After using Hardy Heron for about twelve hours now (at least eight of those tweaking and fiddling) I must say I am impressed although, it sometimes feels a bit more clunky than previous releases. This release builds greatly on the previous release 7.10 and feels more feature complete and compatible as well. This is largely due to native inclusion of the b43 driver over the depreciated bcm43xx driver for the wireless as well as an improved restricted driver manager.
Here is an overview of how things work with my Fujitsu Siemens A1650 Amilo laptop:
CPU: Works perfectly (including frequency scaling and power management)
WiFi (Broadcom 4318 ) : Works *! (After the install of Acer_acpi tools and a bit of tweaking)
Graphics (Ati x200m) : Works perfectly! (With Ati Non-Free driver)
Flash (in Firefox) : Works perfectly (I had lots of problems with this in 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon.)
Memory Card Reader : Not tested.
PCMCIA : Works perfectly (tested with IDE > CF converter and tried a CF memory card)
Hot Keys : Can be made to work, but I have not got around to this yet.
* Although it picks up and connects to wireless networks, I need to do a bit of testing before I am 100% sure all the problems have been sorted. Bloody Broadcom….
I had do install a few extra packages to get it all working however and I am going to detail this now.
To get the wireless working we need to install the firmware (not shipped with Ubuntu) via the new firmware cutter b43-fwcutter. In a terminal window, type:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bc43-fwcutter
Once that is done, follow these instructions to obtain and load the correct firmware module.
Now we need to install the Acer_acpi packages. Do not follow the instructions on the project website relating to acer_acpi as you will end up trying to install the depreciated version of b43 (bcm43xx.)
We need to add the following line to the package manager to enable the repository containing the acer_acpi code:
deb http://www.mumblyworld.info/ubuntu gutsy main
Once that is done, open a console window.
wget http://www.mumblyworld.info/ubuntu/depot.key -O- | sudo apt-key add –
apt-get install aceracpi-source
m-a a-i aceracpi-source
This first downloads the repository public signing key and then gets the acer_acpi source package. In the process you will likely be asked to install other dependancies, agree to this as these will be required during the compiling process. Once the above commands have completed, you will need to activate the module:
The wireless light on the A1650 will now light up showing the wireless module has been activated. For future reference, it can be activated and deactivated with the following commands:
echo 1 > /proc/acpi/acer/wireless (to activate)
echo 0 > /proc/acpi/acer/wireless (to deactivate)
Restart and your wireless should be operational :) For reference, I followed parts of the guide found here. I would not recommend you do the same, as you will end up trying to install the depreciate version of the b43 driver, bcm43xx.
Another thing which I installed was the Compiz manager as well as emerald. Compiz has a lot of options, but window decoration is still one I prefer to use Emerald for. These are installed in much the same way as they were in 7.10 with a few key exceptions.
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-fusion-plugins-extra compiz-gnome compiz-plugins libcompizconfig-backend-gconf libcompizconfig0
Then install emerald:
sudo apt-get install emerald
Once these packages (and their dependancies) have installed, you will find two new options under System > Preferences gnome menu. One will give you complete control over the effects Compiz uses and the other will let you load/tweak and create Emerald themes. However, as per default metacity is the window decorator. In the Compiz “Advanced Desktop Effects Settings” find the window decoration option and replace the command field with “Emerald –replace”
Save and restart if required.
Although the celebration could potentially end there. Every few months I google my laptop’s wireless card (a Broadcom 4318) to see how much further (sic) native linux support has progressed. This is a time honoured ritual I began when I first started taking an interest in running Linux as my main OS on my laptop a few years ago.
Broadcom are a company who seem to care very little about supporting their end users. I have never had to deal with them directly, however and I am basing this statement on their website which seems far more geared to ODMs and OEMs rather than the end user and the fact that they have point blank refused to release source or any useful technical documentation to allow the F/OSS community to make a native driver.
The problem with Google based searches around this problem is that they generally provide links to pages based on Google’s page ranking / relevancy algorithms which do not (for the purposes of this discussion) take page age into account. This means the majority of the results are either wrong or woefully out of date. Up until recently, the main way in which the cards could be made to (sort of) work was through the bcm43xx project. This utilised a reverse engineered framework which required the firmware from the windows based drivers. This was achieved through a sister project – bcm43xx-fwcutter.
While this supported a healthy number of cards, the 4311 still had power issues which would make it very unstable to the point where a hard reset would be required after 15-35 minutes use in order to re-enable the wifi card. So today I began searching again to see what progress had been made and was pleasantly surprised to find that, as the title suggests, bcm43xx the cumbersome behemoth has been depreciated. However the reason I said not to celebrate yet was because it has been replaced the the b43 project. Proudly displayed on the main page under supported devices is the 4318! This hopefully now means that I and other Fujitsu Siemens a1650 owners can now use their laptops as portable devices whilst using a F/OSS operating system!
* Station mode
* Access Point mode (although not tested very well).
* Ad-Hoc (IBSS) mode
* Monitor and Promisc mode.
* “Monitor while operating” and multiple monitor interfaces.
* In-Hardware traffic de/encryption (relieves your CPU).
* LEDs to signal card state and traffic.
* In-Hardware MAC address filter.
* Probably something we forgot to add here.
not working yet
* Interference mitigation.
* Bluetooth coexistance (most code implemented, but untested)
* Probably something else that’s not listed under “Works”.
The manner in which it works however is the same, a basic framework is installed with b43 and coupled with the corresponding Broadcom proprietary driver;
“The Broadcom wireless chip needs software, called “firmware” … (T)his firmware is copyrighted by Broadcom … and it must be extracted from Broadcom’s proprietary drivers … you must download the driver from a legal distribution point … (then) you must extract the firmware from that Broadcom driver and install it in the special directory for firmware – usually /lib/firmware.”
Not only has the project been given a new lease of life, the new code is reported to be more stable and resolve the power issues as experience on the Fujistu A1650. It should be noted, however that Acer_Acpi will still be required on this laptop to initialise the hardware but this is beyond the scope of this post.
I will be moving from my “build-and-held-together-by-ducttape-and-a-stern-look” Ubuntu 7.04 build to either 7.10 or Kubuntu 7.10 soon and I shall test this and report back my findings.