ipw2200 rf_kill pains

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the ASUS m5200e to my extended family of electronic gadgetry.

Sleek, sexy machine you!!!

Well, anyway, Gentoo loaded like a champion on this machine; 2006.1 liveCD recognized everything including the Ricoh MMC/SD/MS reader and the IPW2200BG wireless module (which has to be coaxed into working with a quick rmmod/modprobe). Compile was snappy (in comparison to my old P3 700MHz @@) as expected on the 1.73GHz P4-M.

Moving on to the pain… As with most notebooks, the m5200 includes your usual funny function keys bound to your F1-F12 keys to do stuff like dim/bright your LCD, muddle with your volume, etc. Todays focus however, is on the FN+F2 key which has a tiny antenna printed on it (toggles your wireless connectivity DUH!). The machine on first startup (post factory) has the wireless radio (and thus the cool blue wireless light) turned on, which meant initial installation of Gentoo was a breeze and done over 802.11G (HORY SHIT!!!)… but me being me, I thought it would be cool to see a blinking blue light and poked at the FN+F2 key a couple of times in hopes of ala fengtau lights flashing. The blue light went off and never came back on.

Stupidly large amounts of searching yielded the following information:

  • FN+F2 is a combination hardware/software switch for the wireless radio
  • FN+F2 when in toggle off mode is directly handled by the hardware
  • FN+F2 when in toggle on mode is handled by software AND hardware
  • the software that handles FN+F2 in toggle on mode is otherwise known as Windows XP
  • if you are insanely lucky, your machine has an actual hardware switch to override this
  • I am not insanely lucky

Apparently, some people had luck doing some kungfu to their /proc/acpi/asus/wled or /sys/bus/pci/drivers/ipw2200/xxx/rf_kill files, but this helped me absolutely squat. Modifying contents of wled (wireless led I assume) supposedly turned on the wireless radio in some ASUS models, but didn’t even turn on the fsckin LED on my m5200 let alone turn on the wireless radio. Echoing “0” into rf_kill resulted in absolutely no change, to the wireless radio or even the file (the value remained at 2 which means LOL YOUR WIRELESS RADIO IS OFF !!!). Echoing “1” into rf_kill changed the original value of 2 within the file… to 3 (which means LOL 1+2 = 3).

After pulling out about half a head of hair, exchanging emails with an ASUS tech guy, and a lot more searching… I finally gave in to the fact that I would have to get XP booted on my machine to get the wireless radio working. How wonderful it would be if I didn’t have to install XP, turn on the stupid wireless within XP, reinstall Gentoo… unless… google “windows live cd”. Voila!!! This nifty piece of software essentially allows you to rip the guts out of your Windows XP install CD, create a barebones ISO with required drivers and KAPOW a XP LiveCD. After mucking around with this for a couple of hours, I found out the barebones LiveCD is unable to run the Intel app to switch on the wireless radio.

WTFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve now installed XP on a 2GB partition on the m5200 with all necessary drivers to switch on the wireless radio, and am reinstalling Gentoo as we speak. There is NO workaround to this bullshit… To avoid the annoyance of seeing the XP option every time I boot up, I merely left it out of grub.conf since I can mash buttons at the grub command line to boot XP assuming I ever do something stupid like press FN+F2 ever again.

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