Gwnewch y pethau bychain

Mobility!

For quite some time, I have desired a portable Internet device that i could carry when I traveled, as I admit to being such a hopeless Internet junkie and I much prefer to have my own computer for such activities. (My PDA/Mobile is an Internet device and useful in a pinch, but it’s not really the best application for serious websurfing or journaling.) Using other people’s computers is like using other people’s kitchens. You can get done what you need to, but nothing is where you expect it to be and you have to rummage about to find anything.

tarkrai kindly donated me a couple of ancient, but working, laptops from his collection of derelict computer parts, but for various reason neither was able to transform into what I really needed. Then baiku announced his intention to divest himself of a similar crop of old tech for anyone who’d be willing to come take them away. Since I had a DVD full of 2006 Doctor Who episodes for him, we made arrangements to meet up and he handed me two Dell Inspirons of unknown status. Neither of them turned out to work, but I figured it was worth the $30 that Ginstar would charge me to find out what it would take to repair one of them. So the Inspiron 4000 went into the shop, was determined to have a bad motherboard, and completely repaired for $200.

When I got it back, I ran diagnostics and found that the hard drive had bad sectors, so I pulled the hard drive out of the still non-functional 3500, and found it was perfectly ok, so I transplanted it into the 4000 and installed Ubuntu Linux 5.10 on my now fully functional Death Star laptop computer.

I have to say that Ubuntu has impressed me greatly. I’d already been using it for sometime on my workstation at the office, but given the horror stories I’d heard about getting Linux working on laptop computers, I was unprepared for how utterly seamless it was to install. I didn’t have to recompile any thing, hunt for drivers, twiddle with my settings. It installed, brought up the X display, let me log in, and *everything worked*. Well done.

Having gotten the laptop up and on the network, there was one last critical accessory to make this laptop perfect. I wanted to install a WiFi card. Even with the tremendous ease that I got the base OS installed on the machine, though, I wasn’t expecting this to be easy. Everything I’d read about getting wifi to work on Linux laptops led me to anticipate a lot of fiddling ahead.

I got some advice from fleetfootmike and rinioth, who said that my best bet was a card with a PrismII chipset. rinioth also sent me a great chart with pretty much all the cards that were on the market and the state of drivers for each of them. So I printed that out and headed down the local Best Buy. Unfortunately, none of the cards they had in stock were PrismII cards, but I did find a Netgear WG511T, which uses the Atheros chip and which the chart said had a good driver. Knowing I had 30 days to try it and bring it back if I couldn’t make it work, I decided to take a chance.

Brought it home, plugged it in. Booted up. Ubuntu recognized the card immediately. Is that supposed to happen? Interesting. Looked up the commands for configuring the card. Attached to my AP, got an IP from dhcp, and was surfing. Just like that. I didn’t have to install any drivers. I didn’t have to struggle or swear or do anything at all. it just plain worked the way it was supposed to. I even found that the GUI Network Configuration tool in Gnome already knows how to talk to it and feed it its necessary configurations.

I believe the appropriate word is “squee!!”

I now have a working wireless laptop. I am a happy cat.

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25 Comments

  1. Well yay! Now you have no excuse for not entertaining me and propping up my ego at random moments from *anywhere*!! (grin)
    Hugs (and I am *supposedly* getting my palm T5 back in a few days. it damned well better work FLAWLESSLY cause first sign of a problem I’ll call them back so fast their HEADS WILL SPIN!!!) grrr. er… sorry! 🙂

    Hugs

    • As much trouble as you’ve had with that T5, they should darn well get you one that works this time. Good grief.

      Myself, I’ve left the Palm fold for the darkness that is PocketPC. But I love my MDA, yes I do. It makes my heart happy. 🙂

  2. Ubuntu rocks.

    Actually, Debian in general rocks, and Ubuntu is just Debian in a low-cut dress and expensive makeup.

    • *laugh* I love that description.

      I’ve been a debian booster for quite some time. I even managed to steer my workplace to Debian when we were making the transition from Solaris to Linux a couple of years ago, and honestly I’ve not regreted. The couple of RedHat boxes (actually, CentOS) we’ve had to run because of some application or another that simply refused to support any non-RH distro have given me more trouble overall than all the debian boxes put together (though I do have the CentOS ones pretty stable these days too, knock on wood).

      I switched from standard Debian to Ubuntu the last time I had to rebuild my office workstation, and have been quite happy with it, so it was a natural choice to put on the laptop…plus, I already had an install disk lying around. 🙂 I simply cannot praise it enough, it’s made this entire experience much less painless than I anticipated. And it means I don’t have to fork over another $100+ in Redmond Tax.

