year of a major AV company, or load Ubuntu and just spend $30 for a compatible wireless NIC. It was a simple decision. I've never looked back. For use in meetings and such, I'm now an avid advocate for the Open Document Format. I haven't found a thumb drive needing a driver in forever. With the money saved, I bought an LCD monitor.

Re:Atheros (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540741)

And any time someone new the *nix asks me about wireless, and why it isn't working, I always insist they spend the $20 on the Atheros chipset, as, again, it is damn near flawless.

I use a D-Link AirPlus G model DWL-G630 on my laptop running Dapper Drake. It has the Atheros chipset, but it doesn't support WPA, just WEP in Ubuntu. Other than that, it works fine.

What's the REAL Solution though? (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538403)

The OSS Solution to the Linux Wi-Fi Problem
I'm confused, this article did not propose an OSS solution for the Wi-Fi problem at all. In fact, it just told me things I already know from first hand experience that I've posted about before.

What confuses me so much (and I really am ignorant in this department) is why the ethernet chipsets were seemingly conquered right off the bat? I tried my first Linux distro (debian) in 2001 and ever since then no matter what the machine, no matter what the distro, no matter how confused I was the NICs always came up ready to go when I installed Linux. I've done this on a lot of machines, from obscure to well known Dells and used most of the major distributions. They just 'worked' and it was good.

Now, wireless is here and for some reason, there must be a thousand different manufacturers with their own proprietary chipsets with completely different drivers & BIOS data on the flash memory stored in those chips because I've only had Ubuntu work once out of the box on a Linksys PCI WiFi card. Why? Why isn't that standardized? What do the companies gain from that? Is it because of the ever changing standards that the chips are so wacky? Is it because the A, B, G, N, etc. protocols? I don't understand this because I've never coded drivers.

I understand what MadWiFi & OpenHal are trying to do. I now know to look for "Atheros" chipsets when I buy my wireless stuff but they are often more well known brands and more expensive. A reason I switched to Linux was to save money in college, not spend more on the hardware.

Maybe a more helpful article would be detailing the real underlying issue--that these no name brands that get huge rebates at CompUSA or where ever (Hawking Technologies, generic boxes, etc.) are targeting Windows because of the number of users. How do you change their minds or show them a market for an OSS driver? Is there a way to even open up a channel of communication with them to discover how to write drivers for their chispets? How do you convince them it's worth their time/resources?

That would be a solution moving forward.

The next best thing would be to post an article about how to get started making these drivers. I'm a coder (though not the greatest one) with a little bit of free time. How do I start? How do I get access to the BIOS pages on the chipsets? What do I do with that, how does the Linux kernel use it? What books do I read that teach me how to start with a chipset I know nothing about, have no resources on the data or mechanics and then poke it, prod it until I know enough about it that I can set it up for the kernel to use it?

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (2, Interesting)

jsupreston (626100) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538683)

I don't understand why there isn't a "fallback" like we used to have on Ethernet NICs. For many years, it seemed like if you couldn't get a NIC to work, you could always use the old NE2000 drivers. You might not have all the functionality of the proprietary drivers, but it would at least get you on the network. Why can't we do the same with other hardware? Heck, we don't even have that fallback anymore with PCI NICs, so you're screwed if your setting up a machine with a NIC not recognized by the OS out of the box and you don't have drivers for it.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (5, Informative)

david.given (6740) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538831)

Now, wireless is here and for some reason, there must be a thousand different manufacturers with their own proprietary chipsets with completely different drivers & BIOS data on the flash memory stored in those chips because I've only had Ubuntu work once out of the box on a Linksys PCI WiFi card. Why? Why isn't that standardized? What do the companies gain from that? Is it because of the ever changing standards that the chips are so wacky? Is it because the A, B, G, N, etc. protocols? I don't understand this because I've never coded drivers.

Because wireless hardware is really complicated.

Typically a wireless card is a microcontroller with ROM, RAM, and a CPU --- usually an ARM. One end is plugged into the radio, of which there are a zillion different varieties. The other end is plugged into your computer.

Some wireless cards don't have their software on ROM --- which means that in order to make it work, the first thing you have to do is to upload the software from your PC. This is the infamous 'binary blob' problem. That software is highly proprietry and really, really hard to write. So far (although I could be wrong) there are no open source firmware replacements.

Even once you have the card programmed and running, you still need to talk to it. This usually involves a driver that needs to know how to talk to the wireless card's host hardware (the bit between the microcontroller and your computer), the firmware itself (which may have different command sets for different versions of the firmware), and sometimes you even need to know implementation details of the radio chipset. That's a lot of information you need access to, and it all interacts in rather horrible ways. (Also, FCC regulations may mean that the vendors aren't allowed to give you information that could be used to, say, make the card operate on unauthorised frequencies...)

It also doesn't help that the Linux wireless layer isn't terribly well designed: the abstraction layers are in the wrong place, which means that in order to write a driver you have to duplicate a lot of code. That's one reason why the BSD operating systems typically have better wireless support. Their driver framework makes it a lot easier to write wireless drivers.

