Sunday, 29 July 2012

Broadcom Wireless and Slackware 14

Broadcom wifi in Linux distributions still seems to be an ongoing issue and a moving target. There are several ways to get this to work depending on the chip set you got, and even several ways for the same one, so everybody will have to decide for themselves how they want it. You can check out the PCI-ID (the one that shows up when running the lspci command) and the Chip ID on linuxwireless.org and see what is supported.

I'm still using the BCM43225 on my Acer which shows up as fully supported from kernel 3.1 upwards with the b43 driver. On the right the wl and brcm80211 drivers are listed as alternatives.
While in Slackware 13.37 with the default Linux 2.6.37 the way of getting this to work was either downloading and compiling the broadcom-sta driver as described on this blog in an earlier post or use the b43-firmware package as described below which as I found later already worked with the default kernel as well. In later 2.6 kernels it was enough to drop in the firmware and the appropriate module took care of it, no compilation necessary.

Now this chip is apparently old enough to be fully supported by the b43 driver, and you'll be fine if your device is green listed. I've fought quite a bit with this ever since moving to my own 3.4 kernel, only to find out that the module that once did not is now supporting my chip. The same goes for Slackware-Current which is using a 3.2 kernel.So, get b43-fwcutter and b43-firmware from slackbuilds.organd compile install in this order, and don't forget to remove b43 from blacklisting if you're upgrading and had it blacklisted before. As a result you should now have a wlan0 wireless network interface coming up. However, if your experience is anything like mine, network signal quality is poor and connections are dropping all the time.If this is too painful you may want to try broadcom-sta, but first you need to patch the source to work with the newer kernel, as detailed on this thread on linuxquestions.org that may come in handy. In this case do not forget to blacklist the modules b43, b43legacy, bcma and ssb again in /etc/modprobe.d/b43_blacklist.conf as described on page 2 of that thread. This is recommended although it did not make any difference in my case.

One more thing to mention is that if you're trying to compile broadcom-sta for Linux 3 on an older system like Slackware 13.37 it complains about GCC being too old. From memory, it needs at least GCC 4.6 to compile, and 13.37 only comes with 4.5.2. So if you want to move up to a 3.x kernel, you're faced with the unenviable choice of either upgrading GCC or moving to Current or Slack 14 altogether.

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