Here’s something that strikes me as being of interest to very few readers, but I never know….
In my ongoing struggle to make an old clunker laptop (a Dell C600 with an 850MHz CPU) into a modern, fast-running Internet machine, I have been experimenting with different Linux distributions. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I began with Ubuntu, which worked quite well (even running from the live CD) and managed to configure itself perfectly in every respect, even finding and bringing up the wireless Wifi card (an Orinico/Lucent/Agere mini-PCI — the kind which has to have an internal antenna wire).
The problem, though, is that the card is an older, slower one which does not support WPA encryption, but only the less secure WEP (which even an amateur could hack). As reconfiguring my router for the less-secure WEP is out of the question, I was stuck with outmoded technology, which cannot be upgraded by new drivers, whether in Linux or Windows. But I was intrigued by the way the Linux OS immediately started up the card, and displayed all the nearby networks, and it occurred to me to check Ebay to see whether there is a WPA version. Sure enough, Broadcom has one which fits the PCI slot in the older Dells, and not only does it support WPA, but at 54Mbps it is much faster than my old 11Mbps card.
Moreover it was cheap. And I mean amazingly dirt cheap; for $4.66 I bought a Broadcom 4318 including shipping — from China! You’d think the shipping alone would be more than that. Even more amazingly, it arrived in a week’s time.
The problem, though, is that these Broadcom wireless cards are notoriously difficult to install. Even in Windows, I found that while there are a number of drivers available, they didn’t work, and I tried and tried. Finally, I learned that Dell had rebadged the Broadcom chipset cards as the 1370 TrueMobile card, and that Dell’s downloadable driver might be made to work. It didn’t, but finally I read somewhere not to rely on the self installer to install it, but to point to the unpacked files later when the Found Hardware Wizard pops up. It finally worked. (In Windows, after many hours of work.)
In Linux, though, these cards are considered to be an infinitely larger pain in the ass to configure. They are called “stubborn and infamous” and are so notorious for causing trouble that they cause many people to reject Linux as an OS:

In the end, many get discouraged with linux and wonder why anyone ever said Linux worked well.

The problem is so bad that it’s called “the BCMxx issue (and “such a showstopper“) — with the BCM chip being called “one of the most notorious wireless chipsets in the Linux community.”
I’m not especially into being a geek, but it occurred to me that in light of all of this fussing that I might use my old laptop with BCM chip as a sort of Linux “challenge” — to see which would work best in a stubborn old laptop with an even more stubborn and challenging wireless card. While the Ubuntu live CD made the laptop really fly, there’s no way I could get it to drive the Broadcom wireless card without going through a long litany of installation commands which are AYOR, and which, because they are not permanent, would be a huge waste of time to do on a temporary OS running off a live CD. So next I tried OpenSUSE. I have used SUSE before and this version looks really cool, but I think it’s designed for a faster CPU and more RAM, because on the old Dell it was slow as molasses compared to the Ubuntu. Plus it absolutely would not recognize the wireless card, and again, I didn’t want to get into lengthy experimenting with an on-the-fly OS….
Where was I? (While I was writing this, a couple of Mormon missionaries knocked on the door, and they couldn’t have been nicer. I told them I liked the LDS church (which I do, for reasons I spared them) but that Mormonism wasn’t for me, and they left.)
Next I tried Zenwalk Linux. Zenwalk is based on Slackware, which I’ve used in the past and know to be the real hard core geek Linux. Master Slackware, and you have acquired the skills to become a hacker. I have the greatest of respect for it and for the Slackware community, but not enough patience to be a true believer, or a Slacktivist, or whatever they’re calling themselves. But as Zenwalk is supposed to be Slackware repackaged as easier to use, I thought I’d try it. Again, like the OpenSUSE, it was much too cumbersome for the old and tired machine. Not only did everything seem to get stuck, but wireless networking was hopeless, and it would not even come close to configuring the Broadcom card.
So I had pretty much decided to do a full install of the Ubuntu and then work on the lengthy tweaking when I read about Vector Linux. Another Slackware-based derivative, it has been tantalizingly described as “a better Slackware than Slackware,” and has also been praised for its ability to configure the dreaded BCM43xx. Then I read this review, which sold me on it:

I’ve read past reviews by other reviewers describing Vector Linux as “better Slackware than Slackware” or “what Slackware should be” and I always felt that was a bit of a stretch. With this release it isn’t.

Unfortunately, the first version I downloaded (which was 5.9) did not work, although it did actually recognize my card, and in response to my query:
lspci -vnn | grep 14e4
it spat out the name:

0001:01:01.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM4318 [AirForce One 54g] 802.11g Wireless LAN Controller [14e4:4318] (rev 02)

This tantalized me further, and made me think I was on the right track with Vector, but needed a later version. So I downloaded the iso of the 6.0 version of the live CD, burned one, and popped it in.
It found and configured the cantankerous BCM4318 card right out of the box (or, “ootb”) without any configuration, searching for or downloading of drivers or anything. All I needed to do was click OK, and the wireless networks just appeared, I entered my password and I was online. With an ancient clunker that most people would have turned into landfill.
Vector Linux is also very pretty and well designed, highly intuitive, lots of goodies, games, esthetically pleasing screensavers, etc. Very impressive, and based on my experience, highly recommended.
I’m glad there are so many Linux geeks running around and reverse engineering everything, because it makes it that much harder for the people who want to tell people what do to with their own computers. As entertainment industry stooges and other hegemonic copyright trolls wage their relentless war against freedom with wretched legislative power grabs like DRM and the DMCA (and endless takedowns of protected free speech), Linux is always lurking just behind them, nipping at their heels, and reminding them that the desire for freedom is very much alive and kicking, even in the newly reminted corporate-socialist United States..
The problem is, there are still people who believe that there’s a right to own your own computer.
I’ll cling to mine for as long as I can.
MORE: Lest anyone think my healthy interest in Linux is paranoia (or anti-Microsoft in nature), consider the fact that large computer companies like Apple are now heavily involved in law enforcement, and may even involve themselves in police raids on bloggers.

The raid that San Mateo area cops conducted last week on the house of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen came at the behest of a special multi-agency task force that was commissioned to work with the computer industry to tackle high-tech crimes. And Apple Inc. sits on the task force’s steering committee.

Glenn Reynolds has more on the raid.
If using a Linux computer to play a DVD is a felony, it begs the question of not only who is enforcing the laws, but who is writing them.
I like to think that what I own should be mine, and if I don’t own what’s in my computer, then someone already has a foot in the door, and one foot leads to another.
MORE: CNET News has more on the raid, which appears to have been illegal.