Still have not had success figuring this one out. I have done the following:
1. Reloaded both operating systems, openSuSE 12.1, and Windows Vista. The wireless interface still appears to be dead.
2. Purchased a netgear wireless USB adapter from Walmart. This adapter worked fine in Windows, but was invisible to SuSE 12.1, even after reloading Suse 12.1, with the wireless USB adapter plugged in.
3. I figured maybe the built-in wireless interface is indeed dead, so I would like to purchase another wireless USB adapter, one that would work for Linux. So I went back to Walmart, and looked on all the Netgear, Belkin, and Linksys boxes. None of the boxes have any mention of Linux, only Windows. I wound up not buying any of them for the time being. I think they will require firmware that will be difficult to install without internet access from my Linux OS. (I don't have internet at home, where I would use a LAN cable to connect).
It is interesting to note that the wireless interface went dead while I was travelling, using an airport wifi, and a hotel wifi. Maybe I had an intrusion in one of those places? Still puzzled.
Mabye it is disabled in the BIOS?