Wi-fi on Ubuntu

Posted on Sun 16 October 2005
With the release of the new Ubuntu 5.10, my oldest kid and I decided to install Linux on the PC he's got in his room since June.

Download the ISO file with BitTorrent (fast: 90 minutes!), burn it, boot the PC and here we go!

During setup, the wi-fi card is found but the system cannot properly set it up. Hmm... driver problem? We'll see that later... From there on, installation goes smoothly to its end and we have the nice Ubuntu login page. Great!

The wi-fi is still not connected, so let's use the neat network setup utility (heavily inspired by MacOS!). Still fails... Hmm... this is a Creatix card which Ubuntu displays as "Intersil ISL3886 [Prism Javelin/Prism Xbow]".

Googling around, I find that the built-in driver isn't setting up the card properly, and that a solution may be to use ndiswrapper, which allows to use the Windoze drivers on Linux (nice idea!). The Ubuntu wiki even has a nice page explaining step by step how to proceed. A bit of command-line magic that scares my kid, and... still doesn't work...

Google, google again, and I find another nice page in the ndiswrapper wiki explaining how to proceed. That one adds an important information about how to disable Ubuntu-provided drivers that override ndiswrapper's one at boot time!

So let's move away the "prism2" and "prism52" directories from "/lib/modules/2.6.12-9-386/kernel/drivers/net/wilreless/", "depmod -a", reboot and... Yes! It works!

All this to say that Linux is better and better at replacing Windoze. But if I hadn't been in computers, my kid would have just trashed Ubuntu.

So, a little hint to the Linux distro makers: why don't you make ndiswrapper an integral part of the system installation process, so that people can use the windoze drivers that come with their PCs?

Cocoon GetTogether 2005 is over

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