[This episode brought to you by the Wacky Linux Wireless Card, sponsored by Palmetto]

In our last episode, I was trying to get my newly donated (see above) Cisco wireless PCMCIA card to jive with my Ubuntu-infused Compaq Armada laptop. As always, I trusted in the wisdom of jmgarvin to guide me through my wireless travails (provided I was savvy enough to translate his assistance into newb-speak). Jmgarvin

said I needed ndiswrapper–a chunk of software that adapts Windows

wireless drivers for use on Linux boxes–and he laid out a series of

command-line steps for the APT package manager that would suck down all

the relevant components and jam them into my Ubuntu kernel.

So here’s where I go all newb on you. Rather than fumble around in a

terminal, I did a little research and realized Ubuntu has a WYSIWYG

package manager called Synaptic,

which I could use to get all the ndiswrapper components I needed with

almost no possibility of me screwing up on some minute detail at the

command line. Here’s what I did:

  1. From the GNOME desktop, navigate to System | Administration | Synaptic Package manager
  2. Enter your user password when challenged
  3. Within Synaptic, click on Search
  4. Within the Search dialogue box, enter ndiswrapper
  5. This will return three results: ndisgtk (ndiswrapper’s GUI), ndiswrapper-source, and ndiswrapper-utils. Check all three, and agree to all the prompted dependencies
  6. Insert your Ubuntu Install CD, and click Apply (if you have

    another install source, like a networked iso, you can navigate to that

    within Synaptic)

  7. When the components have been applied, remove the Install CD and reboot

That was the easy part. Getting the Cisco drivers for the card? That

was a nightmare.

First of all, Cisco may have the absolute most

customer-hostile driver download process I’ve ever seen. Not only did I

have to register at Cisco.com to get the download (I just Googled the

model number of the card to find the right page because Cisco’s site

navigation stinks), but I had to reenter my personal information multiple

times, certify my U.S. citizenship, and affirm that I did not plan to

violate international export law (I’m not kidding) to get the freaking

driver. And after all that, I find out that Cisco only offers the

driver as part of a bundled WIndows install wizard–which is a .exe

file. So, yeah, now I’ve got a 7.2 MB .exe file I can’t put on a

floppy, can’t e-mail for security purposes, and can’t unbundle on Linux.

So I had to go through the whole laborious download process again on my

Windows box, run the .exe wizard, and have it create an install disk

that I could run on my Linux laptop. That done, I could finally get teh

driver for my wireless card, like so:

  1. In the GNOME desktop, navigate to System | Adminstration | Windows Wireless Drivers
  2. Enter your user password when challenged
  3. In the dialogue box, click Install New Driver
  4. Insert the aforementioned Cisco install disk
  5. In the new dialogue, navigate to the floppy disk location, highlight the driver .inf file, and click install
  6. Once the install is complete, click on the Configure Network button in the Wireless Driver dialogue
  7. In the new dialogue, highlight the Wireless Connection entry and click the properties button
  8. Select the available wireless network, enter any appropriate WEP keys and settings in the provided fields, and click OK
  9. Highlight the Wireless Connection entry again, and click Activate
  10. Click OK

Now, this is how to get the system to work…in theory. My card is

active, it is detecting all the local wireless networks, and I can get

a connection. I just can’t get any data. It’s possible that the local

WLAN security is doing something funky. I need to sneak the laptop home

and try it on my personal WLAN (because, as a generous soul, I’ve done

nothing to secure my home wi-fi connection). If anybody can think

of any obvious place I might have screwed up the laptop wi-fi, let me

know. In the meantime, it’s time to start smuggling.

Keep up with the Trivia Geek’s ongoing Wacky Linux Adventures with the wackylinux tag. If it doesn’t say wackylinux, it’s not really a wacky Linux adventure.