Categotry Archives: netbook


Stabilizing an atheros ar9485 (ath9k) connection in Linux (Wheezy)


If you search the internet, one of the issues that seems to come up a lot, are connectivity issues with the atheros AR 9485 card.

I am configuring a new laptop, an HP Pavilion G6-2323DX for my Mom. I ran into many issues that caused me to have to do hokey pokey.

This is pure hokey pokey. But it does work.

The operating system I am using is Debian/Wheezy V 7 RC 1 (64 Bit)

If you do a uname -a I get back:

Linux AnnLin 3.2.0-4-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 3.2.41-2 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Let’s just step by step check things.

1. let’s see if Linux see’s the card:

lspci | grep Wireless

You will get back a line like:

02:00.0 Network controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR9485 Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01)

That means Linux sees it, but of course it is NOT configured.

2. Let’s see if the driver (ath9k) is loaded. We will use modprobe.

modprobe ath9k

if the device driver is loaded, it will just return a prompt. That’s a “good thing” as Martha would say.

3. Let’s look to make sure the wpa-supplicant programme is installed. The WPA supplicant provides wireless protected access (encryption) for our connection.

dpkg -l | grep supplicant

and you should get back:

ii wpasupplicant 1.0-3+b2
amd64 client support for WPA and WPA2 (IEEE 802.11i)

We’re good!

4. Now let’s modify /etc/network/interfaces

cd /etc/network # go to network interfaces
sudo cp interfaces # make a backup copy
sudo nano interfaces

You will get back something like this:

# This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
# and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).

# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

#define the network interface for the wireless lan card
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
wpa-ssid MyHome
wpa-psk MyPass

wpa-ssid is the name of the wireless network you are trying to connect to. wpa-psk is the password for that network. Yup plain text!

The iface line defines wlan0 so it has access to the internet, and gets it’s ip address dynamically (dhcp).

The card interface is STILL not up!

5. Bring up the interface!

sudo ifdown wlan0; sudo ifup wlan0;

you will get output that looks like:

ifdown: interface wlan0 not configured
Internet Systems Consortium DHCP Client 4.2.2
Copyright 2004-2011 Internet Systems Consortium.
All rights reserved.
For info, please visit
Listening on LPF/wlan0/20:16:d8:e5:32:b4
Sending on LPF/wlan0/20:16:d8:e5:32:b4
Sending on Socket/fallback
DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to port 67 interval 8
DHCPREQUEST on wlan0 to port 67
bound to — renewal in 37985 seconds.


Install wicd (Wireless Interface Connection Daemon)

sudo apt-get install wicd

once that is installed, REMOVE the gnome network mangler!

sudo apt-get purge network-manager-gnome


Reboot the machine. After re-booting bring up the interface.

sudo ifdown wlan0; sudo ifup wlan0;

It should look like this:



now go back to /etc/network/interfaces and remove (or comment out with a # in front the wpa-ssid, and wpa-pskid for the wlan card. so just: iface wlan0 inet dhcp and whatever else was there — just not the wpa information.

cd /etc/network # go to network interfaces
sudo nano interfaces

9. Restart the network:

sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

you will get back something like this:

[....] Running /etc/init.d/networking restart is deprecated because it may not[warnnable some interfaces ... (warning).
[....] Reconfiguring network interfaces…Internet Systems Consortium DHCP Client 4.2.2
Copyright 2004-2011 Internet Systems Consortium.
All rights reserved.
For info, please visit

Listening on LPF/wlan0/20:16:d8:e5:32:b4
Sending on LPF/wlan0/20:16:d8:e5:32:b4
Sending on Socket/fallback
DHCPRELEASE on wlan0 to port 67

this basically makes sure we don’t have any errors in /etc/network/interfaces


Reboot once again, and this time the interface should come up automatically. Screensaver engagement should not knock the connection offline.

And that’s what it’s all about!

I have to thank 3 people for all their help. Joe, Loni and Frances.



Dear Mark: Thanks for Ubuntu 10.04 lts


Dear Mark Shuttleworth:

Thank you for Ubuntu 10.04 lts. It was perhaps the best Linux OS I have used. As it hits end-of-life at the end of the month, I have gone in another direction. Debian/Wheezy. I am not at all happy with the direction that Canonical has taken, in regard to desktop environment. I realise with Unity, you are trying to give the same desktop look/feel to all modes of communication: desktop, laptop, cell phones.

While my cell phone runs a Linux variant, it is customised to the device. One design does NOT fit all. Imagine trying to use a cell phone os, on a desktop. Oh wait. I think that’s windows 8.



