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[gNewSense-users] Wireless Cards, Firmware-Free and Free Drivers

From: Brian Kemp
Subject: [gNewSense-users] Wireless Cards, Firmware-Free and Free Drivers
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2008 12:02:42 -0500

(List recipients: LONG MESSAGE FOLLOWS.)


I've been seeking one of these for AGES.  From what i remember with my
search there are certain vendors that won't sell cards in the US
(probably due to patent dragons). A lot of those vendors use chipsets
that are supported.  Check the FSF page that was referenced in an
earlier email. Most of them wouldn't even let you select "United
States" as a valid shipping address.

(Any of you out there want to grey-market import a few for me, contact
me off-list.)

If you're looking to use a card with gNewSense deltad, you probably
won't have much luck with the RaLink chipsets *RIGHT NOW*.

I picked up 2x CNet CWC-854 for about $20 USD. That's the PC Card
(PCMCIA) version but there is a similar model number that's PCI.  My
father's laptop running Gutsy works, but with firmware (legacy driver,
see below).  Mine (also running Gutsy; my main desktop is gNS) locks
IRQ 11 so hard that sound, ethernet, and most other peripherals drop
off the face of the earth.

The best free drivers are being worked on at and build against Linux Kernel 2.6.24.
 FYI, Ubuntu Gutsy uses 2.6.22. The site also maintains "legacy
drivers" which are forks of the manufacturer drivers and have non-free
firmware, but they don't work well under SMP systems, etc.

RaLink chipsets may be a good solution for gNewSense deltaH which will
build off of Hardy--be warned that the cheap cards tend to change
chipsets faster than you can say "cheapest deal of the week"

I had a few other cards, but they didn't work so hot. I'll spare you
the details, ask me later.

As for DeltaD ("now") support:

A friend lent me an Orinoco card which works well driver wise--but the
particular card sustained a fall and seems to be busted. Your best bet
is cards that people don't make anymore.

Proxim makes B/G cards with the Orinoco chipsets, I haven't purchased
one yet as they are very expensive ($80 USD!) but I'm almost certain
they'd work out of the box.

I do not know if Orinoco cards have firmware, or if it's upgradable.
A lot of the older wireless cards did things on their own. The newer
ones rely on the driver to do most of the heavy lifting. Once you get
a newer card to work, that's the freest kind you can have.

It may be best to wait.  Then again, since you're not in the US, you
may have more options. (Ironic, I know)

This is what I've been working on when I haven't been working
ludicrous overtime at my day job.  When some more test hardware
arrives I'm going to install a Debian-based distro with 2.6.24 or
greater and throw myself into the rt2x00 project to make sure stuff


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