Welcome to the most active Linux Forum on the web.
Go Back > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Laptop and Netbook
User Name
Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).


  Search this Thread
Old 09-11-2003, 12:56 PM   #1
Registered: Nov 2002
Location: Maryland
Distribution: redhat 9
Posts: 31

Rep: Reputation: 15
Is it possible to get an *old* laptop to use a wireless card?

From the "This is probably wishful thinking" department.

I've got an old Acer laptop that I bought in college, the only (functional) laptop I've got. (Unfortunately I don't have the machine at hand at the moment, otherwise I'd give you the specs...) I would like to use it just to do some simple Perl hacking and to check email with mutt. Then I could get away from this desktop, where I spend 90% of my life, and go to a coffee house or something.

So I actually have two questions:

1) What distro would you recommend as the easiest way to install a *really simple* Linux, one that doesn't use too much memory? I've tried installing Redhat, thinking that perhaps it would detect the limitations, but that didn't happen. I couldn't get Knoppix to run either, though I'd really rather have a system on the harddrive.

2) Assuming the drivers are correct, Linux will see a wireless card just as if it were plugged into Ethernet, right? So if I got a $50 wireless PCMCIA card for this old laptop, I could theoretically get online at one of these places with an access point, and do my email, ssh, etc.

Am I totally off my rocker?

heee i like those.


Last edited by fieldmethods; 09-11-2003 at 12:57 PM.
Old 09-11-2003, 02:40 PM   #2
LQ Guru
Registered: Feb 2003
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Distribution: Gentoo
Posts: 2,018

Rep: Reputation: 48
I have not messed around with wireless cards, but presumably as long as you have the appropriate support in the kernel (and have the accompanying pcmcia-cs modules), a wireless card should work on just about anything.

Redhat is probably the furthest you can get from a "really simple" Linux distribution I would suggest one of the more DIY distros such as Slackware or Debian. Not using too much memory is mostly a function of how much stuff you install, and how many services you run. I don't know what kind of resources Perl demands, but for basic networking and email support, you don't need more than 4MB RAM.

What kind of CPU, RAM and HD are you working with? A minimal Slackware with what you're describing could pretty easily fit in 150-200MB of hard drive.
Old 09-11-2003, 02:51 PM   #3
LQ Addict
Registered: Jul 2002
Location: Montreal
Distribution: Gentoo 2004 from stage 1 baby!
Posts: 1,403

Rep: Reputation: 45
On the topic of PCMCIA, be VERY careful

depending on how old your laptop is, you might not be able to use newer PCMCIA cards (iirc its 16bit vs 32 bit PCMCIA bus that you need to watch out for)....I used to have an old Dell latitude (p133) running Peanut Linux and I bought a 32bit network card that just wouldn't run, while an older 16bit ran fine.

But if you google around (or if you already have detailed specs) for your Acer you can avoid problems.

As for a distro for your laptop, you didn't post the specs so I don't know if you're talking about a 486 or a 266 or whatever...but you can always give Vector Linux a try...its supposed to be really good on older machines.
Old 09-11-2003, 03:55 PM   #4
LQ Guru
Registered: Aug 2001
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Distribution: Slackware
Posts: 5,700

Rep: Reputation: 72
tcaptain is saying, avoid the cardbus cards, that's the "marketecture" term for 32-bit, they like to paste it to the side of the box like it means something.

Uhmm... if you have a Cirrus PCMCIA bridge, the kernel doesn't support that anymore.

Slackware is alright for older laptops, honestly, the BSDs do much better. Due to the Cirrus bridge issue, LQ's wireless access point at LinuxWorld was an OpenBSD laptop.

The "card" link in my sig is to the's huge HCL of cards... anything prism2, lucent, atmel... will work, if its a Lucent card it'll work almost out of the box. Atmels will take 3rd party drivers. Those are about the most common cards.


Old 09-11-2003, 04:52 PM   #5
LQ Guru
Registered: Apr 2003
Location: Maryland
Distribution: Slack 9.1,10 Mandrake 10,10.1, FedCore 2,3, Mepis 2004, Knoppix 3.6,3.7, SuSE 9.1, FreeBSD 5.2
Posts: 1,109

Rep: Reputation: 45
I'll second both of those notions:

I have a very old notebook that you can't even stick a 32-bit(CardBus) card all the way into, much less make it work; and yet a 16-bit wireless pcmcia card (belkin f5d6020 version 2) goes in and works fine.

If you're going linux, I also say go with slackware for the older hardware.
Old 09-11-2003, 07:30 PM   #6
Registered: Nov 2002
Location: Maryland
Distribution: redhat 9
Posts: 31

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
Thanks for the suggestions!

I've been meaning to try a distro besides Redhat for some time, but I must admit that I have heard that installing Slackware can be pretty hairy. (I couldn't get Debian to install on a modern box, as a point of comparison ...)

It would certainly be a learning experience, though.

You know, you always see people with their whizbang Vaios running Linux in coffee shops, but I'm thinking, I'd be *much* more proud of getting Slackware to work...

"Hey, look at the piece of crap I have running wireless Linux!!!"

Heh, I am positive my love life will improve immediately.


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Which wireless card for laptop LINUX? vcroww Linux - Laptop and Netbook 2 08-21-2005 06:28 PM
what wireless card should i get for me laptop master Linux - Wireless Networking 2 05-27-2005 12:41 PM
Laptop wireless card... phoenix99 Linux - Laptop and Netbook 7 11-12-2004 05:51 PM
how to install wireless card on laptop ? jfarm182 Linux - Wireless Networking 3 04-30-2004 05:00 AM
Using a Sitecom wireless PC Card on a laptop nahl Mandriva 37 11-05-2003 07:29 AM > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Laptop and Netbook

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:00 AM.

Main Menu
Write for LQ is looking for people interested in writing Editorials, Articles, Reviews, and more. If you'd like to contribute content, let us know.
Main Menu
RSS1  Latest Threads
RSS1  LQ News
Twitter: @linuxquestions
Open Source Consulting | Domain Registration