broadcom wireless

"Terrell Prudé Jr." microman at
Sun May 4 21:46:06 UTC 2008

Have a look in the /lib/firmware directory and see if you see any files
in there.  If not, then that's your problem.

BTW, yep, it does work.  I've got it working on my Dell Latitude D600,
which comes with that accursed Broadcom crap.  I've also got it working
on my Latitude D610 that runs Slackware.  The driver itself has been
included in Linux ever since v2.6.17.  However, you also need something
called the firmware, which is loaded by the driver up into the wireless
card's own little embedded memory.  A little explanation of what's
really going on here is in order.

See, these wireless NICs are their own little tiny computers, with their
own little CPUs, DRAMs, and operating systems.  That little operating
system is what tells the wireless NIC how to be a wireless NIC.  Think
of it as the wireless NIC's own little BIOS.  Traditionally, that little
embedded operating system was included on a PROM (and its successors
EPROM and EEPROM) chip.  However, to save some pennies here and there,
some manufacturers have decided to do away with the EEPROM and replace
it with DRAM.

But wait, you say!  DRAM gets wiped after every power cycle!  Well,
you're right.  Since that's so, then how do we get that little embedded
operating system back into the wireless NIC so that it can actually work?

The answer is something called a "firmware image."  This is a file that
contains the entirety of what used to be on that EEPROM.  When you
install a device driver on, say, MS Windows, that device driver is more
than just a device driver.  It also contains these "firmware images." 
What it does is store them somewhere on your hard disk.  Then, at
boot-time, the driver comes up, looks for the firmware image, and loads
it up into the wireless NIC's DRAM.  Effectively, you've replaced the
EEPROM with some space on your hard disk.

It works the same way on GNU/Linux.  The problem isn't technical; it's
legal.  Broadcom, for whatever asinine reason (Microsoft
payments/threats, perhaps?), doesn't seem to want their firmware
distributed with FOSS platforms.  So, we have to install them ourselves.
usually from a Windows driver package.  We've got to extract the
firmwares from the driver package and then put them in the right place. 
That "right place" on GNU/Linux systems is /lib/firmware.

The bc43xx-fwcutter package is what does this extraction.  After you
extract the firmwares, then you've got to copy them all over to the
/lib/firmware directory.  You will need to have root powers ("sudo -i",
for example) to do that.  You also will need a Windows driver package
from which to extract these firmwares.

Do you GNU <>?
Microsoft Free since 2003 <>--the ultimate
antivirus protection!

Curtis Vaughan wrote:
> I have been struggling 2 days now to get a broadcome wireless card to 
> work on an HP DV6000 under Ubuntu 8.04. I've found tons of pages with 
> people getting it to work. But everything I've tried doesn't work. The 
> interesting thing is I went to the Ubuntu Help Wifi Docs and they say 
> that the driver is included in 8.04 and that a manual config is not 
> required. That it is all controlled through the nm-applet. But I have not 
> been able to get the card up at all. 
> Any ideas?
> Thanks.
> Curtis
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