So, after the previous session’s trials and tribulations, I was determined to make sure the next step ran as smoothly as possible. The most important task for me was to get WiFi working, and as mentioned previously I needed specific drivers for the Broadcom WiFi chip in the MacBook Pro. Ideally, I would just download the drivers on my computer that already has Internet access, and copy them across to the MacBook Pro. No such luck, though, I need to have Internet access on the MacBook Pro and use apt to download and install the necessary drivers.

Where does that leave me? Well I’ll be plugging the MacBook Pro into the router via an Ethernet cable, and hoping like hell that the battery lasts long enough to get the drivers downloaded and installed. In hindsight cable tying the power cords out of the way in my network lab cabinet was a great idea, right up until I need to use the power adaptor elsewhere. Fortunately the OS tells me I have 3 hours of battery left (maybe…) when I unplug the power, which isn’t a bad effort for an almost 12 year old battery. I don’t expect it to last anywhere near that long, but I figure if I can get 30 minutes out of it I’ll be fine.

It’s Never That Easy

About here I should mention a very handy resource I’ve been consulting frequently: Debian’s InstallingDebianOn page. This is a comprehensive resource with instructions and information on installing Debian on any flavour of hardware you’d like. I’ve made good use of the page for the 13” MacBook Pro (Mid 2010) that I’m using here, and it’s made me aware of some issues I may face going forward.

Firstly, there are two different drivers I could use, one open source and the other proprietary, and both have points for and against them. Also, there are multiple Broadcom chips that were used in this model MacBook Pro. This means my next step is to identify which version I have before doing anything else.

To identify the WiFi chip in the laptop I use the instructions from the Linux Wireless webpage. All that needs to be done is type:
lspci -nn -d 14e4:
in a terminal window.

This gives me the following output:
03:00.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Inc. and subsidiaries BCM4322 802.11 a/b/g/n Wireless LAN Controller [14e4:432b] (rev 01)
The important piece of information here is the numbers in the last set of square brackets. This is the Device ID of the Wireless chip, and looking at the table on Linux Wireless, the version I have is shown as only having partial support (bugger…). It does, however, indicate the proprietary driver could be an option for me.

Back on the InstallingDebianOn page, I see there is a note specifically for this version. It turns out that neither driver works completely, but that the proprietary version is more reliable. Regardless of which driver I choose it seems I’m going to be stuck putting the computer to sleep and waking it before it will be able to scan wireless networks.

Right about then I asked myself: “Self, do you really want to have to put your computer to sleep and wake it up just so you can connect to WiFi?”
My answer was a resounding “Oh hell no”.

Plans Were Made to be Changed (Apparently)

So, where should I go from here? I still want to build a nice shiny Linux system from scratch, but I don’t want to make the process any harder than it needs to be. Well, remember how in my last post I said I have a habit of collecting old computers? I’ve got two other laptops I could install on. One of them I know for a fact to be a 32 bit machine running a 1.8GHz Core Duo processor. The other is currently sitting out in my workshop, where I had the brilliant idea of using it for being able to research stuff on the Internet while I’m doing stuff. It may or may not have a 32 bit processor, although I’m fairly sure it’s about the same age as the MacBook Pro, so possibly has a 64 bit processor.

As it stands my preference would be to use a 64 bit machine. So, if my Workshop machine is 64 bit, I’ll use that, otherwise I’ll install on the machine that’s easy to access. Stay tuned for actual progress towards building Linux from scratch in the coming days.