Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

Ubuntu 10.04 and Broadcom BCM4318

Work continues on the Dell Inspiron 2200 I mentioned a couple days ago. The main — only, actually — hitch continues to be the Broadcom BCM4318 wireless support.

Ubuntu, of course, automatically detects the Broadcom adapter and offers to install drivers for it. This requires an Internet connection to be present. No problem, right? Just hook an Ethernet cable up and connect to the Internet.

Not so simple, actually. Dell designed this laptop so the Ethernet controller is a separate, MiniPCI card — which goes in the same slot that the wireless card does. The only way to get the driver  installed is to either download the


package AND the firmware on another computer — I don’t know where to get the firmware, I used the other method here — OR to plug in another wired/wireless card that doesn’t need firmware.

In my case, I have a MSI CB54G2 CardBus wireless adapter, which works perfectly with GNU/Linux and requires NO firmware, so I plugged that in, connected to my home network, ran

sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

and waited for the process to finish. The new module was compiled, and the required firmware was downloaded — all automatically. One reboot, and (after an annoying wait for the hardware to be detected by the Network Manager, and then a while for the connection to be established) it worked. More or less.

The range is pathetic, though — my chair is a few meters from the router, and I have a weak signal. To be fair, this is NOT a driver issue, but rather a problem with the hardware itself. I’ve read that this might be because the antenna wire has come loose, so I will be attempting to use Dell’s instructions to disassemble the machine and investigate.

EDIT: Surprise, surprise — that was the exactly the problem. Whoever refurbished this computer did a good job, didn’t they? 🙄

Why didn’t I  just use the “Hardware Drivers” program to install the required packages? Because IT DIDN’T WORK. 👿 It downloaded the b43-fwcutter package, which did nothing to make my paticular card work. This is the only time this Ubuntu-specific program has failed to do the job, so I’m suspecting a bug report might be in order here, after I do some further verification.

For others who are trying to get this Broadcom BCM4318 wireless card, or a similar device, working with Ubuntu:

EDIT: To automatically load the module controlling the wireless module, enter this in a terminal:

sudo sh -c "echo b43 >> /etc/modules"

and, if asked, enter your password.


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