Sunday, August 7, 2011

WPA Wireless in Debian on a G3 iBook

Setting up wireless with an original Airport card is really easy with one caveat. WPA encryption doesn't work out of the box, just WEP, and everyone says using WEP is like opening your front door at night and having big search lights on your lawn inviting every robber in the greater metropolitan area to help themselves to your leftover chicken. And we don't want that.

So to get WPA access working, you need to add contrib and non-free repositories to your /etc/apt/sources.list file (just add contrib and non-free after main) and sudo aptitude update, and then:

sudo aptitude install linux-firmware-nonfree UPDATE: that's actually firmware-linux-nonfree

This installs the firmware needed to get WPA working. It also installs other bits of firmware, such as firmware for improved performance on ATI cards, so if you've already installed the package for your graphics card you don't need to install it again.

Next, you want to install wireless-tools and wicd. wicd is a very simple to use network manager that doesn't require Gnome, so you can use it in any environment. However, you can't have two network managers running at the same time, so if you already have Gnome's somewhat crappy network manager running, installing wicd will uninstall it.

Next, run wicd-client -n. This will open the graphical client. Open Preferences and type in your wireless interface (mine was eth1, but you can find out yours by running sudo iwconfig). Then close Preferences and hit the Refresh button and follow your intuition...

Okay, specifically find your network among the list and click Properties. Click "Use Encryption" and below select "WPA 1/2 (Passphrase)" and enter your router's wireless password. Then click Okay and then click Connect. You'll also want to check the "Automatically connect to this network" box if you want it to... automatically connect to the... you got it.

And as is my constant refrain, if the above didn't work I blame you. And that the response you get in the Debian forums will be slightly more professional.

UPDATE: I should also note the firmware supports only WPA, not WPA2. Also, connections will fail with AES encryption, so set your router for TKIP encryption instead.


  1. Hey, I've got MintPPC (Linux LXDE desktop ontop of a Debian Squeeze installaiton) running on an ibook G4 now and I strongly urge you and any blog readers to check it out. Installation was painless, didn't even need an config file, GUI worked perfectly. Wireless, sleep, all work out of the box. Iceweasel 6 roars along, puts tenfourfox to shame really. Midori is a great webkit browser and mintube works well for youtube. It's whole buckets of fast faster than OS X on this ol thing. There is no Flash of course, but in addition to minitube I've been using download helper in Iceweasel 6 to download HD .mp4's and play them in mplayer in the terminal as you do on yr mac,all I can say is wow. I really think this is the future for PPC macs, though I plan to keep at least one Tiger/Classic mac going forever.

  2. I should put up a post about this. I tried it and was impressed, though I went back to Debian on my iBook because I wanted more of a build-it-from-scratch system that could be ridiculously minimalist.

    But, yeah, MintPPC is looking like the future. Their forums seem to be growing, too.

  3. I'd be very interested in a post on your build it from scratch ridiculously minimalist Debian system.

  4. sudo aptitude install firmware-linux-nonfree

    worked for me. linux-firmware needed to be swapped.

  5. "linux-firmware needed to be swapped."

    Thanks. Corrected.