The good cards usually have well-designed firmware on ROM with a sufficiently abstract interface that implementation details aren't exposed. They're easy to support, because the vendor can change the implementation without having to change the driver. The bad cards have firmware that's loaded at run time that exposes lots of implementation details that the vendor can't tell you about because the third party whose radio chipset they're using made them sign an NDA. (Or just because they don't want to. Broadcom fits this category.) They require lots of unpleasant reverse engineering.

So, in short, wireless drivers are hard because wireless cards are really complicated.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (4, Insightful)

grahamm (8844) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539001)

Typically a wireless card is a microcontroller with ROM, RAM, and a CPU --- usually an ARM.
As wireless cards are intelligent with their own processor it should have been relatively simple for a high level API to have been defined (in a similar way to VESA for display cards) by which all wireless cards communicate with the host computer.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (2, Insightful)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540629)

You would think so, no? Why not use TCP/IP?

Frankly, its a shame that you can't get the equivalent of a PCI (or PCI-X) "wireless bridge". I would love a DD-WRT box that went into my system, and managed all aspects of my networking for me, addressable via some kind of internal IP address scheme.

This would give you all sorts of cool abilities; control it via your browser or any sort of "internal" application (something like Apple's airport stuff).

Hell, even given basic engineering skills this wouldn't take more than 3-4 chips, one for the "ethernet" card, one for the "bridge", one for RAM, and maybe one for ROM, if you didn't network "boot" the bridge.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (0)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539111)

I have an 802.11b PCI card from Linksys. Guess what driver it uses? Yup, the good old Linksys ethernet driver. Apparently they figured out how to build one of these "really complicated" devices that presented the same interface to the OS as their ethernet cards.

That said, I stick to Intel wireless now in laptops. Intel has opened the source for its drivers, and they're well-supported in Fedora and Ubuntu.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (1)

nategoose (1004564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539511)

How do you configure/control the parameters that aren't common with wired ethernet? Wireless is a superset of wired, so while I don't doubt that it can work, I do wonder how some of the parameters are getting set.

No, they're hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20539571)

because they use the host CPU to do a lot of the work, requiring that the *driver* do "intelligent stuff". And, because they don't know jack shit about the value of what they are doing, they refuse to give away their "valueable IP" by opening up the driver. Probably in some cases because the only difference between their vanilla card and their top-of-the-line card is that the driver exposes more functionality.

Oh, and for MBCook, I could download the japanese driver and violate US FCC rules. I could use the US driver and travel to the EU and break EU regulations. Somehow, this doesn't seem to be getting the wireless manufacturers into trouble. That line is a load of shite.

"Slashdot requires you to wait between each successful posting of a comment to allow everyone a fair chance at posting a comment.

It's been 21 minutes since you last successfully posted a comment"

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (1)

nategoose (1004564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539743)

Also whenever radio comes into play things get a lot harder to figure out. It's black magic to programmers. With ethernet there's the ability to easily capture what's on the wire so you can debug. With wireless with encryption with interference from your neighbors' wireless ethernet... It gets very difficult. Many of the ethernet drivers for Linux were from the days when DOS and Windows people didn't have networks, but Unix and Windows NT people did.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (1)

DaveCar (189300) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540703)

Some wireless cards don't have their software on ROM --- which means that in order to make it work, the first thing you have to do is to upload the software from your PC. This is the infamous 'binary blob' problem. That software is highly proprietry and really, really hard to write. So far (although I could be wrong) there are no open source firmware replacements.

Hmm, surely the "infamous 'binary blob'" problems is where you are running a binary blob on your computer's CPU (like nVidia drivers, or HAL). This is just a firmware upload. If your card had a ROM on it then it would be just be running a 'binary blob' that you wouldn't ever see - almost every card will have some sort of firmware on it.

The good thing about uploadable firmware is that you can upgrade the firmware on your card with a reboot/module reload and not have to reflash, or replace a chip.

The (possibly) bad thing about uploadable firmware is getting the firmware image in the first place - is it freely redistributable? Can it be gotten off the driver CD/driver download without a copy Windows?

Firmware is just firmware - it runs on a different CPU and only has access to the device. Binary blobs run in your kernel space and could (potentially) mess with anything on your system.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538835)

There are a couple of reasons. First, there is a history behind ethernet. The specs were at times more open on chips. There were standards that people would adhere to (like the NE1000, if I remember the name right). On top of that, there is the fact there is nothing harmful in an ethernet card. Worst case: you pollute the network.

With WiFi cards, many of them are basically software defined radios. On top of that, there are 11 channels of which only some are legally usable in each country. So if you exposed all the specs on a card it could be used to violate FCC law. There is no possible way I can think of a normal ethernet card could be configured to do that.

