25 June 2008

Getting Wireless networking working in Ubuntu 8.0.4 Hardy (x86/i386) on the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Li 1718 laptop

Although I've been working with Linux for many years both at work and at home on my servers, I haven't had a chance to look at Linux as a desktop operating system over the last couple of years due to work and a Masters degree that I've just completed. However, I did hear a lot of good things about Ubuntu and was urged to try out this distribution. A few days ago I decided to do so and I was delighted to find WUBI, which meant that I could avoid re-partitioning my hard drive - installing Ubuntu on an NTFS partition works really well!

I started out with the Ubuntu 8.0.4 desktop release for amd64. It installed quickly and I was quite happy with it - at least until I wanted to get the Wireless interface to work. I never was successful in getting the Wireless interface running in the amd64 version and so I un-installed the amd64 version and instead installed the i386 version of Ubuntu.

My Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Li 1718 laptop has an Atheros AR5007EG Wi-Fi interface. It also has a button that can enable and disable the wireless network under Windows Vista using the Fujitsu-Siemens supplied Launch Manager software, i.e. the button is software controlled and its operation could, I guess, be re-programmed to any function.

This configuration poses a number of problems, namely:
  1. Out-of-the-box Ubuntu 8.0.4 cannot use the built-in Linux kernel drivers for the interface - madwifi drivers are required.
  2. The button to enable and disable the radio does not work out-of-the-box because it's software based, i.e. key presses need to be intercepted by the OS and then signalled to the Wireless interface.
  3. In the BIOS it is possible to alter a setting enabling or disabling the Wireless interface tranceiver per-default. However, this seems only to work wonders in Windows Vista - in Ubuntu the Wireless interface seems to be off per default regardless of this setting.
  4. With the Wireless interface radio being off by default in Linux and with the Wireless interface on/off button not working even the correct madwifi drivers aren't sufficient to get the interface working.
After some research using Google I found some interesting articles and threads in various forums, including:
With these how-to's in hand I set out to try and get the Wireless interface to work - I did the following (a wired connection to the Internet is required):
  • Open the menu item System->Administration->Hardware Drivers and type in your password to unlock the tool
  • Untick the two lines: Atheros Hardware Access Layer (HAL) and Support for Atheros 802.11 wireless LAN cards (press Disable at each requester)
  • Reboot the system
  • Login to the Ubuntu desktop again, then launch the menu item Applications->Accessories->Terminal and execute the following commands in the terminal:
sudo bash (type in your password)
apt-get install build-essential (press Y to install the package and dependencies)
cd /tmp
wget http://snapshots.madwifi.org/special/madwifi-nr-r3366+ar5007.tar.gz
tar xfz madwifi-nr-r3366+ar5007.tar.gz
cd madwifi-ng-r3366+ar5007
make install

wget http://www.cakey.de/acerhk/archives/acerhk-0.5.35.tgz
tar xfz acerhk-0.5.35.tgz
cd acerhk-0.5.35
make && make install

  • Edit the file /etc/rc.local and add the following line to the end of the file (but before the line "exit 0")
modprobe acerhk force_series=1600 autowlan=1
  • Open the menu item System->Administration->Hardware Drivers and type in your password to unlock the tool
  • Tick the two lines: Atheros Hardware Access Layer (HAL) and Support for Atheros 802.11 wireless LAN
  • Reboot the system
  • Login to the desktop
  • In the top-right corner of the Ubuntu panel, next to the clock, there should now be a Wireless icon. Left-click on the icon and there should now be a list of Wireless networks from your area

  • Check that the Wireless LED (to the left of the Power LED) on your laptop has light in it if you cannot see Wireless networks - if not, try and press the Wireless button above your keyboard a few times to see if the light is being switched on and off (acerhk driver enables this) - the LED must be on in order for networks to be detected - otherwise the radio is off and there will be no Wireless network access.
  • If you cannot seem to get Wireless networks listed under the Wireless icon, then open another terminal and issue the command: "sudo iwlist ath0 scan" - does this command return any networks?
  • Is the Wireless network you wish to connect to hiding its SSID identifier? If so, you will need to left click on the Wireless network icon in the panel and choose the "Connect to Other Wireless Network..." option and fill in the required details for the network yourself - you should still be able to "see" the network with the abovementioned iwlist command - but the SSID will be blanked out.
  • I provided the links above, which I used to research my Wireless interface problem - there may be further information available to help solve your problem.

Now, the last thing I still haven't got working is following the HOWTO guide on Wireless Security in order to set my IP address statically. When I use the System->Administration->Network application to disable roaming and set-up my own manual configuration, this doesn't work - I have no network connection until I switch the configuration back to roaming. I will post any workarounds or solutions to this, should I find them.

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