Atheros AR5008 Wirless Adapter with Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex on the Dell Mini 9

by krisrowland

Before I start I should say that I’ve now installed Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 on my Dell Mini 9. It’s great. Seriously. Awesome. Regardless of what others say about the re-spin being optimised for the unit (which I don’t doubt) the vanilla Intrepid distro runs wonderfully. The nice features that the re-spin includes, such as the full-screen shortcut, can be incorporated manually. e.g. install and run gconf-editor to set the fullsscreen shortcut hotkey(s) by going Apps -> Metacity -> Window Keybindings -> toggle_fullscreen. Fizz’s bLog also has a more direct way of doing this.

8.10 isn’t perfect, though; I’ve been having major issues with the keyring not keeping changed passwords (a common problem by the looks, and one I’ve also come across personally in 8.04 Hardy) . I highly suggest reading this Ubuntu 8.10 on the Mini guide. So, now to the case at hand…

I finally caved and bought another (3 now) wireless adapter for my Dell Mini: 300M Atheros 5008 802.11n Wireless Mini PCI-E Wifi Card (according to the eBay description). It’s reasonably cheap (about AU$30) and distributed from Hong Kong (as was the Intel card I bought a while back).  Thus far I have tried three adapters: the stock Broadcom card that came with the Mini, an Intel card, and this Atheros card.

My troubles have been numerous. The stock Broadcom card was great at home – I’d even say perfect – but it crashed and burned once I found out that the WPA supplicant in Ubuntu 8.10 had issues with WPA2-Enterprise encryption compatability with Broadcom chipsets. WPA2-Enterprise is the only option for the wireless networks at my Uni… end of story there. I should mention, though, that Ubuntu Intrepid is very very good at automatically detecting and configuring Broadcom cards now – I was very pleased with how easy it was. I then bought the Intel card which solved all of these problems (and was installed with the `wl’ wireless driver by Ubuntu by default). Connections were almost always established, they were just volatile. I suffered numerous dropouts both at home and Uni. I could probably play with the drivers a bit, but I was leaning towards trying an Atheros card because I had never used them before.

So I did… I recieved it just then, installed it immediately, and I can now connect to my Uni wireless with WPA2-Enterprise quite easily. I haven’t checked my home connection but I can’t see why it shouldn’t work. We’ll see.

Some notes: in order for the Atheros adapter to be detected by wicd (which I use instead of Network Manager now since nw has rediculous issues with keyring access in 8.10) I had to change the used adapter from wlan0 to wlan1 (since this is what Ubuntu installed the adapter as). This can be confirmed by executing `iwconfig‘ at the terminal and looking up the wireless adapter name in the left column. Incidentally, if you want to find the precise adapter type that Ubuntu has detected the card as, type `lspci | grep Wireless‘. Mine was detected as: Atheros Communications Inc. AR5008 Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01).

EDIT: I’m on a winner!!! The Atheros card has held up wonderfully at home, too: no dropouts! I’m now very happy with my Mini. Using wicd in place of nm has solved the annoying keyring issues (although they may very well pop up when changing other passwords), and I think it has a better interface, anyway. I see no reason why nm shouldn’t work, though, so try this card if you’re having issues like I was.

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