Now there are some other bits. Ethernet has it's history in DOS and such. By the time WiFi came around we had Windows and everything had easy drivers and being reverse compatible with other, older cards wasn't a problem. Combine that with the general trend to make hardware more closed off and you end up with today's situation.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539141)


What confuses me so much (and I really am ignorant in this department) is why the ethernet chipsets were seemingly conquered right off the bat?

Heh. I suppose it might look that way from the perspective of someone starting at Linux from 2001. As I remember it, getting ethernet support was a very similar battle, and I started with linux in 1994. There certainly was some reverse engineering that had to take place back then. Until only the last 5 years I've been surprised when ethernet "just works". I suspect as ethernet became a commodity, chipset makers were more willing to release specs to linux developers.

The added wrinkle with Wi-Fi support is being able to control the radio via software, and thus being able to broadcast outside the allowed frequency bands. If I understand correctly, that problem is solved by implementing that portion of code in the firmware, but many wi-fi chipsets have eliminated flash memory to reduce costs, so the firmware has to be loaded via software (and is thus part of the driver). I don't know if that's an added licensing problem, (distributing copyrighted firmware), but I can see how this adds to the problem.

Re:What's the REAL Solution though? (1)

TargetBoy (322020) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539349)

It seems like what is needed is a WiFi probe that checks to see if the card is known & supported or if firmware is required and then provide a standard way of telling the user that they need to install drivers and pulling them off the manufacturer's CD. All the card makers would then have to do is to create a Linux directory on the CD where the driver, firmware, and INF file was located, files that are installed on the PC anyways.

broadcom (1)

deftcoder (1090261) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538405)

I'd be happy to see full Broadcom card support... I realize that Broadcom chipsets are shitty, but the overwhelming majority of systems I see are using them.

I actually bought an Atheros-based PCI-E wifi card for my laptop, because I knew I'd never get the Broadcom one working properly in Linux. Madwifi seems to work well enough, though.

broadcom should die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538849)

Seriously, they make most of their business with Linux (about 99% of the wireless access points out there are linux based and have a broadcom chipset), but they only ship binary drivers for their embedded platform.
It's the worst kind of company, since they don't support Linux but only suck the blood out of it.
Sometimes they also strip the copyright notice from the software they ship in their reference design (like, in my router there's an acme.com http server with no acknowledgment of the authorship)

Re:broadcom (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538997)

I actually bought an Atheros-based PCI-E wifi card for my laptop, because I knew I'd never get the Broadcom one working properly in Linux.

I've been using Sabayon 3.4 on a Compaq Presario V6000 with Broadcom 4311 wlan.

It installed and worked fine out of the box, including the Broadcom wifi. If you're using Beryl, you'll need to set AIGXL to correct a display glitch, but that's a single menu setting in the Beryl manager

Re:broadcom (1)

stevenvi (779021) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539213)

The Broadcom driver (bcm43xx) is actually pretty good these days. I've only had experience with the 4311 chipset, but it works well enough for me. Both the native kernel driver and ndiswrapper work with this chipset. (ndiswrapper works better, though finding a driver compatible with it was a nightmare.)

I'm not sure what TFA is saying (1)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538407)

but it is a mess. When I upgraded from Ubuntu Dapper to Edgy my linksys 11b card stopped working. That doesn't inspire confidence. But I went out and bought an Asus card (11g this time) which said it supported linux on the side of the box. That worked with WEP, but there were still some hoops to jump through to get WPA working.

Now all laptops come with built in wifi things are even harder. I really don't want to be choosing my laptop based on what wifi chipset it uses (or having a card sticking out the side just because I can't get the internal wifi to work).

Re:I'm not sure what TFA is saying (1)

SpaceballsTheUserNam (941138) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538709)

Thats pretty much why I'm still using dapper. So far every single new release has trashed my wifi. And even with dapper I still have to replace the firmware file for my card after every single kernel upgrade, but at least with that I know what I need to do. And even when I do that, my internet is still no NEARLY as fast as it was before I upgraded to dapper, not sure why. I think its using the shitty open-source driver and wont let me use ndiswrapper anymore or something.

The Dells I've had, and some of the HP's... (1)

AmazingRuss (555076) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539469)

...allow some choice of which network card they come with, as well as allowing you to replace them fairly easily. The Dells even let you replace the video...so if you learned the hard way about ATI and linux, you can put an nvidia card in.

I agree (3, Insightful)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538493)

In fact, I am an experienced IT professional, and I have only a vague idea what you are talking about. The fact is, I do not spend my time studying the innards of Linux: I have other kinds of issues that I worry about. I am sure I could get a WiFi card working on Linux if I put my mind to it, and edit the right files, find the right drivers, and upgrade the BIOS as required, but I have no inclination to spend the many hours required to learn all those picky details - which I will then forget because I will not use them again. The fact is, if one has to do this, you can kiss Linux goodbye for the typical user. If Linux cannot be made to work with most (like 99%) built-in and third party devices (graphics, WiFi, sound, Bluetooth, etc.) out of the box or with *easily* found drivers - without having to edit files - then it is not a viable desktop for the typical home user. Further, it should be installable from Windows - without having to create an ISO disk and boot. These are far bigger issues than whether the scheduler is "fair" or whether the GUI is KDE or Gnome. Who cares if you can't get it running with an hour of point-and-click effort? It will then never be adopted by the masses, unless manufacturers decide to ship it pre-installed.

