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Old 11-04-2014, 09:39 AM   #1
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Very Strange Wireless Issue

Hello All:

Having a very strange wireless issue!

I'm running the most recent version of Xubuntu on an older Dll XPS400, Intel Pentium D processor, ath9k chipset NIC.

Here's the problem:

When I boot into Xubuntu from a powered-off state, the wireless will not connect. The system will detect the card and networks in range, but will not connect at all. I've tried various solutions related to the ath9k card (like turning off hardware encryption), to no avail.

Here's the odd part: I also have Windows 7 partition on the same computer. When I boot into Windows and allow it to fully boot (including logging in, etc.), and then RESTART the computer from Windows and boot into Xubuntu, the wireless connects flawlessly!

I can only assume that Windows does something with regard to the wirless NIC that Xubuntu doesn't, and that whatever Windows does holds if the computer is rebooted, but doesn't if the computer is powered off entirely.

Might anyone have any idea about:

1. What Windows is doing that Xubuntu isn't?
2. Why that's not changing during a reboot, but does change during a complete power-off/restart?
3. How to fix things so that wireless will connect in Xubuntu when booting from a powered-off state?

Luckily, I don't tend to reboot all that often, so it's not too terrible a workaround to boot into Windows and then immediately reboot into Xubuntu. On the other hand, that's annoying enough that I'd like to fix the core problem if I can.

I'd sure appreciate any advice!


Old 11-04-2014, 10:07 AM   #2
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That is irritating. There are a few Dell specific modules - here's the list from my distro kernel which may be incomplete.
grep DELL /boot/config-huge-3.14.18
Let's try and find out what is actually wrong. Boot up try these commands, and post the results. If there's no output, just say so. I am making the guess that your wifi is wlan0. If it's something else, replace wlan0 with that.
iwconfig wlan0
ps -e |grep -e 'dhcpcd' -e 'dhclient' -e 'wpa_supplicant'
For yourself, try
iwlist wlan0 scan |less
, and look for your own station there. Let us know.
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Old 11-04-2014, 10:21 AM   #3
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Might be interesting to clean boot from a Linux live CD such as Ubuntu etc.
At least this would exclude any of your configuration files.
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Old 11-04-2014, 10:31 AM   #4
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Does your Dell have a switch or key combination to turn your wireless card on and off? I've had problems in the past with laptops that use a key combination to activate/deactivate the wireless card. Often the key combination won't work in linux and if you deactivate in windows wireless won't come up, or not function properly on a restart to linux from windows. You might also want to look at your wireless settings in your bios setup. It looks like your wireless needs a specific signal from windows to properly activate from a cold boot and that once activated the state of the wireless card is saved on a restart to linux. There may be something in the bios setup which is triggering this behavior, either in the wireless settings or the power management.
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Old 11-04-2014, 10:50 AM   #5
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My guess is that windows is loading the firmware for the ath9k chipset. So then it works with linux.

When you power off, the firmware is lost. Rebooting does not power-down.

There is some open firmware :
or you could just copy the firmware from your windows partition to /lib/firmware/

My package manager has firmware-atheros "Binary firmware for atheros cards".

You may need to enable some "non-free" repositories befor it shows up in your package manager.
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Old 12-20-2014, 01:22 PM   #6
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Following up

Thanks everyone for all the advice on this. It did indeed turn out to be a firmware issue: Windows was loading the firmware, which stuck around for a reboot into linux, and of course didn't in a fully powered-off state. Installing the atheros firmware in linux seems to have solved the problem.

I really appreciate all the help and suggestions! Little problems like this can become major annoyances when they persist, so thanks for making that little corner of my life easier.

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Old 12-20-2014, 02:44 PM   #7
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Thanks for the follow-up. It helps us help others.

Enjoy your linux.


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