Adventures in BSD

One of thousands of such nights dealing with problems such as this.

Current situation: I’m attempting to set up a custom box that will serve as a general project server. I want wireless working on it so that I can stash it wherever and not worry about it rumbling around, someone spilling something on it, people tripping over it, or any other mishap.

A happy server is a hidden server when at home… and occasionally other places.

This is the same problem box where the raid card wasn’t happy. That problem is now solved.

What is not solved is why wireless functionality is not giving me any joy.

Interestingly enough, the Dlink DWL-G520 seems to be identified as a prism2 chipset instead of the Atheros that it really really should be. The nerds at Seattle Wireless even reference it.

Besides. It was a free card. If it was fried, which it really should not be, shouldn’t it at least be detected as the Atheros card it is? Why is FreeBSD loading the hardware abstraction layer for Atheros and then dumping debug messages for wi0 even though I did the right thing in /boot/loader.conf as specified in the handbook?

Errors include things like:

wi0: timeout in wi_cmd 0x0000; event status 0x0000
 wi0: wi_cmd: busy bit won't clear.

Which gets me nowhere at all.

Oh but wait. Perhaps part of the problem is that it really is a prism2 card, but is one of those retarded prism2.5 cards that just don’t work with anything. I had a lot of dealings with these in PCMCIA cards when I was working with embedded wireless for a project and ended up being referenced in the miniBSD FAQ for about a week. FreeBSD 5.0 was a mess. Especially so when working with a reduced install on nonstandard hardware. I was pulling my hair out trying to work with it for a number of weeks a few years back.

Perhaps they are different cards after all, I have a free but worthless prism2 oddball, and I need to find a new PCI card. What I really want to avoid is having to run ndiswrapper around some lame windows driver. I leave that to complete masochists who bought the wrong hardware and have to make due. I’ve heard that it is never pretty.

Well at least I’m to the bottom of the problem. FreeBSD does not like the card.

So what card should replace it? I have some thoughts on the subject.

It seems that if you look at the reviews of linksys on newegg, they are still all over the place and inconsistent. For the same model of card, you could get any number of versions of architecture.

I think you’re all starting to see how annoying this can be. Is it any wonder that some people install a cardbus slot in their server systems and avoid this hassle by using cards they already know to work?

Yes. That is a rhetorical question. I might be getting close myself. This is the kind of shop that I like to see. Chipsets are clearly marked so that platform compatibility can be assured.

Of course they don’t sell a PCI board. That would be too easy. Every PCI card I have researched so far this evening is a Broadcom chipset, which means the ndiswrapper enjoyment I mentioned earlier.

[Time passes while researching]

It seems that Newegg has a Dlink card here that I have cross referenced from here that has a usable chipset. However the problem isn’t solved. This card has a broken country code that needs to be patched.

This card has a broken country code, which must be set for the card to work, not a trivial process. If when you load the driver for this device, you see: ath0: unable to collect channel list from hal ath0: possible regdomain 18 countrycode 0 then you will need to fix the country code. For information on how to do this, see: This site seems to be down currently, there is a copy of the procedure here:

Sounds great, eh? It gets better.

From the gentoo-wiki link, they reference code sources in sourceforge message boards to patch the madwifi codebase to get it to work.

Gross and likely to be easily orphaned. Therefore disqualified. The search continues. Isn’t this fun?

So after much heartbreak, currently sold Newegg boards that are blessed by madwifi include:
WDA-2320 which looks ok but basically the same price as the high-power card I’ll mention soon.
WDA-1320 which is reviewed as being laughably functional and not worth installing. I quote:

Even on the box it says that it’s got kinda bad range and speed, take their word for it and unless your router is literally 10 feet away, get a better card.

and not least
DWL-G550 which, due to it being the most powerful and useful for my purposes, is out of stock.

Not to worry, there’s a fly-by-night amazon affiliate who has one for about the same price!


I don’t get free shipping because it’s not actually Amazon!


Standard shipping is $8 and might take more than a week! Expedited is $20 and may still take a week!


Whatever. I’m doing it anyway. I can do some writing while I wait to set up this server. I should likely be doing that anyway. I am not good at delayed gratification.

2 responses to “Adventures in BSD

  1. All I need is a card that talks madwifi, which I seem to have on order now.

    Problem soon to be solved.

    Just wait until I start talking multivendor 802.11n around here. I’m sure that will be even more awesome.

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