Re:I agree (2, Insightful)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539241)

I'm an experienced Linux User, and you sound like someone I know.

Editing files has nothing to do with it. Generally, Under Linux, Wifi falls in three catagories. Those that do work. Those that work with NDISwrapper, and those that don't work. Those that work with NDIS wrapper NDIS wrapper installs the drive for you. Those that work out of the box will simply work out of the box. Those that don't work will sit there and stare at you and do nothing. There is a minor special exception for the BCM 43xx, you have to install their firmware first using something called the bcm43xx-fwcutter. But most distroes automate this.

So stop Trolling.

Re:I agree (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539405)

"Those that work with NDIS wrapper NDIS wrapper installs the drive for you"

If you mean you manually point ndis at the .inf file which gives it enough info to do the rest itself yes. Other than that i'd hardly call the process automatic.

Re:I agree (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540859)

In fact, I am an experienced IT professional, and I have only a vague idea what you are talking about. The fact is, I do not spend my time studying the innards of Linux: I have other kinds of issues that I worry about.

LOL. You don't need to spend your time studying the innards of Linux any more than you would with any operating system. Just buy supported hardware. That's what "IT professionals" do, as does any reasonably informed consumer.

Granted, most hardware is designed for Windows, but then again, most hardware is crap, something of which you may be blissfully ignorant. It's not hard to see the correlation why such hardware has, under Linux and other operating systems, a level of support that ranges from barely with a lot of grief, to not at all, to not ever.

And if you think this is all too much trouble, then have a glance at, for example, HARDWARE.TXT [freebsd.org] . You don't need to be a kernel programmer to be able to jot down a few model numbers before you make that purchase. And if you take a minute to review your scribbled notes, you can come up with some general rules of your own without having to memorise things: buy Intel NICs, use Atheros-based chipsets for wireless, insist on 3Ware RAID cards, and so on. Such rules will address 99% of all hardware concerns and things will "just work." The irony, of course, is that while such hardware enjoys full support, you may still be faced with installing drivers under Windows.

The important issue here is extending the level of support for certain hardware outside of the Windows ecosystem, not the consequences of making ill-informed purchasing decisions or addressing the wildly inaccurate assumptions a typical consumer can make. Hell, if people spent a fraction of time they spent reading the label on a box breakfast cereal on deciding on a piece of computer equipment, then we wouldn't be having these distracting discussions.

That's the beauty of open source. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538503)

If something doesn't work, just look at the source code and correct the problem.

Re:That's the beauty of open source. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538735)

Yeah,
I just dust off my C books from my freshman year of college, open up the wireless.c file on my linux box, uncomment the wireless == "enabled" line, and recompile. I mean, it's like totally that easy, and totally acceptable for end users to have to rewrite basic networking functionality.

Take the time to buy the right hardware... (5, Insightful)

Kludge (13653) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538525)

a complete load of hot air when articles claim how easy it is to setup wireless Internet on Linux machines


I just installed Fedora 7, and I am managing multiple wireless networks with NetworkManager, no configuration at all. Zilch.

Of course, I have a 5 year old Dell. People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work. No. You have to be selective. That's why my 3D desktop runs on Intel video.

Buy companies that support open source from the beginning, dammit, or other companies will never see the use of providing drivers or specs PERIOD.

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538823)

Of course, I have a 5 year old Dell ... That's why my 3D desktop runs on Intel video.

5 year old intel video? for 3D? *cringe*

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (1)

dk.r*nger (460754) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539855)

5 year old intel video? for 3D? *cringe*
Don't worry, he's not talking about Vista.

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538875)

"People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work."

The horror!

"Buy companies that support open source from the beginning"

I want an operating system, not a political movement.

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (3, Insightful)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539027)

I want an operating system, not a political movement.

then support that operating system by buying hardware that it is allowed to interact with by the vendor. activism is also sometimes pragmatic you know.

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (3, Informative)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539185)

I want an operating system, not a political movement.

Richard Stallman didn't want a political movement either. He wanted to work around a flaky printer [faifzilla.org] . Unfortunately, reality can be such that a political movement is necessary in order to obtain the things that many of us think should be able to be taken for granted.

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (1)

dslauson (914147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539149)

"People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work. No. You have to be selective."
Of course, you are right, but that's the problem here. Having Linux increase market share on the desktop means reaching the people who don't know jack about hardware (or software, or computers in general outside the realm of word processing and web surfing). Most of these people would have no clue know where to start trying to determine a particular piece of hardware's Linux compatibility. That's just not going to happen. Sorry.

