Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bronchitis and Netbooks

Well, I'm writing this while grappling tiredly with what I guess is bronchitis. I spent the early hours of Thursday (3am-8am) at Kaiser's near-empty ER in Terra Linda doing asthma nebulizer treatments as my inhaler wasn't doing jack. Amusingly, this was the first visit where I had easy bathroom access, which wasn't the case for any of my many lower-GI trips!

Being sick has really increased the pressure to follow through on my gradual plans to acquire a netbook... In the past, when I was unwell enough that sitting at my desk was tiring, I propped myself up in bed or on the couch and used a laptop there. I even picked out a small notebook for my previous system with that in mind, since I was suffering from severe muscle weakness & pain thanks to the Chiari. Now that system relies on an external monitor, and my huge old y2k laptop suffered power jack damage. No portability there! I'm trying out a nifty Zaurus SL-5600, but haven't learned how to get my wireless card working yet, so it's of limited use.

For the netbook, I'm thinking of going with a solid-state (i.e. flash) drive coupled with a used 2.5" hard drive -- either inside if I can modify the netbook, or in an external case I have lying around. I'm hunting 10.x" netbooks right now as well, after researching what all the specs mean for a week or so. I'd much prefer to get one with Linux pre-installed, both to show my support and save me time, but (reportedly thanks to MS pressuring the manufacturers) most are nearly the same price as XP sibling with inferior hardware. Arrgh.

Which brings me to something that has been perplexing and annoying me for a while now... Many newbies switch to Linux after seeing many happy comments about how easy to use, attractive, and stable it is; some are also entranced by a friendly community like UbuntuForums. As far as I can imagine, companies like Dell or Lenovo should want to emulate that approach, educate consumers so they realize that it's no harder or less intuitive for a newbie than Windows or OS X are. Instead, reps periodically trot out to repeat those same old lies, undermining a product line of their own that could offer superior profit margins if handled properly.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Funny, my network isn't set to hidden...

I just spent the evening fighting with a new wireless card in my mother's Dell laptop, which is running Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex... Once I figured out (or rather, remembered) the solution, I felt compelled to blog about it, so here I am.

Recently, I needed a couple of new wireless laptop cards, so I got a pair from eBay for $12 total last week, knowing they'd likely work in Linux but not sure what effort it'd take. Since I couldn't find the info online, I'm blogging it here for others. :) It's Encore ENPWI-G2 802.11g PCMCIA Type II PC Card... They didn't work out-of-the-box with Hardy Heron 8.04, but they are detected & set up automatically by a fresh totally-offline live-CD install of Intrepid in both Xubuntu and Ubuntu. Woohoo!

So where's the problem, you ask?

Upon seeing that the card was detected, I went on up to the wireless notification icon and clicked on it for a list of networks. A nice list of all the neighborhood routers popped up, so I clicked on my own. The icon did the usual little animation to show it was trying to connect, then told me that it had been disconnected. WTF?

I tried again, with the same results. Hmm. Right-clicked on it, picked edit connections, and made sure there was an appropriate entry in the Wireless area. Tried again, no luck. Annoyed, I opened up a terminal window, typed iwconfig in, and verified that the card was in fact properly detected & trying to use the right SSID. Yes, all correct, it was supposedly even connected to the right access point, but I couldn't ping the router or jack else!

This time, I stuck the card in my own laptop, which already has the card's twin set up, to check the hardware angle. (I already knew the Dell's card slot was okay.) The darned thing was immediately detected, accepted by the router & signed on without any intervention or trouble. Put it back in the Dell, and went straight back to the land of the supposed connection that wasn't really there.

I spent a while searching the web using every combination of applicable terms I could come up with -- Ubuntu, wireless, ap, dns, you name it. No luck. I clicked up on the wireless icon again, then decided (recalling this might have been what worked last time) to pick connect to hidden wireless network and give it my router's SSID. It showed the animation very briefly, connected, and had no problem automatically reconnecting after that. On my laptop, which was originally set up that way several days ago now, it has had no problem connecting on its own since then, either.

Now, the thing that makes no sense here is that not only is my router set to broadcast its SSID for all to hear, the card was seeing it just fine. I remember now that there had been one entry in a discussion forum (I'm not sure which) where somebody with the same situation but another card was given the above advice, with the same kind of inexplicable success. Hopefully this won't be a problem in Jaunty or future releases -- and considering I have another wireless adapter (this one USB) to set up, I hope that goes a lot more smoothly as well.