Getting a Logitech USB headset to work with Skype and Debian on an Acer Netbook


Oh man. Some of the crazy solutions I found on the web. Fudgeting with .asoundrc files. Arghh.

Very simple fix! Get the latest Debian Skype version.

Plug in your Logitech USB Headset.

RIGHT Click on the Skype icon in the TASKBAR (not the desktop icon) – the one with a green check.

Skype Green Icon in the Notification Area

and highlight options. LEFT click on that, and find Sound Devices and “make it so:”

Skype Select Logitech USB Headset

Tada! Easy fix, after 2 days of schlepping!



Second look at Ubuntu’s Unity Interface (for Natty Narwhal) 11.04


Usually when a new release of software comes out, I am game for giving it a fair trial.

I downloaded the iso for 32 bit Natty (Ubuntu 11.04), put it on a flash drive and took it out for a test drive.

Within 3 minutes, I had broken Unity, without trying. The livecd does NOT give you the choice of Gnome or Unity. You get Unity, like it or not!

I said, well it could just be my hardware (an acer aspire netbook). So I begin to monitor things on irc (#ubuntu on

The horrors I am seeing! Problems with Nvidia Graphics cards, breaking Unity, menus disappearing, screens going dark, and a boatload of grub issues. And the release has been out for just over a day now.

This is absolutely the most seriously “quality challenged” issue of a major release I have ever seen.

Here’s how to change from Unity to classic Gnome in Ubuntu 11.04, just in case you have already taken the plunge.

Bottom line: If you haven’t installed Ubuntu 11.04 (natty), DON’T! You will be happy you didn’t!

At this point, I’d recommend staying with what you have already installed, or at least going to back to Ubuntu 10.04, which is an LTS (long term support) release.

Debian Squeeze (6.x) is an alternative, but it is NOT recommended for a n00b, or someone that doesn’t have a good year or so of using Linux behind them.

As always, YMMV (your mileage may vary) applies.

“And oh Auntie Em! There’s NO place like Gnome!”



First look at Ubuntu’s Unity Interface


First Look at Ubuntu’s Unity Interface

Reprinted from International Press

Wow. This is NOT your usual interface. If your accustomed to accessing: Applications/Places/System. That’s all gone. Instead what you find are cryptic icons on the left side of the screen. Some of them you can make out, but others require you to hover over the icon to identify it.

The interface is VERY much like the Apple ipad. I.E. no multi-tasking here. I am used to opening up several instances of the terminal window to do various things. That’s gone. Like the ipad, You can only run one task occurrence at a time. And you can’t do anything to an application, except close it (X). Maximise and Minimise don’t work at all. So why have them as an option, if they don’t do anything? Task switching? NO!

And customisations. Nope, not here!

If you are like me, and accustomed to the buttons on the right side, this usually does the trick:

gconftool-2 --set "/apps/metacity/general/button_layout"
--type string "menu:minimize,maximize,close"

Nope, no way to customise the windows. It’s on the left, like it or not. Want a custom background? Not going to happen. Want to display military time, instead of AM/PM. Nope, that’s gone too!

I tried to install the ubuntu-desktop, in hopes that I’d get an option at login time. Whew it installed great! But when it came to login time, I didn’t have a choice. I was stuck with Unity like it or not. Choice is not a bad thing.

I realise that Mark Shuttleworth is trying to create the same user experience on all platforms, but removing choice options from the user, is not the optimal solution for all of us. Needless to say, Unity did NOT stay on my Netbook very long. I am installing the regular desktop edition on my Netbook, as I type this article.


Getting Wireless connect to work for Acer Aspire (or any Atheros AR9xxx chipset) on Ubuntu



My Acer Aspire D250 Notebook has this wireless lan card:

lspci # get the wireless lan info

01:00.0 Network controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR928X Wireless Network Adapter (PCI-Express) (rev 01)

and the ath9k module is flakey

1. So let’s first get the Linux Version we’re running:

uname -a # get linux kernel version number

Linux Nelson 2.6.31-16-generic #53-Ubuntu SMP Tue Dec 8 04:02:15 UTC 2009 i686 GNU/Linux

2. so I installed the following:

sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-(KernelVersionGoesHere)

ex: sudo apt-get install linux-backports-modules-2.6.31-16-generic

(you must do this (install backports) with any kernel upgrade.)

3. reboot!

No more flakiness!

Didn’t work? No problem:

sudo apt-get purge linux-backports-modules-(KernelVersionGoesHere)

ex: sudo apt-get purge linux-backports-modules-2.6.31-16-generic