After all these years drivers are STILL a pain in the butt?

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After all these years drivers are STILL a pain in the butt?

Postby Christopher. on Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:34 am

Several years ago I ran Linux as my main desktop OS for over a year and was pretty happy, but needed to use some Windows apps which would not work under WINE and did not want to dual boot so I switched back to Windows.

Now I am so disgusted with Microsoft at Windows 8 (I have a PC, not a tablet?!?) I've decided to go back to Linux. Also, trying to fix a neighbor's laptop for free (don't have the disk to re-install Windows that came with it) so I'm putting Linux on it.

Mint looked like the most complete and straight forward choice.

The difficulty I've encountered trying to get the notebook's Broadcom 4312 "low power" WiFi adapter working has been so frustrating it's senseless. I've been working with UNIX since the mid 1980's and professionally supported multiple flavors of UNIX for years - frankly, I'm shocked at how hard it has been to find an easy solution for getting the driver to work. I thought at least by now there would be some kind of graphical interface which would still show the device even if the driver was missing and give me some option [button to click] to search for a driver from additional repositories?

On the other hand, I have been delighted at how well Mint works on desktop PCs - stick in the USB drive, boot, and EVERYTHING works right away. It is truly wonderful to see how far Linux as a Desktop OS has come and how easy it can be (if you don't have a laptop with WiFi anyway). It is annoying that NTFS drives don't seem to mount properly and I was confused why I was getting a message about running out of disk space when I had allocated gigabytes more than nesc. for "persistant storage" when using the USB tool which builds the bootable USB for you...

If I think of all the times I've dealt with malware headaches with relatives, friends, and clients and the idea of having a couple spare cheap USB drives where I could tell them : if you infect your PC, just stick this USB drive in and you'll be back up and running in minutes t's practically eliminated the need for 90% of tech work right there :)

I have to see how it works to put Steam (and some Steam games) on a Live USB stick.
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Re: After all these years drivers are STILL a pain in the bu

Postby bigj231 on Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:02 am

There is an additional drivers utility FYI. I don't think it works with Broadcom chips though. I do agree that it's stupid that a lot of little things still don't work. You have to realize that Broadcom doesn't provide Linux drivers, and I don't believe they release the specs necessary to create working, open drivers. That's part of the reason I pulled the Atheros wireless card out of my old laptop when it broke.

I think you have to use ndiswrapper to install the Windows wireless drivers.

You should try dealing with hybrid ATI graphics drivers if you want headaches though. I never got them to work right in the 2 years I had that laptop.

And if you're only running Linux on a particular machine, then why use NTFS at all? I get superior throughput on EXT4 (using the same benchmarks on Windows and Linux).

And Steam on Linux works pretty well. Low end systems still can't run high end games. I don't think you'll get the speeds necessary to run anything off of a USB stick though.
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Re: After all these years drivers are STILL a pain in the bu

Postby loubapache on Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:38 am

I agree with you, OP.

I love Linux but wireless, sound, and graphics drivers are sometimes so hard and frustrating.

I had been using LM 10 XFCE for a while and also SalineOS (Debian Wheezy based XFCE and is really nice). Lately I got a Gateway LT4008u with the Intel Atom N2600 CPU/GPU and a Broadcom BCM4313 wireless card. There is no support for the GPU in SalineOS yet so I started looking for other XFCE based distros.

First I tried LM 14 XFCE and that thing cannot even start the LiveCD Graphics interface. WOW. At least it should give it a try to start x. SalineOS and even Puppy Linux can guess right to start X just did not have all the features for the graphics card (like dual monitor support, etc).

Then I tried LM13 XFCE. Well, first, I had to overcome the BCM4313 issue by blacklist it. Then it did a better job than LM14 and x started right and the whole install went well. It guessed the right resolution for X but no full support, as expected.

After blacklisting BCM4313, I did not have to install the new driver from the additional driver list. As a matter of fact, it won't even install (error messages). So wireless works fine just by only blacklisting BCM4313 (in contrary to the instruction from the LM13 release notes).

