Activating Wireless on Dell Latitude D610 with Ubuntu

I recently received a couple of hand me down Dell Latitude D610 laptops. I’m a long time fan of Dell’s and I figured, while they were no longer up to being speedy Windows PCs, they were still plenty of fire power for Ubuntu. I installed the latest long term support version, Lucid Lynx – 10.04, in a dual-boot environment with Windows XP while I worked out all the kinks. The biggest – shoot, the only – problem so far has been the wireless.

Like many support issues with Ubuntu, it’s interesting to see what is going on with other users when you go researching an issue.  Here is a quick rundown of what I found out (yes, I’m on wireless now, so [SOLVED]!):

  • The Latitude I have is about 4 years old.  It does not use the Broadcom wireless card, but has the Intel mini PCI 2100 B.  If you have that card, you do not need to use ndiswrapper.  The ipw2100 driver is in Ubuntu 10.04.  I know this because I went down the ndiswrapper route first and then backed out of it.
  • My problem was always about connecting.  Ubuntu actually found the hardware fine (iwconfig).  What I did notice is that, even though I did the install from a Live CD and USB key, I needed to be connected to my wired network.  Until I did, the install did not activate any networking so I was dead in the water.  I had to reboot into Windows XP each time I wanted to get network access, then reboot back out into Ubuntu.  The upside was that this showed that the hardware was fine.
  • The wireless network could also see access points, another positive (iwlist).  But it would never connect.  I tried the suggestions for turning my wireless security off (didn’t help) and I also considered whether the Intel card was sufficiently old that it couldn’t interact with my wireless router.  But it supports WPA just fine.
  • I stumbled upon the suggestion that perhaps the Intel driver was installed but not enabled.  That solved my particular problem.  By invoking modprobe ipw2100, I have been able to get the wireless driver to connect.  Once it did, it stored a profile in my network manager and everything seems to be working as it should (and does on my more modern Dell netbook, also running Ubuntu).

I need to understand better why the driver isn’t automatically turning on and whether that has any relation to some initial problems I’m having using Samba to access Windows-based shares.  But for now, at least, I can at least get back into the cloud and sneaker net (or reboot into Windows and then access my NTFS share from Ubuntu for files I grab from my internal network) anything else I need.

10 Replies to “Activating Wireless on Dell Latitude D610 with Ubuntu”

    1. The drivers were already installed on Ubuntu for me, so I was able to run the modprobe command and it found the driver without any additional downloads.

  1. How to get wireless connection on Dell latitude D610, is there any need of insert any NIC Card so I can get wireless connection and if yes, Where can I insert that NIC Card.

    1. I’d get a USB wireless card and use one of the USB ports in the back if yours doesn’t have wireless already. I don’t have this laptop any longer but, while I seem to remember to PC card slots on the side, I can’t remember the last time I saw a PC card wireless NIC.

    1. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked on this machine, but you might check to see if you have any restricted wireless drivers you need to re-install (see comment on grabbing the Broadcom drivers). I’ve also seen some posts where the Dell laptop user is downgrading the wireless drivers to make it work. Another weird experience in a past upgrade was that I had to have a hard-wired connection during install for the networking support to be installed. Without that, neither the network jack nor wireless antenna worked, but reinstalling with that connection grabbed all the components I needed for my network access.

      Anyone else? Good luck, Karel.

  2. Nice written article, as if it came out of PC world. Then I read your minibio and realize it was written by a tech genuis. Just installed ubuntu on a d610 w/ wireless troubles for this newbie. It’ll probably take many hours but I’ll get it.

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