February 18, 2003

Netgear PCMCIA and Mandrake 9.0 for Dummies (like me)

- by Tina Gasperson -
Sometimes I think I just want to go back to Windows. I have much less personal
responsibility with that operating system. If some piece of hardware doesn't
work out of the box, I can make a phone call and demand that someone do
something about it. If that's not successful, then I just take it back. It's not
quite that easy with Linux. I can't be stupid. And I like to be stupid
sometimes.Linux doesn't cut me any slack. And yes, I am whining. And no, I don't think Linux owes me any slack. That doesn't make it less irritating, however.Take this past weekend,
for example.

Holy crap.
I got a Linksys wireless router and a Netgear wireless PCMCIA card for
Valentine's Day. (Yes, this is the kind of thing I like to get. Flowers are nice
but they don't last long, and I'm swearing off chocolate because I have a bad
reaction to it -- it makes my butt swell up.)

Anyway, I should have paid attention the last time I was trying to get a PCMCIA
card working on my laptop. Back then, I had someone to help me, and as they were
doing their command line stuff, I confess, I was thinking about Dove chocolate
or something, and I didn't retain any of the knowledge I could have. I should
have remembered the holy computer axiom: You WILL have to do this again at some

So, the router just works, no problem. Good thing you can plug four cables into
it for wired connections. Because, of course, the card doesn't work and I don't
know what to do because I wasn't paying attention the last time, so I have to
get online and search for help.

Now that I know (and remember from before) the solution for getting a PCMCIA
card to be recognized, it seems so damned easy. At the time, however, it was
like craziness trying to find something straightforward, even at the places
where you?d expect to find straightforward information about PCMCIA cards and
Linux: the PCMCIA-Linux HOWTO. The problem wasn?t the HOWTO. The problem was me.

I was in a hurry, and didn't put my brain in gear before engaging my desire to
just get the dang card running. After searching around a bit for information
about Mandrake 9.0 and Netgear wireless cards, I just decided to can Mandrake
and put SuSE 7.3 back on. God that was stupid.

SuSE 7.3 is older than Mandrake 9.0. And not only does it not support
the Netgear card right out of the box, I find out it doesn't even have the
right driver. And getting the right driver isn't just a matter of downloading it
and installing it. No, I have to RECOMPILE THE KERNEL, I think, "This isn't what
I had in mind."

Sometimes you want to be able to install something and have it just work.

I didn't feel like recompiling my kernel (I think that's what I had to do), so I
grabbed Mandrake 9.0 again and re-installed it. After all my knee-jerk
reactions, I finally gathered up enough information to hopefully get the card
running. I did the following (this is for people who are googling for an answer
about how to get Netgear MA401RA - or many other unsupported cards - running in
Mandrake 9.0):

Insert the card in an available PCMCIA slot. Open a terminal. Type su and hit
return. Type the root password, and hit enter. Type cardctl ident and hit return.

You'll see something like this:

product info: NETGEAR MA401RA Wireless PC, 'Card', 'ISL37300P', 'Eval-RevA'
manfid: 0x000b, 0x7300
function: 6 (network)

Write it down. From your terminal, still su'ed to root, type cd /etc/pcmcia
and hit return. Type kwrite and hit return. When the editing program comes up,
type in the following:

card "NETGEAR MA401RA Wireless PC"
manfid 0x000b, 0x7300
bind "orinoco_cs"

Save the file with the name 'netgear.conf' and exit. This little file tells the
computer that when it finds a card with this identity, it is to bind it with the

'orinoco_cs' driver.

Log out and restart the computer. Now when the boot messages scroll by, you'll
see that the Netgear card is identified correctly and you should get the 'double

beep' that tells you the card is working properly. From here, open up the
Mandrake Control Center and click on 'Network & Internet' then 'Connection.' If
you have another NIC already installed, it will probably show up as eth0. If
not, your wireless PCMCIA card will use this tag. Launch the 'Wizard' by
clicking the button in the lower left quadrant of the dialog.

Use auto detection. Click 'Next.'

Choose to configure a LAN connection. Click 'Next.'

Decide whether you need to enter an IP address or if you will have the IP
address automatically determined (if you're using something like a Linksys
router, you'll have automatic IP). Click 'Next.'

The wizard will tell you it is configuring eth0 or eth1. It will be obvious
which one is the wireless card because you'll see a list of entries for things
like 'WIRELESS_MODE' and 'WIRELESS_ESSID'. Leave the defaults on for these and
click 'Next.'

Enter your hostname or leave it blank. Click 'Next.'

Click 'Yes' to restart the network. Click 'Next.'

Now the machine is obtaining an IP address for the card. This will take a few
moments. The next screen that comes up tells you the configuration is finished.
Click 'Finish.'

You're up. Now be careful out there. Don't go flying off the handle, like yours truly.

Click Here!