Friday, August 22, 2008

An easy way to get Broadcom wireless working in Ubuntu 8.04

First things first, I am by no means a linux guru, in fact I don't even really qualify as a 'Nix geek! The extent of my systems knowledge with Linux is working with the gui in Ubuntu, and the occasional sudo apt-get or something of the sort. I can work my way around a Windows install with little trouble, but I'm still learning the basics when it comes to Linux OSes. So some true 'Nix geeks might even see this and tell me that there are many things which I think I understand that I really don't. I wouldn't be surprised in the least bit! If you're a 'Nix geek and you're reading this, tell me where I'm off track, cause I don't know any better! It's probably my fault for trying to think of everything in terms of their Windows counterparts anyway!

So I inherited this laptop that I'm using right now, it's a HP Compaq nx6110. 1.8ghz Pentium M, 1GB RAM, base model machine but it serves my web-browsing purposes well! I decided to load Ubuntu on it when I got it a few months ago, as an extension of my experimenting with Ubuntu on my desktop, now I have a computer to do networking with! I will make no claims to this working on any other pc or hardware. Running lspci on my machine shows this line for the wireless hardware:

02:04.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4306 802.11b/g Wireless LAN Controller (rev 03)

So anyway, the first time I installed Ubuntu on here, I did lots of reading on how to get the wireless to work, things like ndiswrapper and bc43wcutter and the like. Very little of it made sense to me, and so I just chose a how-to instructional document and started working it. About 1/3 of the way into that documents process Ubuntu suddenly indicated that it could see my wireless, could find the non-free drivers for it, and was ready to install my wireless. Cool! So I, like any good geek would do, said screw TFM and let's see what this does! Sure enough, Ubuntu/Synaptic took care of downloading my wireless drivers, and set them up with no hitch! Sweet. Of course, the problem was, I had no idea what I had done that had suddenly allowed Ubuntu to finish the job for me. All I could remember was that it seemed the last thing I had done was enable the Multiverse repository of non-free Ubuntu/Linux software. But since everything worked right, I didn't worry too much about it!

I inherited this computer with a case of Alzheimer's, it had a "bad" hard drive. Windows/NTFS were reporting all sorts of faulty sectors and the like, and WinXP was not even able to install on it anymore. Funny, Ubuntu and it's file system (which ever it is, I'm not even sure...) seemed to have no problems with it, for a while. It finally but the dust the other day, and so I was in the spot of having to reinstall Ubuntu, and thus re-setup my wireless.

Well I remembered that there seemed to be a connection with the Multiverse repository, so I went about trying to enable that... and it seemed it already was.

This is where I started to get lucky. I got annoyed and grabbed an ethernet cable, as I would need to plug in before I could download the driver anyway, and did some quick browsing. I came across a page that required flash, which I had not yet installed. I clicked on the missing plug indication, which then asks you which flash player you would like to use. I selected 'Gnash' and the next thing Ubuntu did was ask me if I wanted to enable the repository 'Universe'. Well, yes, yes I do. And in fact I also want to enable Multiverse. So I canceled the Gnash installation and went back to the plugin selector to see if Adobe Flash was hosted in the multivers... It was! So after installing Gnash, I rebooted. I don't know if this is necessary, but the first time I installed Ubuntu prompted me to install wireless drivers after I rebooted. This time it did not do that. However when I went into Hardware Drivers, there was now the option to enable the Broadcom wireless driver. It finished the install on it's own like the first time, and I am now tether-free! Woohoo!

Allright, so here it is step-by-step. If on the offchance anybody else out there tries this, post back in the comments whether it worked, and what system you're running. The line from the lspci command that includes your wireless hardware would be most helpful.

1. Connect via Ethernet Cable on fresh install
2. Browse to a site that includes Flash
3. Tell Firefox to install the missing plugins, and the select Adobe Flash
4. Select 'Yes' to enable the Multiverse Repository, finish installing Flash (You might be able to cancel it, I don't see why not)
5. Reboot (I don't know if this is necessary, try it without and let us know!)
6. Select 'Hardware Drivers' on the System>Administration menu
7. Hopefully the driver will appear as available, if so click to enable it
8. B43wcutter should install, follow it's prompts including saying yes to something about accessing firmware
9. Enjoy wireless internet!

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