Ok now I need to get the right cedaeview drives for the graphics. Another not so easy battle. I needed to download/upgrade to a different kernel first, then turn on additional repos and finally installed the cedarview drivers an all is well now.

LM14 has the newer kernel but cannot handle the GPU.

So LM13 is running very well but it should not be that hard to get to this point. I have been using Unix/Linux for decades. Just think what would happen for newer users.
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Re: After all these years drivers are STILL a pain in the bu

Postby Christopher. on Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:46 pm

RE: Why I want NTFS: I made a couple Linux Live USB sticks to use at work/at home/at friends/clients houses etc. and several times I found that the (Windows) hard drives (or some partitions) were not mounting and no reason as to WHY it would not mount was given.

RE: ATi driver pain - oh last time I was using Linux much at home was when Compiz was just starting to become popular and getting 3d drivers to work properly (whether ATi or nVidia) was quite a pain in the butt. I remember one was a lot better than the other because they open sourced their drivers (was that ATi?) but it was still a headache to sort out kernel compatibility issues - I remember the drivers I needed for my card were not compatible with the "Xen"(?) virtualization enhancements and getting into a mess where one dependency fix would break another fix and the newer version of one file was needed for one part but another part required an older version and it was like trying to untangle a spaghetti mess of tangled wires to get it to compile...

I'm not familiar with the "blacklist" command and I figure I'll follow some instructions in one thread to blacklist something and then three or four threads later when instructions say something else that'll make it not work and I'll have to go back and re-install to start over?

I tried downloading the driver from Broadcom's own website and compiling it, but then "system.h" was missing and it wouldn't compile - I'd read on another forum that some people had trouble trying to use the wrapper and it seemed like a kludge compared to having native support so I'd wanted to avoid that route, but perhaps it will just work and save me from further headaches?

It would have been easier to just drive to the store and pay the money to buy another WiFi adaptor for which support is built in than the hassle I've gone through so far (and lost sleep trying to get this done after the kids have gone to bed).

I will go look for a document/thread or such which lists which mini-PCI WiFi card is recommended for Mint, maybe buy one of those and be happy. Everything else seems to be working on the laptop including sound and graphics. This guy (who owns the laptop) is poor and doesn't have any other computer, he'll be excited and with the added bonus of being less susceptible to malware I hope he learns to enjoy Linux.
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Re: After all these years drivers are STILL a pain in the bu

Postby loubapache on Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:26 pm

^, what LM version are you using?

If 13, here is what is in the release notes for the BCM43 card,

"If not present already, in Grub, modify the boot options to add: b43.blacklist=yes
Install the b43 firmware on the system"

So basically here is what you do.

1) Edit the file /etc/defaults/Grub and add "b43.blacklist=yes" to the line of "GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash"" so it reads:
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash b43.blacklist=yes"

2) Sudo grub-update

3) Then reboot. For mine, I did not have to install anything from this point on. The wireless card (BCM4313) just worked.

The release notes says to install b43 driver:

sudo apt-get install firmware-b43-installer
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Re: After all these years drivers are STILL a pain in the bu

Postby bigj231 on Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:37 pm

Christopher. wrote:It would have been easier to just drive to the store and pay the money to buy another WiFi adaptor for which support is built in than the hassle I've gone through so far (and lost sleep trying to get this done after the kids have gone to bed).

I will go look for a document/thread or such which lists which mini-PCI WiFi card is recommended for Mint, maybe buy one of those and be happy. Everything else seems to be working on the laptop including sound and graphics. This guy (who owns the laptop) is poor and doesn't have any other computer, he'll be excited and with the added bonus of being less susceptible to malware I hope he learns to enjoy Linux.


The Atheros 9285 cards work fine. They run well under $20 new on eBay. Here's a cheap one. They're easy enough to install and require no extra drivers. They are half height, so you'll need an adapter if it's a full height card.
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