¿Quien es el héroe? ¿#! o ath5k?

My personal computer, an Acer Aspire 3050 laptop is like a Pandora’s box when I boot into Linux. It has aged well, works perfectly, but something is always uncertain: I can’t never know if something will work the same way as before.

My favorite Linux distro, Crunchbang Linux Statler (Debian based), is a very small and streamlined distro, aimed to people who don’t want bells and whistles in their systems (or that has hardware limitations preventing them from having the bells and whistles). When I first installed Crunchbang (or as their logo, #!) it got all my devices, sound, video, wireless, trackpad and keyboard perfectly. However, with all the incremental kernel and package updates, a device started to react: the WiFi device. Enter the Atheros AR5007EG. A device that works perfectly in Windows, but for Linux, you’re in luck if any distro recognizes it out-of-the-box.

My particular case with Ubuntu Linux 10.10 was pretty interesting: In the Live CD session, it got recognized and worked without problems. When you install it to your hard drive, it stops working. The same thing happened with Crunchbang Linux Statler alpha January or February builds. So, I had to start from Statler alpha 2, and upgrade with apt-get dist-upgrade. Even with that it failed. I removed the security features from my router/gateway, and it didn’t work. I then found out, the problem was with my wireless card, not my router.

It so happens that the alpha 2 version of #! has ath_pci, the main component of MadWifi, a driver based on the commercial and closed-source Atheros driver implementation. However, the lifespan of that driver has been reduced notably: It’s incompatible with the recent Linux kernels.

¿What solution is available in this case? Use ath5k.

Atheros developed an open-source hardware abstraction layer (HAL) for some wireless devices, and released it to the community. From there a group of developers forked MadWifi and ended up with ath5k. Fortunately, thanks to the Linux Wireless package, the installation is quick and painless.

The process is simple, follow up the instructions of the download page of the Linux Wireless package (http://linuxwireless.org/en/users/Download). They’re easy to follow and will relieve you from the pain caused by those wireless devices. I haven’t tested it on Ubuntu Linux 11.0, but I don’t fancy installing it right now.

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