Linux wifi help :(

From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 2 Feb 2017 01:47
To: ALL1 of 19
So I have my Thinkpad X201s and I've just spent all evening setting stuff up except for the wifi, only to discover the X201 contains an Intel wireless card for which only non-free firmware is available, and I've been setting up Trisquel which runs on Linux-libre. :'(

I tried installing iwlwifi firmware using the Debian 7 steps here but although it appears to have installed (adds a bunch of files to /lib/firmware), iwconfig still doesn't list it.

Does it also need a driver installed? Is anything in Trisquel/Linux-libre likely to be blocking it?

From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 2 Feb 2017 01:56
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 2 of 19
If you can't get working, maybe a usb wifi adapter? I have a tenda on my pc at home that works in Fedora 19 out of the box iirc.

I think it's this one:
EDITED: 2 Feb 2017 01:58 by DSMITHHFX
From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 2 Feb 2017 02:33
Yeah, don't want to waste a USB slot, but that's the backup. Not a bulky antenna though - there are nano USB adaptors that aren't too bad.

Annoyingly I've promised a working system by Friday, so need to check if this or any of these will work on Linux-libre - have until 5pm tomorrow/today to get next day delivery.

Kinda hoping Xen's going to appear before then and give me a magic command to just make it all work. :)

EDITED: 2 Feb 2017 02:34 by BOUGHTONP
From: Lucy (X3N0PH0N) 2 Feb 2017 07:09
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 4 of 19
Does it have to be Trisquel? Cos that's obviously an obstacle and you're kinda rendering that choice of distro redundant by forcing proprietary firmware in there.

If not, I'd go with Debian - still free by default but not to the point where the only thing it runs on is MIPS.

If not... I don't know. Modprobe to see what if any kernel driver is being loaded for the wifi card and take it from there. It might be that the kernel in Trisquel just compiles out any drivers that even look for firmware in which case a kernel recompile might solve it (but again, at that point why Trisquel and also you're creating an unmaintainable system).
From: ANT_THOMAS 2 Feb 2017 09:56
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 5 of 19
Does the person/people using the laptop care about it being free/non-free?

I would guess no, which surely means you're just introducing restrictions which make your setup more difficult and their use of the laptop less user friendly.
From: ANT_THOMAS 2 Feb 2017 09:56
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 6 of 19
Another option is finding a new mini pci-e wireless card and replacing the Intel one with one that is supported.
From: Matt 2 Feb 2017 14:14
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 7 of 19
Is the WiFi card removable and can you replace it with another compatible card? That would save the use of a USB socket at least.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 2 Feb 2017 15:00
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 8 of 19
I like the big ass antenna sticking out the back of my pc, for the same reason I keep the sides off and my hdds in an external cage with a big **H O T** paper sign folded on top, so Mrs.D doesn't throw dirty laundry over it.
From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 2 Feb 2017 15:12
To: Matt 9 of 19
In theory, yeah, but figuring out what's compatible is too much hassle right now. (Plus it requires taking off keyboard and palmrest to do.)

With a USB one I just need a supported chipset?

EDITED: 2 Feb 2017 15:13 by BOUGHTONP
From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 2 Feb 2017 15:15
To: Lucy (X3N0PH0N) 10 of 19
I spent several hours settings things up that I don't want to repeat - if it can be easily converted to Debian without taking ages and being confusing and creating a horrible hybrid then fine, but I suspect that route would be worse than re-setting up Debian from scratch.

A single bad firmwire isn't ideal but doesn't make it completely redundant - especially if it can be undone once I have time/inclination to swap the card over.

From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 2 Feb 2017 16:21
To: ANT_THOMAS 11 of 19

Half do, half don't object, and the point is identical bases.

I'm building the most free solution without sacrificing user friendliness whilst being constrained by time - if I'd discovered this sooner I probably would have looked for a different LTS distro that used the regular kernel, and it seems likely I'm going to have to waste the entire evening tonight repeating stuff I've already done. :(

From: ANT_THOMAS 3 Feb 2017 10:33
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 12 of 19
I guess that's the penalty you pay for not checking all hardware is compatible with the strict list. Are you able to use a regular kernel? Or does that just defeat the whole object and you may as well start from scratch with a well supported distro?
EDITED: 3 Feb 2017 10:40 by ANT_THOMAS
From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 3 Feb 2017 12:36
To: ANT_THOMAS 13 of 19
I did check the hardware, and it was listed as Linux compatible, with no indication on wireless firmware being an issue. Whilst looking into Trisquel I either didn't see or didn't notice that all the people there using and recommending Thinkpads didn't use the default wireless card.

It was only on looking more into Linux-libre that I discovered it doesn't just remove non-free firmware, but actively refuses to load it even if you install it separately.

So I'm going with Debian - still got some more setup to do today, but not oversleeping like I usually do means I at least have a bit of time.

EDITED: 3 Feb 2017 12:36 by BOUGHTONP
From: ANT_THOMAS 3 Feb 2017 12:43
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 14 of 19
That's a bit shit, freedom should include being able to install whatever you want without being restricted to what some group of people say you should/shouldn't.
From: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 3 Feb 2017 13:51
To: ANT_THOMAS 15 of 19
Yep, goes against "The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose" and "The freedom to ... change it so it does your computing as you wish"

No point arguing that though - they'd just say having the source code means you're free to modify it, (whilst insisting immediately that doing so would be the worst thing ever).

From: ANT_THOMAS 3 Feb 2017 16:11
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 16 of 19
I had a very quick search to see what support that distro had for Intel WiFi (obviously little or none), and the first few forum posts were just people getting angry for others linking to non-free proprietary firmwares. At which point I thought, I'm not Richard Stallman so I really don't care.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 3 Feb 2017 17:11
To: ANT_THOMAS 17 of 19
Richard cares so you don't have to.
From: ANT_THOMAS 3 Feb 2017 17:38
It's a massive weight off my penguin shoulders.
From: Lucy (X3N0PH0N) 3 Feb 2017 20:39
To: Peter (BOUGHTONP) 19 of 19
It's the nature of the beast though innit. If you want to be *100% certain* that there's nothing proprietary on your machine, then Trisquel is the right choice. Which means for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of situations, it's a terrible choice.

There are *plenty* of other distros (Debian's a good choice for a fairly hard-line but still sane approach to freeness).