26 January 2009

Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo A1655G, Broadcom BCM4318 (and Ubuntu 8.10)

If you have a Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo A1655G and have tried to install the linux operating system, you have probably been dissapointed with its wireless card: a Broadcom BCM4318. It has two main problems:

  1. It is not directly recognized nor supported by major linux distributions. In fact it does not work with the b43 driver for the Broadcom 43xx wireless cards, even though it is a 43xx model and it is the driver suggested by Ubuntu 8.10.
  2. It does not have a hardware switch to turn it on and off. Instead, you need to use a radio button which is controlled by a software driver.
The lack of wireless capabilities is the main reason why I stopped using GNU/Linux in my laptop. The good news is that, after two years from that experience, wifi can be now used! I've tried Ubuntu 8.10 and a couple of kernel modules and it works!.

Here is the information you need to solve the two main problems of this wireless card described above:
  1. Follow the instructions and files provided in Samuel Barrett's blog to use the Windows driver with ndiswrapper and install the wifi.sh script. Thanks Samuel!
  2. Download the fsaa1655g module (I used fsa1655g-kernel-2.6.26.tar.bz2) from Martin Vecera's site.  Follow the instructions to build it and install it as a kernel module. Thanks Martin!
  3. Add the fsa1655g module at the end of the wifi.sh startup script: sudo modprobe fsaa1655g. This will turn the wireless card on by default when you boot your machine.
This has worked for me perfectly in Ubuntu 8.10. Now I can scan an connect to wireless networks using Ubuntu's Network Manager. Unbelievable!

Of course, use this information at your own risk. If you don't have the same laptop and linux distribution or you don't take care in certain steps, you can mess up your system and you will be the only responsible for that :)