Enabling an Intel Pro 2200 wireless network card

Since MATE was now available in the Debian repositories I decided to see how well one of my older laptops (an HP 510 with a 1.4 Ghz Celeron CPU and 512MB RAM) would cope.

I booted from CD and used the wired network adapter to do a minimal installation of Debian wheezy and having installed MATE from the ‘wheezy-backports’ repository, I was quite pleased to discover that everything worked surprisingly well.

A seven-year old budget laptop is never going to be fast, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was perfectly usable.

So I decided to see if I could finish the job properly and get the wireless network adapter working but I quickly discovered that there were a number of issues with the ‘gnome-network-manager’ tool, probably because I’d left something essential out, so I decided to keep it simple and just configure the wireless interface in ‘/etc/network/interfaces’ instead – and in any case this will help keep the number of packages installed on the system to a minimum.

Installing the Firmware

The wireless network identifies itself as an Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG adapter, so having determined that this is supported I needed to install the firmware. The required firmware is only available in the ‘non-free’ repositories as it is released under a proprietary licence so before we can install anything we need to update ‘sources.list’ and add the following lines (shown in bold).

# nano /etc/apt/sources.list

deb http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ wheezy main non-free
#deb-src http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ wheezy main

deb http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main non-free
#deb-src http://security.debian.org/ wheezy/updates main

# wheezy-updates, previously known as 'volatile'
deb http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ wheezy-updates main
#deb-src http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ wheezy-updates main

# wheezy-backports
deb ftp://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ wheezy-backports main
#deb-src ftp://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/ wheezy-backports main

Then update the list of available packages – check that this retrieves the list of available non-free packages (shown in italics).

# apt-get update
Get:6 http://ftp.uk.debian.org wheezy/non-free i386 Packages [77.5 kB]
Hit http://security.debian.org wheezy/updates/main i386 Packages
Hit http://ftp.uk.debian.org wheezy/main Translation-en
Get:7 http://security.debian.org wheezy/updates/non-free i386 Packages [14 B]
Fetched 536 kB in 3s (164 kB/s) 
Reading package lists... Done

After a bit of searching about I found that the name of the package containing the firmware that the Intel Pro 2200 wireless adapter needs is ‘firmware-ipw2x00’ (the ‘x’ put me off the scent for a while as searching the packages for one with ‘2200’ in the name came up blank). However, once you know what you need installing it is simple enough.

# apt-get install firmware-ipw2x00
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree 
Reading state information... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 524 kB of archives.
Setting up firmware-ipw2x00 (0.36+wheezy.1) ...

You then need to reboot…

# reboot

Configuring the Wireless Interface

To connect to a wireless network we also need the following packages..

# apt-get install wireless-tools wpasupplicant
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
  libiw30 libnl-3-200 libnl-genl-3-200 libpcsclite1
Suggested packages:
  pcscd wpagui libengine-pkcs11-openssl
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  libiw30 libnl-3-200 libnl-genl-3-200 libpcsclite1
  libreadline5 wireless-tools wpasupplicant
0 upgraded, 7 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 963 kB of archives.
After this operation, 2,168 kB of disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y

To check that the wireless interface is detected.

# iwconfig
wlan0  IEEE 802.11bgn  ESSID:off/any  
       Mode:Managed  Access Point: Not-Associated  Tx-Power=0 dBm   
       Retry  long limit:7  RTS thr:off  Fragment thr:off
       Encryption key:off
       Power Management:on
lo     no wireless extensions.

eth0   no wireless extensions.

If there is not an entry corresponding to your wireless network then your wireless device is not supported, you may find that upgrading to a newer kernel (using ‘apt-get upgrade’), or newer linux release solves this problem.

If the wireless device is listed as ‘eth1’ instead if ‘wlan0’ you can change this by editing the corisponding entry in ‘/etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules’ so that the name is ‘wlan0’ instead of ‘eth1’.

Then you need to configure the wireless interface by editing ‘/etc/network/interfaces’.

# vi /etc/network/interfaces

# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

# The primary network interface
allow-hotplug eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
    wpa-ssid <insert your-ssid here>
    wpa-psk  <insert your-password here>

You will need to substitute your real network ssid (the name of your wireless network) and your real network password, sometimes referred to as a pre-shaired key or PSK, in place of your-ssid and your-password in ‘/etc/network/interfaces’.

The next time the system boots it should connect to your wireless network…

# reboot

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