I was recently given an old Dell Inspiron 1300 that had been replaced with one of Dell’s shiny new laptops. The battery life is of course nearly non-existent but functionally it is still in great shape. I figure all it needs is a little love and I will find it a new home.
Installing Ubuntu is so painless that I was very surprised to find that when I was booting the machine from a usb stick (made with usb-creator and a 12.04 iso) it would hang while displaying the loading screen. A quick googling turned up an answer by the ever-helpful Jorge Castro on Ask Ubuntu. His advice; press F6 and add this to grub’s boot parameters:
The trouble is the Broadcom wireless BCM4318 LAN card used in this model. The linuxwireless site describes this situation like this:
The Broadcom wireless chip needs proprietary software (called “firmware”) that runs on the wireless chip itself to work properly. This firmware is copyrighted by Broadcom and must be extracted from Broadcom’s proprietary drivers. To get such firmware on your system, you must download the driver from a legal distribution point, extract it, and install it.
So while blacklisting the b43 driver will get the system to boot to the USB stick and get to the installer, it doesn’t solve the problem. I plugged in an ethernet cable and made my way through the rest of the install process as normal. I needed to repeat Jorge Castro’s trick again to boot the laptop after the install. Once it was running and connected to the internet via my ethernet cable I was able to install the firmware by installing the package mentioned on the linuxwireless site:
sudo apt-get install firmware-b43-installer
After that I rebooted again and was thrilled to see that it came up without a fuss. Thinking it was now solved I looked at the network menu only to find yet another headscratcher. The message there: “wireless is disabled by hardware switch”. WTF?
It didn’t take long to figure out was actually going on; FN+F2 had been pressed at some point disabling the wireless entirely. FN+F2 one more time and suddenly wireless was working.