Wi-Fi not working? It's time to consult the lovely people on those fine Linux forums

It's all open source's fault! Or is it?


Who, Me? Welcome to another edition of Who, Me? in which a Register reader makes the impossible possible and actually gets Wi-Fi working on Linux.

To be fair to the Penguinistas choking on their mince pies, our tale is set more than 10 years ago, when making Wi-Fi work under Windows could be challenging, let alone on everyone's favourite open-source OS.

Our story comes from a reader we'll call "Erik" (for that was not his name) who was trying to pop a new version of Linux on his laptop. He was a big SUSE fan but distro-curious, also tinkering with Ubuntu at the time. Alas, exactly which distribution and version is lost to time, so for the purposes of this story we'll go with "Linux."

The install went well, but all the bells and whistles of Erik's laptop did not seem to be supported. Most importantly, the Wi-Fi. Naturally, he hit the forums in search of help.

"Searched for same model and same problem," he said, "and lo and behold, exactly the same case shows up!"

Great news! And even better, there were pages of comments after it, meaning that somewhere there was likely to be an answer rather than someone posting "x doesn't work" in 2002 and then in 2015 another agreeing.

"So, I started to do what the nice people in the forum suggested to the original poster," recalled Erik.

Comment after comment he followed, seeming to take the same path as the original poster. Everything the original poster experienced, so did Erik. Drivers were uninstalled and reinstalled. Tests were run. Configurations were tinkered with. Down through the suggestions Erik went, but, like the original poster, without success.

With Wi-Fi still out of action, he went to the next page and carried on down the thread. Right to the very last entry. Made by the original poster.

"Oh, my bad, turns out there is a button on the side of the laptop to turn the Wi-Fi on and off, and it was off!"

Erik had the same model of laptop. With the same switch. Which was in the same position. The software had been willing. The hardware had been weak. A single push of the button and Linux went wireless.

"This taught me several things," sighed Erik. "One of them is to first read the fine forum thread until the end."

"Nice" and "Fine" are rarely words to be associated with modern-day forums (except ours, of course). Then again, it is also too easy to blame Linux for hardware incompatibilities when the problem has less to do with the OS and more to do with the person in the chair.

Confess your own oops moment with an email to Who, Me? ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022