Also, pretend I'm a Windows user thinking about switching to Linux. What's my first step? It's certainly not going to be to run out and buy compliant hardware. I'm going to try it out on the hardware I already own. If it doesn't work right away with minimal effort, I'll probably end up back on Windows, because that's what I know, it it already works.

This attitude of saying "Linux is easy. Anybody can do it." with one side of your mouth, and then with the other side of your mouth proclaiming that everybody should properly research their hardware purchases in order to make Linux work is not going to further the cause.

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (1)

MPAB (1074440) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539621)

If Linux gets mainstream enough (and by this I mean Ubuntu), and the average user becomes n00b enough, I'm envisioning the next gen of trojans:

(via spam, IRC, fake forums or even Google bombing): "Want to have your Wifi/modem/video/watchamacallit fully functional under linux? Just download our DRIVER SET COMPLETELY FREE. Once downloaded, type sudo install and enter your password ..."

Prior art, boys. (I hope).

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (1)

Neo_piper (798916) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540733)

Also, pretend I'm a Windows user thinking about switching to Linux. What's my first step? It's certainly not going to be to run out and buy compliant hardware. I'm going to try it out on the hardware I already own. If it doesn't work right away with minimal effort, I'll probably end up back on Windows, because that's what I know, it it already works.
Provided that the hardware they already own is several (2-3) years old the chances of their hardware working right away with minimal effort increase exponentially.

It's the folks with brand new HD Video capture cards that want to stream live video wirelessly over an 11n ad-hock network to their palmtop who START the bitch sessions that then end up with everyone and their cousin complaining about their off brand wireless card or $5.00 "sweat shop" brand bluetooth dongles not having supported drivers.
So in the end if you don't buy bleeding edge hardware, proprietary crap, or junk from a company in china that counts the lead paint on the box as RF shielding, you can reasonably expect your stuff to work with minimal fuss, but if you want guaranteed support BUY A NAME BRAND WITH A PENGUIN ON THE BOX MORON!!!

Re:Take the time to buy the right hardware... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540649)

People think they can buy whatever hardware they want and just have it work.

And they're generally right, because most people run Winblows.

If your preferred solution is to use stone age hardware, much as the Pilgrims must have done, then why aren't you running BSD?

Didn't I read somewhere ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538537)

Didn't I read somewhere that the OpenBSD project has made a great deal of progress creating open wireless drivers? Since it is a common cause, maybe the Linux developers should team up with them! =)

It's one of the three big weaknesses (2, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538551)

WiFi, USB and Video

Are the three things I get embarassed talking about when trying to promote Linux to non-technical friends and family. All they want it "to do stuff". As the article mentions, they won't spend time fiddling with drivers, checking if the hardware will/might/won't work.

They have a real expectation that they can plug in whatever they choose to a PC and it will just work. This is their experience of (modern) MS and they won't accept any less from an alternative.

Until peripherals become seemlessly operable ordinary people will steer clear of Linux.

Until the applications (and I mean video playing in particular) just work, with no drama and no crashes (Kaffeine, why do you insist on popping up messages saying "The specified file or URL was not found", when you're playing it?) we're backing a loser.

Not a bad analysis... (1)

OmniGeek (72743) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538789)

Device manufacturers, especially the cheap ones, tend to use cheap/quick/easy chipsets that often have Windows-targeted reference drivers, or they cobble their own. NOT all of these work at all well (I've had endless problems with cheap USB drives gagging a Win98 box 'cause their legacy drivers are crap.) But, the Windows monopoly has meant that there's immense Windows-centric inertia in low-end commodity peripherals.

This will slowly change as Linux gains desktop traction and Vista drives users toward The Penguin. It *will* happen, Linux support WILL improve, but it will take a while to become easily available. There are many forces pushing Linux adoption forward, it'll just be a while before it becomes embarrassing for a vendor to NOT provide Linux support.

Re:It's one of the three big weaknesses (1)

FooBarWidget (556006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539867)

USB? These days I pop in a USB stick and it shows up on the desktop in seconds. I don't know what you're talking about.

Video? Granted, I had to install some extra codecs via Applications->Add/Remove Software, but that's not more difficult than telling someone to download DivX or a codec pack. I've been playing video almost every day on my Linux box (I download a lot of anime fansubs) and it has worked fine since 2002/2003. Today I can setup the codecs in 10 seconds. Just what are you talking about?

Re:It's one of the three big weaknesses (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539979)

USB? These days I pop in a USB stick and it shows up on the desktop in seconds. I don't know what you're talking about

Yeah, pick the easy one :-)

OK, now do the same with a webcam.

If you're lucky, it'll start up once - assuming you have an application that will display it's output. Remember I'm talking about "Plug it in. See the picture."

Now unplug the webcam and stick it back in. Maybe in the same USB slot, maybe in another.

Even with notionally supported webcams (Philips models) I've never managed to have a Linux box consistently display webcam images when the camera is removed/re-plugged many times. Most webcams don't even make it to the starting block.

