This is a short success story about setting up Fedora Core 4 on a compaq armada 1700 (pentium 266 with 168Mb ram).
Its been a long time since i used the Yggdrasil distribution, and have spent most of the intervening time in the windows world so i guess i've slipped back to newbie status. Anyway, my primary goal was to setup a laptop with linux, and with wireless networking to enable use elsewhere in the house (my wife was starting to forget what i looked like!) and to get back up to speed with linux again.
The wireless adapter i have available to me is a MSI Wireless 11g Cardbus CB54G2 and i have a linksys wap54g (v2) access point. The CB54G2 has the RT2500 chipset.
I tried various non-fedora distributions including Knoppix 3.6, 3.9, slackware 10, ubuntu hoary and a few others but none of these distributions (at least the way i installed them!)would recognise the rt2500 chipset on this pcmcia card, even with ndis wrapper.
Fedora Core 4 was released (been waiting keenly for it to arrive!) so i gave it a go.
The Armada 1700 was a lowly pentium 266 with 64mb of base ram, but fortunately this one had the extra memory card to bring it up to 160mb, and a 3.5gb hdd. just enough according to the fedora specs to run the gnome desktop with a little room to spare.
After a few problems reading the distribution cdroms, i applied the ide=nodma option and the disks were read successfully. next problem was that of the grub boot loader, having problems after completing the install with grub not loading the kernel. After some further research and a few mentions of problems with grub and the LVM Volume groups partitioning scheme, i reinstalled fc4 and manually partitioned the system with a ext2 boot, ext3 root and swap partitions. Fedora then installed (as a personal desktop) and grub worked normally.
Took me a while to get the kernel source installed but i followed the guides on the fedora release notes (along with a fair bit of reading up on various other sites on kernel source and compiling) and got it all installed ok following the "Fedora Core 4 Releaase Notes" document, section 6.2.2 Linux Kernel section guidelines up to and including 18.104.22.168. The only difference to the guidelines was that i had to specify kernel-2.6.spec when doing the rpmbuild step (instead of the specified kernel.spec). I am using the default i686 kernel and source.
Next step was to do some research on the rt2500 wireless lan drivers and see what i could find. I downloaded the latest drivers from the sourceforge rt2x00 project (late july) and prepared to compile them. I had to manually install a few rpms including the kernel-devel, kernel-headers, glibc headers, glibc kernheaders, glibc devel and gcc 4 not to mention rpm build (as the "personal desktop" install of fedora doesnt install the development software components - i'll re-do it later and install "workstation" instead).
I successfully compiled and installed the drivers according to the "RaLink 2400 Wireless LAN Card - Fedora Core 3 Installation" how to on the serial monkey website (http://rt2x00.serialmonkey.com/
The first pass through the configuration the ra0 device was not found so i used the pcmcia command line tools to check if the card was recognised and it was recognised. I re-checked the config files in /etc/sysconfig as per the guidelines and discovered i missed configuring one of the files! (oops). also the fact that iwconfig reported "no wireless tools" tricked me and sent me on a goose chase and it was there all the time!
I configured the wireless settings on both the linksys access point and the rt2500 pcmcia card with no security (strictly a test network only, my fedora core 2 test web server and this fedora core 4 laptop) and set channel to 1 option in the rt2500 configuration file ifcfg-ra0 as the gnome network config tool didnt allow you to change the channel no from 1 (greyed out!).
I rebooted and pinged the web server ok and browsed my webserver contents no problems!
The moral of this story is, if you pick compatible hardware in advance (ie do your research before you buy - or in my case, borrow and try before you buy) and do your research on your distros website first, (not to mention the fact that o downloaded and read the ieee802.11 documents and bought and read an o'rielly "linux unwired" book) it will come together reasonable well.
coming from a long stint in the window$ world where there is plentiful well written do$umentation to fall back on, i have found it a little harder than most to easily find the right sources of information - i recall on one google search some commentary from some gurus who quoted zero to wireless in up to 10 hours - well, its taken me about three-four weeks elapsed time (i dont know when to give up) and about 25-30 hours including installing fc4 (ironing out problems) researching wireless cards and how tos, and about 3 hours to do the actual wireless install/config/startup!
[Note: after having hacked around with wireless for a few weeks since i initially wrote this article, it's actually quite easy to setup now! - could just about do it in my sleep. just needs lots of patience and perseverence and dont be afraid to ask for help from others...]
securing the network with WEP, WPA AES or WPA TKIP i found to be a bit finicky but with persistence, you'll get it to go! the setup above used DHCP to request an address from a dhcp server, whilst the wireless was configured as either no security or WEP security. Note: if you have some trouble with dhcp, get it working using a static address first, ensuring your gateway address is correct (ie the gateway address should be in the same network subnet). if i setup the computer using WEP security and then manually changed it and the linux wireless settings to WPA without rebooting, the WPA would come up successfully, but on reboot the machine would fail to obtain an ip address via dhcp.
so here's what i did.
1. I set the pc as having a static address initially (changed to dhcp later once i got wpa working).
2. i modified the /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifup-wireless script with the following lines APPENDED to the end of the file:
# comment about these extra lines
ifconfig mode managed
iwpriv ra0 set AuthMode=WPAPSK
iwpriv ra0 set EncrypType=TKIP
iwpriv ra0 set WPAPSK="mywpapskbb"
iwconfig ra0 essid "mywap54g2"
# comments of course matching the settings in my access point.
THEN i powered down the computer (if you dont, ra0 may not come up!) and back up again. Note: you can do the same for AES except using the EncrypType=AES option. WPAPSK using TKIP came up beautifully!
next steps include and optimising the kernel for the armada 1700 hardware (to wring out a little more performance!).
many thanks to the rt2x00 project on sourceforge, the fedora project for fedora core 2 and 4, and the hard work by all working on the wireless lan and wireless drivers (etc etc) (good work mark wallis and thanks for the help...).
all in all, a gratifying but humbling experience.
PS as there are an awful lot of questions, howtos, general notes and faqs on the rt2500 series, and an apparently regular stream of new users of the rt2500 chipsets asking similar questions, would anyone be interested in helping to pull together a comprehensive howto for posting here and on the serial monkey website to help out other users. i'm thinking a modular howto, modular in the sense of breaking it down into a few main procedures, with sub modules for various distros and submodules for various makes (linksys, msi, etc etc) and types of interface (pci, usb, pcmcia/cardbus). i am interested in seeing one howto doco cover other makes and models of wireless cards as that would have helped me greatly when i started on wireless and linux together a few months ago! Send me a direct message if you're interested, or reply to this.