Koala Bites Man

HP Mini came pre-loaded with SUSE Linux Enterprise Edition version 11. There is much to like about this and if I were coming from Microsoft Windows, I would be very comfortable to carry on using it. But it’s seriously corporate, and HP Mini lives mostly at home. So last night, I took the plunge and installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10; Karmic Koala to its friends. Bye bye geeko, hello koala.

I created USB versions of the regular Ubuntu and the Netbook Remix, and tested them both before opting for the Netbook Remix. In particular, I made sure wireless worked, which involved activating the proprietary Broadcom driver. Ubuntu told me to activate the driver and gave me the activate screen, Press the Activate button. No problem, everything worked flawlessly when running off the USB drive.

Then I installed the Netbook Remix on my hard drive. And the Koala bit me. Activate the Broadcom driver. Enter password. Press Activate. Enter password. Press Activate. Enter password. Press Activate. Nix. Nada. Nothing. WTF? The driver is there. Ubuntu knows it needs to be activated. It tells me to activate it. It knows I entered the correct password. But it does not work.

After hours of searching, the solution eventually emerged from Google, as other people discovered the same problem and mostly failed to solve it. There were lots of messages of the form, “I tried xyz and it didn’t work.”  I finally found a solution that worked for me. In Terminal:
sudo apt-get remove dkms
sudo apt-get install bcmwl-kernel-source

Then restart the computer.

Let’s get this straight. It’s a netbook remix, aimed at consumers. Most netbooks don’t have an Ethernet port and rely on wireless to connect to the Internet. If there is one thing to get right, it’s wireless networking. This is a bug pure and simple. Did anybody actually test this? Not good enough, Mr Shuttleworth.

Apart from the wireless bug, the Netbook Remix is nicely put together. The work the visual design team has done to conserve vertical screen space is excellent; everything fits into one bar at the top of the screen, instead of the 3 bars that the regular Ubuntu uses. So: top honours to the designers; the testers have some explaining to do.

My next quest is to find a way to add a second workspace and move between them.

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