Fedora Linux (fc8) on my new laptop… the wireless saga

I love it when a plan comes together but hate it when I can’t think of a catchy title for a post. Oh well. In my last post regarding my new laptop, things have been progressing.

My last statement in that post said something about how there is something to be said about having a Mac “just work out of the box” but I’ve seen lots of people post saying that part of the fun of Linux, is trying to get things to work. It can be downright frustrating, of course, but when it works, it works well.

My laptop is a Toshiba A215 (which I just added another 2GB of ram). It’s a great laptop. Vista works well with it. I can’t complain about that, but I’ve been wanting to run Linux full time on it. One of the quirks of this laptop is that the wireless device shows up as an usb device, which is something very strange:

[jpabian@stoshua]~% lsusb
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0bda:8197 Realtek Semiconductor Corp.

This wireless device is indeed a Realtek RTL8187B. Some people have gotten it to work and others have just given up on it. Those of the people who got it to work have hardcoded the wifi settings in a config file. I wanted to have the nifty wifi-selector that “NetworkManager” provides. I don’t want to hardcode anything (like the Mac). I searched and searched and tried everything I could find to do. I found a lot of really great resources but nothing worked. This was one of the best sites:

  • Realtek Linux wireless driver project

I mean it, I was pulling my hair out. It shouldn’t be this hard. I began to be disappointed with my otherwise ideal laptop. I started to read about other wireless USB devices that work with linux. I came up with a plan. I checked out Circuit City’s, Best Buy’s, and Office Depot’s websites to see what they had on sale AND what wireless USB devices worked under linux.

One page I had found (and you know, I can’t find it now!), had a list of pretty much all the wireless USB devices and if they had kernel support or if drivers existed. But it also had a column that reported if it “worked out of the box” or not. Each of the stores I mentioned above had a Linksys on sale, AND it was reported to “work out of the box!” I was excited but also very nervous whether or not it would work. I saw a few posts around where people where having problems with. I picked up the Linksys® WUSB54GC Wireless-G USB 2.0 Network Adapter for $50 after “instant savings.”


So when the moment of truth came, I plugged in the WUSB54GC into one of my USB ports and say the following message:

Dec 2 17:07:41 stoshua NetworkManager: <info> wlan1: Device is fully-supported using driver ‘rt73usb’.
Dec 2 17:07:41 stoshua NetworkManager: <info> (wlan1): exporting device as /org/freedesktop/NetworkManager/Device/4
Dec 2 17:07:41 stoshua NetworkManager: <info> Now managing wireless (802.11) device ‘wlan1’.
Dec 2 17:07:41 stoshua NetworkManager: <info> Bringing up device wlan1

It worked! I didn’t have to do anything! Sure enough, NetworkManager presented me with both my wireless networks (and my neighbors’). I couldn’t believe it. It works great. It works good on the suspend and resume functions of my laptop.

Sure, I really wish that the onboard wifi worked under Linux, but from I’ve read, they’ve only just merged the driver support into the very latest kernel sources so I suspect that support will continue to get better. But for now, I’m very happy with this device.

Now, the only lingering item is sound. Fedora 8 went to using Pulse Audio for the default sound server. Sure looks good on paper, but it doesn’t work and I’m not the only one; there are several threads over at the Fedora Forums talking about it. But FC8 is still bleeding edge. It will work sooner than later, I’m sure.

I’ll save that for another post.

Linux, Vista, and my new laptop

OH YEAH! (He says like the Kool-aid pitcher as he smashes through the wall!)

My new laptop finally came yesterday.  We missed FedEx on Tuesday and I waiting all day for them to come back yesterday.  I got a Toshiba with a dual core AMD 64 Athalon X2; it was a Thanksgiving day purchase (an early Black Friday deal that I happened to catch in time).  It’s a beaut and came with Vista Home Premium on it.

If I had my druthers, I would have told them to hold the OS; as I was going to install Fedora Linux on it as soon as I could.  I burned my x86_64 DVD with anticipation of its arrival.

It came right at 1PM.  By 2PM I was booting off the Fedora DVD and getting ready to install.  I knew on the Ubuntu LiveCD, it has Gparted on it, so I assumed this would to.  It did not.  A quick websearch recommended using a virtual term to use ntfsresize and fdisk.  I was too impatient and found the Gparted LiveCD and thought I’d use that.  The drive was 160G so I thought 40G for Fedora and 120G for Vista since I could always mount the NTFS partition in Linux.  I quickly downloaded and burned the image to disk.
Well, as luck would have it (or my impatience) the README on the LiveCD had something like this to say:

 You can’t use Gparted to resize Vista partitions.  You have to use nftresize and fdisk

It gave some basic examples and I followed them and it looked like it worked.  I rebooted and got the message that “No OS found” and the laptop tried to do a network boot.  So I began to install Fedora.

