Monday, February 8, 2010

Inspiron 7000 - Linksys WPC54G w/BCM4306

Links: Discussion on 43b module   b43 module installation (doesn't work)   b43 v. ndiswrapper  b43legacy issues  ndiswrapper solution   linksys WPC54G support

This is an install I'm working on with a friend's older Inspiron 7000. We dropped Zenwalk 6.0 (Slackware light) into the system and everything configured out-of-the box, except his PCMCIA Linksys WPC54G (version 1.2) card. This entry is meant as a trail of crumbs for how we solved it.

The legacy Linkys WPC54G card employs a Broadcom 4306 chip. I've never understood the impulse behind closed-source drivers for hardware. There are millions of Linux users; if Broadcom only produces a driver for Microsoft, at least make it open-source. Linux users can then easily design a good driver. They will want to buy Broadcom-based hardware.

Since the Broadcom driver was proprietary, any drivers/modules for it needed to be reverse engineered for Linux with some predictable results. For example, the b43 module described here didn't work. The fwcutter program appeared to properly extract info from bcmwl5.sys and install it into /lib/firmware; the card was detected by the kernel and apparently was semi-configured by the b43 module; but yet the card never fully initialized. This meant it came down to either the b43legacy module or, as a last resort, to using ndiswrapper on the driver coded for MSoft by Broadcom. You know, like back in 2004. But before we capitulated to ndiswrapper or b43legacy, we wanted to try fwcutter again with a more researched approach.

$ uname -r

# lspci -vnn
06:00.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM4306 802.11b/g Wireless LAN Controller [14e4:4320] (rev 03)
Subsystem: Linksys WPC54G [1737:4320]
Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 64, IRQ 11
Memory at 1c000000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=8K]
Capabilities: [40] Power Management version 2
Kernel driver in use: b43-pci-bridge
Kernel modules: ssb

Understanding from above that we're dealing with the "4320" Broadcom chip, the b43 module should have worked previously; b43 is the recommended driver for the 4320 id. I decided to recompile fwcutter, this time making sure I had version "012" of fwcutter and version of Broadcom's proprietary driver.

$ wget
$ wget

Untarred and compiled fwcutter -- "$ make". Didn't even have to configure. Then, after untarring the driver, put the driver files in the folder with the fwcutter program and ran:

# ./b43-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware wl_apsta_mimo.o

Rebooted and the card came right up.

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