10 January 2010

Adventures in Linux

Back in the summer (oh so long ago, and oh so much warmer than winter in Petawawa), I took an Open Source course with Gord Nickerson at UWO. It was really a neat course, and I was able to get hands on with many things that I had only really known about in a peripheral sense, Linux among them. After a lot of tweakage, I managed to get Ubuntu fully running on Virtual Box on my desktop, so I got to mess around a great deal with it.

Since then, I have wanted to put Linux on my laptop (an aging Compaq Presario V2000... which is actually a V2-somethingelse because it has a different graphics card... or something), which I got before I went to Scotland. So it's too old to put W7 on (which is on my desktop, and I love), and I really have no need of a now very sluggish XP machine. However, I was a bit put off by the prospect of stuff not working - particularly my wifi, which I had read may be a problem. Since to a certain extent I was still relying on my laptop to work in the comfort of the gherk (pet name for the GRC - Graduate Resource Centre) at school, I didn't want it to be out of commission for any length of time. Especially being 5 hours removed from my usual tech support.

Over the summer, I started running the release candidate of W7 on my desktop, after Vista started to rapidly implode on itself. By fall I was running W7 full version on my desktop, the soon-to-be bf had wrangled me an 8G iPod touch, and being on co-op my laptop began to collect dust. The long-suffering machine has served me well, so my mind still churned on the idea of repurposing it as an open source box.

The holidays came and went, and I have spent a rare weekend in the Pet, with not a whole helluva lot to do. So, boredom, and bravery (given my W7 box is running like a dream), I decided to take the plunge. The no-longer-soon-to-be-and-now-now bf suggested Mint to me... which reviewers point to as a nice easy beginner's version of Linux. Very Windows like, and an easy setup. Another plus, is it is built on Ubuntu, which is built on Debian, so there is a nice big base of software and support out there for it. Unfortunately, it also comes with the same Ubuntu prob I was worried about, no driver support for my somewhat retro Broadcom 4318 rev02 wifi card, and a somewhat smaller support base.

Burned the iso with no prob. Had to reboot twice to get the live cd to work. Once that was all up and going, I installed Mint. Again, took two reboots to get going. Sound, graphics, and everything worked. That is, everything except my pesky wifi.

Now, there is a ton of stuff out there addressing this problem. So it is easy to get lead astray. So, I'm going to post links to the resources that helped me the most, and if anyone out there in the same boat stumbles on this, maybe this will help.

1. Do not try and download the drivers that Mint prompts you to. If you already have, try out #3, and then go back to 2a.

2a. Follow the five steps in this post by Arron. http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=53&t=14349&hilit=broadcom+4318&start=30#p212621

2b. But how do you pull the inf out of the exe?

Save the exe to your desktop, and in terminal enter:
cd ~/Desktop
cabextract yourfilename.exe
Your desktop will be filled with all the files in the exe, including the inf file you need to install.

2c. But where the dickens to I get my drivers?

Go over to the hp site and get them there.

3. So, now your wifi light should be able to toggle on and off. Can you get online? If not, or if you (like me) had already stumbled on a few different but not working solutions, you may need to blacklist the previous broadcom 43xx driver. You can do that by following this post by Raven http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=1189681&postcount=105

There, that's everything I did to get my Broadcom 4318 rev02 card to work with Linux Mint on my Compaq Presario V2000 (or not V2000). I don't guarantee the above will work for you, but it did for me.

So, geek credentials recertified, I now have a Linux box to call my very own.

**Update: I was getting all these liney artifacts when I'd close windows or reveal the desktop. Probably because I have an ATI Radeon XPRESS 200M 5955 card... if you are having the same prob, check out this: http://sidrit.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/enabling-desktop-effects-for-ati-radeon-xpress-200m-on-ubuntu-hardy-heron/

Now, I couldn't get it to verify that I had installed the fglrx drivers... but upon reboot the problem seems to have been solved. And things are much snappier.