A new OS experience


Dell Inspiron E1505, Knoppix LiveCD 5, and WiFi Setup

Ugh, Windows XP is getting annoying! I swear, the registry is a cluster f*** and my apps, including Firefox (hmmm?!) keep on crashing. I was getting ready to fling this laptop out of the window (pun intended) when I realized there are other OS-es out there that might lower my blood pressure, thus enter Knoppix!

So, inside my favorite coffee shop (Coffee Beanery, free wifi unlike Starubucks) and with a cup of coffee nearby I thought I'd check out this thing called Knoppix. Mind you, I am as green as can be when it comes to Linux, but after reading about the various distros, I was assured that Knoppix Live was one of the best choices for newbies out there. I have a Dell Inspiron E1505 (I6400) laptop with an Intel centrino (T1350) CPU running @ 1.86GHz, 512 MB RAM and about 25GB of HDD space. The rest of the hardware is generic Dell, assembly line kind of stuff. So nothing special here!

First things first, I downloaded Knoppix from Knoppix.org from one of the BitTorrent ftp sites. I chose the CD version, and obviously English because I don't speak a lick of German; besides I am just going to try this out.

After downloading the CD image (*.iso) I used InfraRecorder to burn the image on the CD and I used winMd5sum to check the integrity of the iso.

Since everything went well I booted the laptop with the Knoppix LiveCD in and it worked like a charm. Hell, I even loved the audible startup sequence! So I started browsing the desktop and so forth. Ooooh, it's pretty, and it looks so much cleaner than my Windows desktop. Don't get me wrong, I'm not throwing in the towel with Microsoft, I like using their software, and I have since a long, long time. But I like the idea of a free OS and being given the ability to tweak the system, even of only to learn something new. Anyways, soon enough I hit a snag: what the hell happened to my network connection?

I booted back into Windows and I logged on to the knoppix.net for some help, checking out the FAQ > Network. Yep, found out I had to get my card to behave under Linux. I won't get into the reasons why my card wasn't auto-detected by Knoppix, but here's how I resolved it, thanks primarily to the knoppix.net FAQ and a whole lot of googleing:

I boot Knoppix. I run konsole and after logging in as root su run iwconfig to check if what network cards/interfaces are available. But you may have to find out what kind wifi driver you have. In windows this can be done through the device manager.

In my case I have a Dell Inspiron (6400/E1505) laptop with a Dell 1390 minicard, driver located here. I'm only interested in the driver files themselves so I have to download the R151517.EXE and extract/install it to a temp folder I create. That's because I'm only interested in the bcmwl5.inf and bcmwl5.sys, which I'll save in a folder called wifidriver under c:\ .

Now it's time to get my wireless card to work.

  1. su - Login as root

  2. ls /mnt - Find out what drives are available

  3. mount -t ntfs /dev/sda1 -o ro,unmask=000 - Mounts the drive where c:\ is locate with read-only permission

  4. cd /media/sda1/wifidriver - change directory to the folder where the driver is located

  5. ls - List the files available in this folder. The bcmwl5.inf and bcmwl5.sys should appear

  6. cp *.* ~ - Copy the contents to the root directory

  7. cd ~ - Change to root directory

  8. ls - List files. The driver files we transferred should appear

  9. ndiswrapper -i ~/bcmwl5.inf - Here I'm using the ndiswrapper so I can use the windows driver.

  10. ndiswrapper -l - See if the driver is installed.

  11. modprobe ndiswrapper - Install the module, now wrapped with the windows driver

  12. lsmod | grep ndiswrapper - Check to see if installed

  13. iwconfig - Find out the network cards available. Mine shows uo as wlan0

  14. iwconfig wlan0 essid MySSIDName - I need to associate my wifi card with my network name

  15. I open up a new shell window; leave the first one open. I need to modify the wpa_supplicant.conf file because my network is encrypted (WPA-AES) so I complete the following steps:

    wpa_passphrase MyESSIDName MyPassword - This will return a network block needed to modify the wpa_supplicant.conf file. Leave this shell window open

  16. Open a third shell window:
    nano /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf - This will open an editor to let me configure the wpa_supplicant file

  17. I enter the following:

    • ctrl_interface=/var/run/wpa_supplicant

    • network={



      pairwise=CCMP NOTE: For AES use CCMP not TKIP


      psk=thehexadecimalrepresentationofmypassword from shell window 2


  18. ifconfig wlan0 up - Bring up the wireless interface

  19. wpa_supplicant -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf wlan0 -D wext -dd - This will bring up the wpa_supplicant file to use the driver. I had to use wext here instead of ndiswrapper since it was giving me an error message.

  20. pump -i wlan0 - Force the AP to produce an IP

  21. ping www.google.com - Ping google. If it returns values, congratulations

So, that's pretty much it. I can configure the wpa_supplicant.conf file for multiple network blocks, depending on which one I need to use. Obviously, since Knoppix works off the RAM any changes to your network connection will be lost upon shutdown. Your configuration of the network and any other changes made to the desktop can be saved. For that you need a USB drive or you can save it on the hard drive:

  1. K menu > KNOPPIX > Save KNOPPIX configuration > specify where to save the file

  2. To boot Knoppix use:
    koppix config=/mnt/sda1 to boot from the hard drive

  3. Alternatively you can use:
    knoppix config=scan to scan all the available drives for the configuration file

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