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Why does it have to be so hard?

by Mark Dodel, © February 2007

Mark Dodel is the founding editor of the VOICE Newsletter and is the current moderator of the VOICE News mailing list http://www.os2voice.org. Mark is a past president of Warpstock, the annual OS/2-eComStation user conference in North America and continues as an advisor to the board of directors of Warpstock, Inc. He has worked for many years as a computer comsultant for clinical hospital systems development.

So much of what I do when dealing with computers seems to me to be like voodoo. It's not like I lack experience since I've been working with computers (PCs, Macs, and Mainframes) for 20 years now. I learn what I need to do to get something to work, but a lot of the time it doesn't really make any sense to me.

This recently reared up after I wrote an article on using the GenMac wrapper driver with an Intel 2200bg Mini-PCI card in my Thinkpad T42p. I had great success initially and it just worked with very little effort for several months. Then all of a sudden WLAN could no longer find the card, so there was no wireless networking. The GenMac driver loaded without complaint and displayed that it found the correct hardware. So I set out to fix it.

The first thing I did was to ask on the OS/2 Wireless and GenMac lists if anyone else had experienced this problem or could advise what to try. No one knew what the problem was but a couple of people were experiencing the same or similar symptoms as well. Others who had the same or similar setups as mine had no problems at all. It was very frustrating. I tried installing ACPI on my eComStation 1.2R, but that didn't help. I made changes to the IRQ assignments in the system BIOS, but no help there either. I tried using SPCIIRQ from Hobbes to try to change the IRQ assignments in case it was some sort of resource conflict causing the problem, but that didn't help either. I installed the eComStation 2.0 Beta 2 which has ACPI support as standard and still no wireless connection. I had tried back-leveling the GenMac driver and the version of XWLAN.

What was even more frustrating was that the wireless connection worked fine in Windows XP. I installed Xandros Linux on the laptop just to see if it worked in that, but it didn't work there either. What was really weird in Linux was that though it wouldn't connect to the wireless access point, it would display a list of wireless hotspots, so I knew the radio hardware was working. And to add to the weirdness, the wireless would work sometimes if I had the laptop connected to the AC power adapter.

After fooling around with it for a couple of weeks, I gave up and put back the Intel 2100b Mini-PCI card. This worked fine in eCS using the GenMac NDIS wrapper driver. The only difference being of course that the 2100b only supports the slower 802.11b wireless standard. But at least it worked, and I could bide my time until something changed.

I continued to monitor the mailing lists, following Ed Durrant's reports of success with his T42 Thinkpad with an Intel 2200bg card. He managed to get his working even though it wasn't even an IBM approved version of the card. To help others he compiled a detailed list of what he did to get the card working, but nothing appeared any different then what I had tried. That is until he listed his BIOS settings for the system power management. He had turned off several of these items. So I once again pulled apart my laptop and swapped wireless Mini-PCI cards. I tried Ed's settings and, Lo and behold!, XWLAN showed a wireless connection when I powered the system back on after changing the assigned GenMac driver network card model. And now it even works in Linux on the same machine.

To my knowledge I had never changed this setting in the BIOS. Yet it worked for a few months without any problem. The last thing I remember doing before it stopped working was to boot into Windows XP, and on booting back to eCS the wireless no longer worked. Was it Windows that caused all this grief? Was it an update to something in eComStation that I didn't recall making? If so then why didn't it work in Linux either? I will never understand why these kind of things happen. I just continue to wonder, “Why does it have to be so hard?”

Formatting: Christian Hennecke
Editing: James Moe