Installing wireless network cards using the b43 driver

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Mandrivia has pseudo-support for most Broadcom 802.11g wireless network cards. Currently this driver is installed by Mandriva by default, but as a result of restrictions by Broadcom manual installation of the firmware is necessary.

Some companies such as Broadcom don't cooperate with the free software community and should be avoided. Without free software drivers and firmware the community can't support Broadcom chips easily if at all. When Broadcom discontinues support you may find your card no longer works with Mandrivia.

The Free Software Foundation recommends a few chipsets including: Ralink 2500/RT2400 (802.11G), Realtek RTL8180 (802.11G), and the Atheros AR9170 chipset (802.11N). This is not an exhaustive list of free software compatible chipsets (this list is not terribly long though).

Fortunately there are few companies now with cards that list the specific chipsets such as ThinkPenguin.com and provide support for Linux.

Traditionally the community has relied on lists of specific models to get the right chipsets. Unfortunately most cards don't use a single chipset so these lists have been unreliable.

Contents

How to recognise whether you have a network card supported by the b43 driver

Start Mandriva's hardware management tool from the Control Center ("Configure Your Computer" in your application menu), and find your Broadcom wireless card under the Ethernet category. It should say something like this:

  Vendor: ‎Broadcom Corporation
  Description: ‎BCM4306 802.11b/g Wireless LAN Controller

The exact BCM43xx number can be slightly different. Supported by the b43 driver are: BCM4306 (rev. 3), BCM4309, BCM4311, BCM4312, BCM4318.

BCM4303 and BCM4306 (rev. 2) do not work with the b43 driver, but do work with the b43legacy driver. To find out the exact revision of your card, use the lspci command in a terminal.

BCM4328 and BCM4329 are 802.11n chips and not supported yet.

List of devices supported by the b43 driver

Here's a non-exhaustive list of wireless cards which are known to work with the b43 driver:

  • PC Card: Asus WL-100g Deluxe
  • Mini PCI/PCI-Express cards integrated in laptops:

Another list of supported devices can be found on http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Drivers/b43/devices

Installing the firmware needed by the b43 driver

Before trying to install the firmware, you have to make sure the b43-fwcutter tool is installed on your system. Launch the Software Installation tool in Mandriva ("Install/Remove Software" in your application menu), and check whether b43-fwcutter is installed. If that's not the case, install it by selecting the checkbox and clicking on the Apply button.

Then follow these instructions, depending of which version of Mandriva you use:

Installing the firmware on Mandriva Linux 2008 Spring (2008.1)

  • Open a terminal (in your application menu in Tools you will find Terminal or Konsole)
  • Execute the following commands, by copying and pasting them in the terminal:
     wget http://downloads.openwrt.org/sources/broadcom-wl-4.80.53.0.tar.bz2
     tar xf broadcom-wl-4.80.53.0.tar.bz2
     cd broadcom-wl-4.80.53.0/kmod
     su
     b43-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware wl_apsta_mimo.o
     modprobe b43 

(after the su command, you will need to type your root password)

If all goes well, you can now connect to a wireless network by clicking on the network applet icon next to your clock on the desktop.

Installing the firmware on Mandriva Linux 2009.0

  • Open a terminal (in your application menu in Tools you will find Terminal or Konsole)
  • Execute the following commands, by copying and pasting them in the terminal:
     wget http://mirror2.openwrt.org/sources/broadcom-wl-4.150.10.5.tar.bz2
     tar xf broadcom-wl-4.150.10.5.tar.bz2
     cd broadcom-wl-4.150.10.5/driver
     su
     b43-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware wl_apsta_mimo.o
     modprobe b43 

(after the su command, you will need to type your root password)

If all goes well, you can now connect to a wireless network by clicking on the network applet icon next to your clock on the desktop.

Installing the firmware on Mandriva Linux 2010.x

  • Open a terminal (in your application menu in Tools you will find Terminal or Konsole)
  • Execute the following commands, by copying and pasting them in the terminal:
     wget http://downloads.openwrt.org/sources/broadcom-wl-4.178.10.4.tar.bz2
     tar xf broadcom-wl-4.178.10.4.tar.bz2
     su
     b43-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware/ broadcom-wl-4.178.10.4/linux/wl_apsta.o
     modprobe b43 

(after the su command, you will need to type your root password)

If all goes well, you can now connect to a wireless network by clicking on the network applet icon next to your clock on the desktop.

Installing the firmware on Mandriva Linux 2011 or higher

  • Open a terminal (in your application menu in Tools you will find Terminal or Konsole)
  • Execute the following commands, by copying and pasting them in the terminal:
     wget http://mirror2.openwrt.org/sources/broadcom-wl-5.10.56.27.3_mipsel.tar.bz2
     tar xjf broadcom-wl-5.10.56.27.3_mipsel.tar.bz2
     su
     b43-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware/ broadcom-wl-5.10.56.27.3/driver/wl_apsta/wl_prebuilt.o
     modprobe b43

(after the su command, you will need to type your root password)

If all goes well, you can now connect to a wireless network by clicking on the network applet icon next to your clock on the desktop.

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