Re:It's one of the three big weaknesses (1)

pebs (654334) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539957)

Add "power management" to the list, especially when it depends on the drivers for WiFi, USB, and Video to support it properly. Suspend is yet another function that tends to not work in Linux.

Re:It's one of the three big weaknesses (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540687)

My experience with USB has been that it basically always works perfectly with Linux, except for old devices that came out before there were USB standards for those things. My experience has been that Linux has better USB support than either Windows or OS X. Of course, Linux does have the issue where it supports a USB device, but there's no obvious point to start interacting with it (great, you've got a scanner. Now what?)

WiFi has actually been improving greatly in the past year, since there was somebody actually pushing things forward in the kernel community (before then, the networking maintainer was de facto maintainer, and he didn't know or care about wifi, and couldn't evaluate patches). The core part is in, the first few drivers are in the testing version, and a bunch more are coming shortly. I'd estimate that all intel wireless will work with a stock kernel (plus firmware image) by the end of november, for example.

Playing video with mplayer works perfectly for me, with the exception that in rare cases it doesn't have the audio codec, and in really rare cases it doesn't have the video codec (note that I'm on x86, and have Gentoo's non-open-source codec package installed). On the other hand, when my company has tried sending people videos, Windows users have complained, because they don't seem to have any audio or video codecs at all.

Re:It's one of the three big weaknesses (1)

vishbar (862440) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540803)

Agreed with most of these points, but what's wrong with video? I've never had video under Linux give me problems--in fact, under Ubuntu, I found it far easier than playing videos on Linux.

WiFi, though, is definitely an issue, as is Plug-N-Play. I would also add printing to the list. Note that I don't have a printer at home, but my friend told me it was a bitch for him to get his printer running under Linux. Has it gotten any better?

Agreed 100% about the drama and crashes...like another poster said, maybe we need to shift some of the focus off of the "fair scheduler" and only user-friendliness and point-and-clickability.

WiFi works unsecured but can't get WPA going? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538595)

If you can get WiFi working but only if unsecured, try what I do to get around buggy NICs/drives under Windows that seem to forget security settings every now and again:
* leave the AP completely open
* run it through a Linux box on a separate NIC
* firewall on the Linux box, only letting DNS and OpenVPN packets through
* run OpenVPN, and route through that over the wireless

This is a lot of extra setup if you are doing it from scratch, and isn't something that a non-technical user will even care to think about, but if you are a techie and run a VPN solution anyway (which we do for secure access when we're further away, using public access points) the rest it easy. Your users already have the client, client config, keys and certificates - why waste time around fighting to get a less secure (especially if you are forced to use WEP rather than WPA for some reason) transport layer security scheme working when you can just use that?

You still need to make sure all the client machines are properly firewalled individually, of course, just in case some malicious user (or infected freeloader) tries to connect up, but who in their right mind connects a laptop to a wireless net (secure or not) without running a reasonably paranoid local firewall setup?

mo[d Up (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20538713)

are t1ed up in ass of the8 all,

There's Still a Problem With Wireless? (3, Informative)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538805)

I'm confused. The past three notebooks I've owned have all been immediately recognized as using WiFi cards with accompanying drivers.

Seriously, I think the article is trying to find a solution in the wrong area. If I want a laptop and I plan to use Linux (which I always do) then I plan to get a wifi card compatible with such. I have no idea how ndiswrapper works and have no plans to ever use it.

My most recent notebook - an HP/Compaq nw9440 - came with the option of a Broadcom or an Intel wireless card. I went with Intel for the simple fact that I know intel works.

Sure enough, wireless was up and running as soon as I installed SUSE 10.2 on the machine. (It initially came with Vista but I upgraded pretty quickly.)

The answer to WiFi is to ensure the manufacturers supply drivers - open source or not - to their chipsets, since they're no longer putting them in the firmware. Intel does. I believe Broadcom is now. Anybody else?

End of story.

Re:There's Still a Problem With Wireless? (1)

glop (181086) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538923)

Well you are right in some way, but there is no end in sight as many and many

Re:There's Still a Problem With Wireless? (2, Insightful)

glop (181086) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539077)

Replying to myself as I hit submit by mistake. Sorry.

What I meant is that many people are in different situations. Many people who are not considering Linux this week might in couple of months.

This means that many people will wake up some day, want to install Linux and realize that Linux can or cannot manage their hardware. They will react in different ways : fix the problem by using the ndiswrapper, installing other hardware, go back to Windows or OS X etc.

So, buying the right hardware from the start is only an option for people like us who already know they want Linux. Of course it helps as it rewards the good hardware makes who are Linux friendly, but it does not solve the problem instantly.