      • I dumped RH around RH9 because they’d just dropped too many of the programs I was still using (notably ctwm and xtoolwait). Debian still had everything I needed, and more. Besides which, it’s easier to install and supports more architectures. We’re building prototypes with ARM processors these days at work. And it’s smaller — under 500MB for a useable X terminal or embedded system. Can you say CF card?

        We still have one Fedora Core holdout at work, but I finally got our sysadmin switched over to Debian for setting up non-Solaris servers.

        • I let my group run pretty much what they want, since I hold them responsible for keeping their own workstations in good shape, and most of them are runing some version or another of debian, and most of us either Ubuntu or Kubuntu.

          For servers, we run Sarge on everything, unless we’re using software from a vendor who won’t talk to us unless we’re using RH, and then we use CentOS. Fortunately, the number of boxes we’re required to run CentOS on is two.

  3. Oh, yay, that sounds like an exceptionally excellent experience! I’m glad for you, enjoy! :))

    • So far, it has been. I need to stress test the battery to see how long it will run with everything going, and I’ll probably buy another one anyway, since the DVD/CD drive is less important to me most times than being able to run without a power cord. And I may yet upgrade the hard drive and the ram. But at this moment, I have a perfectly functional laptop that does everything I *need* it to do, and my total outlay in cost has been about $250 USD.

      Happy ACat.

  4. Very interesting timing. I’ve just been fighting with getting wireless working on my Gateway laptop running Mepis, so far without success, and posted a comment to just minutes ago. I’m reluctant to install another Linux on my machine (I’d tried Fedora earlier, with even poorer results), though I’d do it if I were certain it would solve the problem.

    If anyone reading this cares to look at my own plea and offer suggestions, it’s here.

    • Can’t claim any special knowledge, alas. I didn’t actually DO anything, and thus attribute my fortunes to dumb luck. (Well, dumb luck and buying well.)

      Good luck on getting your Gateway untethered, though.

  5. Squee!

    Congratulations!

    And btw, icon love. 😀

    • Re: Squee!

      Thanks!

      Yeah, it’s a fab icon. And it seemed appropriate for going on about gadgets, somehow. 🙂

      How’re you and P. doing these days?

  6. Congrats! I love my fully functional dual-boot Death Star Portable Personal Technology wireless laptop. It’s my favorite toy in the world, and has been for the past 4 years (which means I’m just waiting for it to make sizzling noises and die like it did last summer -- thank God for extended warranties, although mine has now expired!).

    Take good care of your portable troublemaking machine 🙂

    • I will. I was amusing myself by pondering things like upgrading the RAM and the hard drive, and realizing that If i’m not careful, I’ll upgrade it right up to the price I could have just bought a new one for, which I’ve resisted doing because they’re too expensive. 🙂

      As of right now, it’ll do all I want it to do, though, so for now I’ll just leave it alone.

      When are you going to come and visit? I miss you.

      • As of right now, it’ll do all I want it to do, though, so for now I’ll just leave it alone.

        Grin -- just install the Battle for Wesnoth (apt-get is my favorite thing ever), which will keep you occupied for a while in order to keep you from upgrading 😉

        But yes, I understand the toy lust that makes one want to keep adding bits and pieces! I don’t want my laptop to die. But when it does, I get a new toy. And toys rock. So… ahhhh. The dangers of being a technogeek.

        When are you going to come and visit? I miss you.

        Life should settle down soon. Then we’ll see about fun trips 🙂 I’d love to come visit; life just keeps jumping in the way!

  7. Don’t the French Canadians want the opposite of assimilation?

    Lovely user icon.

  8. Yes, Ubuntu with an ath wireless device is *supposed* to Just Work. It does for me, too… I’ve the D-Link version of the card, and (irony of ironies) an Inspiron 4000.

    For my next trick, I’m gonna re-point sources.list to Dapper Drake and do apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade…

    Badgers? We don’t need no steenking badgers! 🙂

    • Yes, Ubuntu with an ath wireless device is *supposed* to Just Work. It does for me, too… I’ve the D-Link version of the card, and (irony of ironies) an Inspiron 4000.

      *grin* It’s nice to have something that actually works the way its supposed to, for a change. 🙂

      Is there a fix for the “touchpad loses its mind from time to time and jumps all over the screen” issue? Or is that just flaky hardware? (I’ve done a bit of Googling on the issue, and I keep finding mixed reports, but no real solutions.)

      For my next trick, I’m gonna re-point sources.list to Dapper Drake and do apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade…

      Cool. Let me know how that works out. 🙂

  9. ehhhhhhxcellent!

  10. I hope you don’t mind, but your icon has been assimilated, eh?

  11. Sorry to barge in. Was clicking on random Friends of Friends and so on. This icon is the funniest thing evar! Thank you!

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