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Laptop WiFi manual

   I have been working on this and I think it's close.

       How to get WiFi working on your lap-top

It has been hard to get the wifi that works so well on your Windows XP to work when you select Linux at boot time. Windows XP has nothing that helps you to get Linux working. In this paper you will see that there is a step by step process that is essential to getting your system working.

I: First you MUST learn what the name of your WiFi hardware. This can usually be done from a root Terminal and you call # lspci. This will print a list of all the pci things in your laptop. Here is part of mine.

00:09.0 Ethernet controller: Atheros Communications, Inc. AR5212 802.11abg NIC (rev 01)
00:0a.0 CardBus bridge: Texas Instruments PCI7420 CardBus Controller
00:0f.0 IDE interface: ALi Corporation M5229 IDE (rev c4)
00:12.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 10)

This is what my SONY laptop printed out from lspci. Notice there are two items called Ethernet controller. But notice the Atheros says it handles 802.11abg which is what WiFi is, So now we know this laptop has hardware made by Atheros Communications, Inc.

II: The second step is easy. You need to find out what Linux software is written for your hardware. The easiest is a great web page at:


You should find your WiFi driver. If not there try Google with good search calls. One is "fedora 7,Atheros" and like that. You learn the software I need is called "madwifi" but your not done yet. Keep looking for the module name that is used by modprobe to put it into the kernel. In this case it is "ath_pci". Listed below are four hardware systems I know about.

Hardware Software modprobe
 Atheros Comm           madwifi        ath_pci
Intel old IEEE80211 ipw2200 IntelPro 3945 IEEE80211 ipw3945
 Broadcom BCM 4318      MAC80211       bcm43xx

If a reader knows about other Linux software please write. If you have a laptop that is working and you forgot what you did, do this:

# lsmod and find the ones that sound like wifi stuff. Or look at /etc/modprobe.conf and you should see them there. III: Now find a kernel that has your drivers in module form. Start with your current kernel and as root type modprobe ath_pci in my case. If nothing happens your lucky, your kernel has the driver you need. Check with # lsmod and see what modules were installed. A more general case modprobe says "no such file". Then you need to find a kernel with your modules. Try older and newer kernels.

IV: There is a new network system available in at least Fedora Core 6 and Fedora 7 called NetworkManager. You will want to set that up at least on your laptop. I have it on both computers. Caution! Turn off network if your using NetworkManager.

Do this, cd /etc/rc.d/init.d/ and you will see a lot of applications listed. Now as root do # chkconfig network off and then # chkconfig NetworkManager on and # chkconfig NetworkManagerDispatcher on. Reboot and the new system will be working.

V: If you have the right kernel you can now use # modprobe ath_pci and that will work. Look at the two tiny computers near your name on the top edge and click on them. It will tell you about what it is doing. Also use the # nm-tool which will show you what Internet it is working on and what is turned off. Often your laptop will suddenly have wifi Internet. This is a good moment.

Karl Larsen

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