As TFA said, OEM might bring a big solution : DELL/HP wants to offer Linux laptop, so they choose compatible hardware. Then they want to use the same components across the line of products, so they ditch a few incompatible components.
This brings benefits on two sides :
  - The hardware/chipset makers then realize they need to be selected for the Linux to avoid being excluded from markets bigger than the Linux market that have suddenly become tied to the Linux market
  - The people who bought the non-Linux computers, got Linux compatible hardware anyway which makes their potential switch easier.

So, there are many big stories playing out here and I can understand why people would want to discuss them on Slashdot.

Re:There's Still a Problem With Wireless? (1)

merky1 (83978) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539165)

The only problem I have seen with wireless is getting WPA and the assorted drivers lined up correctly. I think the problem is more of a maturity issue, and not really a Linux issue. I agree with the parent post, I have had multiple iterations of wireless cards and Linux, and usually can get them more stable than the windows equivalent. The only problem I find is if I switch out chipsets, sometimes the WPA + Kernel / madwifi / ndiswrapper stack needs "tweaking". I think that given time, both in the wireless space and in the driver writer space.

As for the article, I am not sure there was any new direction proposed.

Huh? (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538855)

That's the "solution": buy a new laptop with a newer WiFi chip in it? Did I miss something. I'll be the first to admit, that WiFi is very difficult to set up in most Linux distros is you don't have the right chip (A lot of Broadcom chips are a bear to set up with NDIS Wrapper, although I have done so successfully every time. It's not for the beginning user), but I think that telling someone to buy a new laptop is an even bigger turn-off. It's basically the capitalist equivalent of RTFM. Frankly, I think WiFi for ALL platforms including Linux would be better off if the WiFi card was virtualized by the system BIOS or firmware as a standard generic wired NIC like the Novell PCI 2000 NIC. The SSID and key settings could be stuck in the BIOS (with a user space application in the OS that has access to change those settings after a boot). That way, networking-wise the OS never has to deal with a WiFi device.

There is no benefit to tying the radio portion of the WiFi to the network portion of it at the OS level. In fact, it creates a LOT of needless confusion. Here's how it would work if it were done right:

1. The Radio portion of the WiFi would be in the BIOS (all settings like ESSID, WEP keys, AP mac addresses, etc...)
2. There would be an application to manage the radio portion of the WiFi chip at the OS level, but there would be no "driver" per say. Just read/write access to the "registers" in BIOS space that store the settings. This would allow the settings to be changed on the fly manually, or... automatically if desired. The manner of changing the settings would merely be a software problem at that point.
3. The IP portion of the WiFi chip would then be presented as an NE2000 PCI NIC (10/100) or some other fairly common and cross-platform supported hardware. Or maybe a totally new, NIC specifically used to present ONLY the IP portion of WiFi to the OS. (ie. the "NIC driver" wouldn't deal with ANY of the radio functionality. It would strictly involve IP only)

This would present much more functionality right off the bat. It would be possible to have promiscuous mode on any WiFi card, since that would be a problem residing in the IP driver domain. At that point, virtual machines that fake MAC addresses, or sniffing traffic over a WiFi device become a LOT simpler. But, this will never happen since it would break with the already established (and needlessly complex) systems in place already. Not to mention, it's not a problem to the average user if they're using the very easy, but substandard WiFi software for a certain commonplace OS...

Whatever happened to WLAN_NG? (2)

ishmalius (153450) | more than 6 years ago | (#20538939)

I thought that this was going to be the thing that saved wireless on Linux. Instead of needing kernel support, along with deep knowledge and source code in order to build a loadable module, all you need to know is the wlan_ng API, and compile your driver for that. Much simpler and cleaner. And you would then need only the same API for all of your discovery tools, GUIs, etc. But except for a couple of handheld Linuxes, I haven't seen it deployed much. Anything would be easier than the cranky PCMCIA and hotplug frameworks.

3-Com anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20539101)

For those laptops that do not have integrated wireless, you might do some shopping around and discover which vendors support linux the best.

Personally, I got a 3-Com xjack card for that very reason. I plugged it in, my linux distro found it, and I'm on the internet. All of this was accomplished without the NDIS Wrapper.

Major Pain (2, Insightful)

TargetBoy (322020) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539211)

This was a major pain for me as well.

I had read that WiFi has "solved" in the latest release of Ubuntu and have long been wireless in my home network, even for the desktop machines.

After trying all the non-NDISWRAPPER options, I finally used that tool and was able to get WiFi up and running, but even with that, it fails to initialize properly about half the time and I have to manually restart networking.

Combined with not having support for the latest NVIDIA drivers available through the package manager and having to recompile the drivers after a kernel security patch, this would have been an utter failure if I was new to this. NVIDIA is partially to blame as well, since they could well make their drivers have a safe mode that will work with cards released after the drivers, but the 8X series of cards has been out for how long and the driver still isn't in the package manager?

The lack of fail-safe mode in X after all these years is just insane. Fortunately, we shouldn't have to wait too much longer for that to be a mainstream patch.