During the installation, I realized that I forgot to set the Vista partion to active/bootable.  I used fdisk to fix that and after the installation, I had a flawless dual-boot system.

It seemed like the install took forever.  My previous Fedora installations had been from CD not DVD so there was a lot more stuff installed locally.  After the install, I had something like 77 updates to download and apply.  That did take a long time.  I couldn’t install the other stuff while the package manager was running so I watch Mythbusters and chatted via Pidgin.

I  wasn’t getting any action from my wireless.  I was using ethernet cable.  Turns out, that Toshiba used a Realtek wireless card that shows up as an USB device.  WTF?  It’s a Realtek RTL8187B.

Poking around in the forums it seems some ingenious guy got the source for the driver and patched it for Linux, or Ubuntu specifically.  It seems to work, as it shows up as wlan0 and I can manually assign an IP to it, but wpa_supplicant doesn’t see it.  Honestly, I ran out of time to tinker with it, but I think I am about 95% of the way there.

I also installed the fglrx drivers for the ATI x1200 card.  This also works great and I got my tiny resolution I’ve been craving.  I now have a nice wide, large workspace.  I plan on getting about 1GB or 2GB of RAM; I’ll just wait until it is on sale.

So, here’s the links I found useful:

I’ll follow up if and when I get my wireless working.  I am pretty confident I’ll get it.  I also received a suggestion via the Skribit widget to do a post about Mac vs. Linux.  That’s a good idea.  There is something to be said about having everything “work out of the box” but I don’t mind the tinkering.

i love fedora

It’s been a couple of months since I had to turn in my Powerbook when I was recently let go due to downsizing.   I actually went through a sort of withdrawal as I really enjoyed using my Powerbook and was really sad to turn it in.

I had an old laptop that I installed Ubuntu on and it was my Linux Webcam server.  I liked having the webcam server on the laptop since I could move it around and easily capture the action, wherever it was.  But now I found I needed something to actually do work on while I was on the job hunt.

Now, I really liked Ubuntu, but there was something about it that left me wanting.  It was hard to explain but as best as I could put it is that it did EVERYTHING.  I wanted to get my hands dirty and I wanted something that was a little more “advanced.”  Even on my Mac, I used Fink and used an xterm  with the command line  often.  Everything on Ubuntu was just too easy.

I cut my Linux teeth I think on Debian 1.2 (I still have the CD I bought).  I used Debian for years.  At work, we used Digital Unix which became Tru64, a bsd-type of Unix.  Then, somewhere along the line, I used FreeBSD as my desktop for years… that is until I got my Mac.  Even up to that point, I used XEmacs/Gnus as my newsreader and email client for work.  At home, I read mail on my FreeBSD box and used Pine until I went to IMAP .

So, fast forward to today.  On my old crappy laptop, (with 16MB of video), I needed something to get by and I didn’t want to install WinXP since I don’t have a license.  I am also learning Ruby and relearning PHP.  So now I have a L.A.M.P. laptop and I develop anywhere the mood strikes me.  Despite the lacking power on this laptop, it was workable.  I really liked it.

I went with Fedora 7 and was in heaven.  In fact, I don’t want a Mac any more.  I want a new laptop running Fedora.  I’ll even go dual-boot with Fedora and Windows.

Fedora Linux

While I find myself in this transitional period, I feel like I am re-honing my skills with the latest flavors of Linux, learning new development skills, and learning the latest in tools.  For example, I have a subversion server that I am using.  I began using Eclipse as an IDE for Perl and PHP.  I am learning, engaged, and feeling somewhat productive.  I’ve began reading USENET again and getting back to the core parts of the Internet that I really enjoy.

I tried the various flavors of Linux before deciding on Fedora.  I tried Ubuntu of course, Gentoo, SuSe, and was going to try Solaris 10 x86 but I have that on DVD and my crappy laptop doesn’t have a DVD-Rom.

The tools that I enjoy using are:

I love it.  I’ve also been turned onto some really slick Firefox plugins.

(Note: I was going to link to the Firefox plugins but the site is down right now.)

Now, I just need to find more  quiet time to really get into it.   If you got other ideas or tools, or even methodologies you find useful, I’d love to hear them!