Saturday, December 10, 2011

BCM4311 Wireless Firmware in Arch Linux

I have the BCM4311 wireless card on my Dell Inspiron 1521 latptop, and Arch detects it, but still needs the firmware to use the wireless card. The Arch Wiki has all the info you need, but tracking it down and determining the step-by-step process can be elusive. If you are new to Arch Linux, or just got a laptop with this adapter (or similar model), here are the steps to getting the wireless working.
  1. Download the latest firmware from the AUR
    • You will be downloading the tarball (.tar.gz file). However you get the file, I put the file in /home/jbess/Downloads/builds on my laptop, but you can put it anywhere you want. 
    • You will need to connect your laptop via ethernet cable and either download the file via a web browser or wget in command line.
    • You can also download the file(s) from another computer and put them on a USB drive or CD/DVD and transfer them to your laptop. If this is the case, you will also need the actual firmware file too. Download that from Locate the broadcom-wl-{version}_mipsel.tar.bz2, where {version} matches the version number found in the AUR package. At the time of writing this, it is, so you would locate the broadcom-wl- file. *Note: In ArchBang, I had to also download and install b43-fwcutter, which pulls out the firmware from the file.
  2. Unzip the tarball
    • Using a console (command line), navigate to the directory you downloaded the tarball, and untar it. Use the command tar -xf b43-firmware.tar.gz. Now run cd b43-firmware to change into the untar'd directory.
    • If you don't have a network connection and had to separately download the actual firmware from, put that .tar.bz2 file into the b43-firmware directory.
  3. Run makepkg
    • As a normal user, run makepkg -s. If there are any dependency problems (and network connected) it will try to solve it or will tell you what else you need to install. 
  4. Install the b43-firmware package
    • As root or with sudo, run pacman -U *.xz to install the firmware. 
  5. Reboot the system
    • When you are up and running again, you should be able to follow the directions on the Arch wiki for managing your wireless connection. 
The whole process is a lot simpler if you can have ethernet plugged in. Dependencies can easily be resolved, as well as you only have to download the one b43-firmware tarball from AUR.

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