Buy Intel (3, Informative)

kilgortrout (674919) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539231)

That's generally the solution to the wireless problem in linux. Get a notebook with an intel based wireless card built in. And if you don't want to fool around with graphics drivers for 3d acceleration, do the same - buy a laptop with integrated intel graphics.

Re:Buy Intel (2, Informative)

osho_gg (652984) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540141)

Mod parent up. Intel wi-fi chips drivers are open sourced and work reliably well. I have been using ipw2200 driver in my laptop for last 3 years and it has always worked well across multiple kernel versions. Osho

We need new laws (0)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539707)

Whatever you think about limited government, this really is one area where we do need a bit of government intervention.

Once upon a time, when you bought the manual for a printer, it detailed all the escape codes for stuff like double width, bold, graphics &c. When you bought the manual for a modem, it had the AT command set and the RS232 pinout. It's only recently that hardware manufacturers have got into the habit of not releasing specifications. They rationalise this as "not wanting to give out information that could help their competitors" (as though their competitors aren't already reverse-engineering the f**k out of their products), but there are definite cases where false claims have been hidden behind such secrecy -- digital cameras with artificially-inflated pixel counts (which would be obvious from the RAW format, hence why it is so shrouded in secrecy) and graphics cards with only software differentiation between cheaper and more expensive models.

If it was law that the manufacturer of a piece of hardware must release specifications such that a competent person might write a driver enabling the use of that hardware on pain of being banned from selling it, then they would have to comply. Otherwise, the Windows monopoly will continue.

Re:We need new laws (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539965)

Unfortunately, what you would like to mandate is at the same time a mandate for Chinese domination of the hardware market.

Today the hardware is almost immaterial to a "hardware" product - it is the inner workings of the firmware, the driver and such that are where both the bulk of the engineering time and bulk of the "value" are. There are few, if any, secrets in silicon today.

So a manufacturer puts a lot of effort into developing a new product in the US or EU. If the functionality of the hardware/firmware is then required to be disclosed it is trivial to make the same hardware product elsewhere and compete head-to-head without any real R&D cost. Sure the Linux community and a few hackers might be better off, but at what price?

Today, the only effective way to compete against Chinese manufacture is to have the hardware, firmware and software talking behind the scenes. The firmware interface to the hardware isn't disclosed and the driver that talks to the firmware isn't disclosed. Absolutely, the hardware can be duplicated but without the firmware and driver the device requires an equivalent amount of development effort.

Yes, that put the Chinese manufacturer on an equal footing with the US or EU manufacturer. Instead of how they would much prefer it where all the "hard" problems are solved in the US and they Chinese get to just make cheap knock-offs.

Where was development for USB hubs done? Where are they made today? Compare this to video cards - how many 3D cards are distributed by Chinese manufacturers? Sure, they are all imported with "Made in China" stickers but they are made for US, EU and Canadian manufacturers that own the firmware and drivers.

Re:We need new laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20540789)

The power of the dollar is much more powerful than government intervention. If you don't like it, don't buy it - that is the rule, and that has always been the rule.

If that is not enough, expose unfairness for what it is (bad press does wonders for a company's bottom line).

Maybe it is just me but.... (1)

pjbgravely (751384) | more than 6 years ago | (#20539861)

I never seem to have problems with wireless in Linux, either it just works or I use Ndiswapper.

On the other hand I have had nothing but trouble with Microsoft windows. Problems range from Microsoft windows saying my WPA password is the wrong length, random disconnects, to having to repair the connection at every boot. To much hassle for me.

....Live help = results (1)

Mc1brew (1135437) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540173)

Sounds like a few of you have had a lot of problems. I logged onto irc.oftc.net went into #debian and I had help->steps to implement->solved issue in about under 30 mins (ty gsimmons). I don't think my pci card was anything special just whatever linksys made at the time. (go ahead mark me as a troll)

Buying a new laptop? No way! (2, Interesting)

rg3 (858575) | more than 6 years ago | (#20540365)

My laptop came with a Broadcom 4318 chipset. The support for it is flacky and it only seems to work properly using ndiswrapper. Some days ago I decided I was going to try to buy a USB wifi device that was compatible with Linux. If possible, its drivers had to be already part of the vanilla kernel. To my surprise, those devices exist! They are the ones that have the ZyDas zd1211(b) chipset (the "b" one is better). I thought it was going to be hard to find one of those specific devices, but no. They are present in a wide range of USB wifi devices. I went to the two main malls in my country they had one of those devices each. Piece of cake. Furthermore, a USB dongle can be used in future computers very easily, and don't take power unless they're plugged in.

http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/zd1211rw/devices [linuxwireless.org]

You only need the device, a vanilla kernel and firmware, which can be downloaded from SourceForge.net, and it's also probably available for your distribution as an official package.

http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=129083&package_id=187875 [sourceforge.net]

From the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20540869)

> The Iphone regularly updates e-mail, even while it's off,

        How? By magic? I can understand that some server is doing that on behalf of an Iphone. But if the Iphone is off, how can it do anything - much less know that it is abroad?

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