Saturday, 5 September 2009

Wireless Firmware Through a Virtual Machine

Herein I present yet another way of getting a hold of the firmware you need to have a functioning wireless connection on a Linux Live CD, which you may wish to use because:

a) you do not already have a working wireless connection on a Linux machine otherwise you wouldn't be reading this crap; or
b) you do not have a 50m CAT5 network cable to connect to your router; or
c) ndiswrapper won't work - staggering I know.
d) life is too damn short to read the instructions on how to make ndiswrapper work.

For this method you will need:

A computer with a working internet connection (wired, wireless, doesn't matter) capable of running some sort of virtualisation software, such as Virtual PC, VMWare Player, or VirtualBox.
An Ubuntu Live CD image.

Step One.
Setup your virtual machine so that it boots from your Live CD image, and shares your Host machine's internet connection. The exact method will vary depending on which of the virtualisation software options you choose. You will need a sensible amount of RAM dedicated to the virtual machine - say 512Mb, and you do not need to bother with a Hard Disk image, we will not be installing.

Step Two.
Boot the Live CD in the Virtual environment.

Step Three.
Check the internet connection is working, by opening a web browser. If not working, go back to Step One and fix it.

Step Four.
Install b43-fwcutter.
Open a terminal window and type:
sudo apt-get install b43-fwcutter
'apt-get' is an ubuntu command to download a piece of software from the ubuntu servers. The install option installs the software once it has been downloaded. The 'b43-fwcutter' program is a utility to get the firmware that is the holy grail of this post. As part of the installation procedure you will be asked to agree to download and install the firmware. Say yes. If you panic and say no, then rerunning the above command will not work. Instead you have to run:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure b43-fwcutter
Step Five.
If you now look in /lib/firmware/ you will find the b43 folder referred to in my first post. You can just copy the contents of that folder onto your usb key and use them in the way described in said post. If your virtualisation software will not let you use a USB key (I don't think that the free version of virtualbox will) then archive the b43 folder (down to a massive 40k) and gmail or hotmail it to yourself. Exit to your host operating system, get your email attachment, open it and save to your USB key.

Step Six.
Proceed as per the first post, Step Three.

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