The compat-wireless dance

At Fedora, our kernels tend to track upstream as much as possible, which sometimes makes for an amusing wireless experience. Here’s a tale, amusing in hindsight, of my three Sony computers, all using the ath9k module.

Firstly acquired is the 15″ Vaio EB I use as a desktop replacement. It works fine with stock drivers — at least, no known problem until today. We’ll get back to it later. Next, the 10.2″ Vaio W netbook. With this the wireless driver would need to be cycled — unload and reload — unless it’s kept active by, say, a continuous ping session.

Now, the EB did not use to work with the experimental compat-wireless drivers — basically the wireless code not yet merged into the Linux kernel; while the W absolutely requires these to avoid the ping keep-alive workaround.

Then comes the 13″ Vaio Y I got on a closing sale — at a nice discount price. Both the EB and the Y need to be on Fedora 15 because of graphics quirks (the former Radeon 5650, the latter Intel Arrandale), but that’s for another article. Everything seems to work fine, until I realized today, attempting to transfer a large-ish (> 100 MB) tarball from the Y to the EB, that the wireless on the Y keeps freezing up if I continuously transmit! It’s not a regression, or not a recent one, since older kernels do that too.

In goes compat-wireless to the rescue, and lo and behold, the transmission now works fine. Only then I find out that now the EB also acts up when it’s downloading at maximum speed. Sigh… funnily, now compat-wireless works fine on it, and fixes the problem.

I don’t even think I want to file bugs on this — different issues on different laptops — I’m just glad the latest wireless code works uniformly well now, and am just waiting for it to land in the mainline kernel.

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