Wireless networking in Zubuntu 
I was testing the (upcoming) new Zubuntu release today on my Spitz. For my wireless network I once again tried to use my old Buffalo WLI2-CF-S11 compact flash card. Although the card worked nicely for a while, it has always been a troublesome experience setting it up. I guess last time I had it working was before I changed my home networking security from WEP to WPA.

So I figured today was the time to delve into the secrets of chipsets, firmware and flashing, just to see if I could get the Buffalo running again in Zubuntu.

First I checked for the chipset on the Buffalo card. Where else than on OESF I found that the Buffalo had a Prism 2.5 chipset. Next thing I checked was whether there was a way to update the firmware. I had no idea, never tried actually. I found this great site with lots of interesting information about flashing prism2 firmware.

I noted the information (using the 'dmesg|tail' command) after inserting the card into the Zaurus. It said:
wifi0: NIC: id=0x800c v1.0.0
wifi0: PRI: id=0x15 v1.1.0
wifi0: STA: id=0x1f v1.3.5
wifi0: defaulting to host-based encryption as a workaround for firmware bug in Host AP mode WEP
wifi0: defaulting to bogus WDS frame as a workaround for firmware bug in Host AP mode WDS
wifi0: registered netdevice wlan0

Using this handy reference table, I found that in my case, having a NIC id of 800c, I needed a primary 'K' and secondary 'F' release code of the Prism2 firmware. So I downloaded the firmware, using version 1.1.1 (pk010101.hex) for the primary firmware and version 1.8.2 (sf010802.hex) for the station firmware. Version 1.8.2 is not the latest (that is 1.8.4) but reportingly the most stable version, so I went for that one.

I used the Zaurus to do the actual firmware flashing. The hostap-utils package contains the prism2_srec utility, which is used for the firmware flashing. After doing a testrun using...
# prism2_srec -v wlan0 pk010101.hex sf010802.hex

...I saw no significant errors of any kind, so I then started the actual flashing using...
# prism2_srec -v -f wlan0 pk010101.hex sf010802.hex

This went flawlessly, and 'dmesg|tail' now told me:
wifi0: NIC: id=0x800c v1.0.0
wifi0: PRI: id=0x15 v1.1.1
wifi0: STA: id=0x1f v1.8.2

Firmware upgrade went fine this far, according to the version upgrade, so now it was time to check whether or not the card supported any new features, WPA being the most important for me.

In the current version of Zubuntu I use WICD as network manager. In the properties I saw my home network instantly (it was not shown at all before the flash upgrade) and I could choose WPA as well. After entering my WPA passphrase I was connected to my wireless home network in just a minute.

This was worth the upgrade, I hope this is of any help to any of you. It may be worth upgrading your wireless card as well. Be careful to pick the right firmware versions for you specific situation!


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