Fix Wifi: Mint Debian on Macbook

02.25.11

Hi all, welcome to my first (I think) post for the year 2011.

I have been planning to replace my Linux OS (Crunchbang 9.04) with a more “modern” OS for my Macbook 13.3 which dual-boots Snow Leopard 10.6 and Linux.  Of course the choices of distros are nearly limitless, but since my “free time to tinker” is not what it used to be, I chose to install the Linux Mint “Debian” Edition (as of this writing, it’s a few months old).

Why Debian from Mint?  That was easy.  Mint is a relatively stable product in general.  I have used it over the last few years with very little problems.  The “Debian” choice from Mint is a “rolling” distro.  The theory is, you install it, and the updates come to you.  Neat eh?

While there are advantages to refreshing your Linux OS once per yer (or so), as I mentioned, I like having a somewhat stable environment for those hours/days that I do have available to tinker.  Also, Crunchbang 9.04 is out of date, although I used it with much success.  They also do not plan to make it a rolling distribution.  A rolling distro would cement my vote.

If you’re reading this, you made it past the intro, (thank you) your patience will now pay off.

After installing Mint Debian 201012, wifi was not working.

Yep, this is a real headache.  Since a Macbook is a LAPTOP, you would think wireless connectivity would work out-of-the-box after installing the distro. HA!. Not so my friends…not so.  This happened to me when I tried out Mint 8 about a year ago, and since I didn’t have time to troubleshoot it back then, I immediately re-installed Crunchbang, who had support for the onboard Broadcom wireless hardware in my Macbook.

I was determined to make my rolling distro get wireless (wifi) connectivity.  I googled. Not much helpful info, other than to preload drivers to a USB.  I suppose this is helpful if you are not able to physically connect a cable to a router.

Get WIFI working on Mint Debian on a Macbook:

  1. Get an Ethernet cable after you have done the install.  Sorry to admit this, but nothing else seemed to work.  More on this in a bit.
  2. Once connected to the internet, use Synaptic and search for any applicable (or all) items matching the search “Broadcom” and either select them for upgrade (if they are marked) or select them for install.
  3. Use Synaptic to “apply” the changes to the system, thus installing (or updating) any Broadcom firmware for your Macbook under Linux.

Ok, I realize that the solution to this problem kinda defeats the purpose of WiFi in the first place.  Many of the blog posts from users experiencing a similar issue (no wifi after installing Linux on a Macbook) described the scenario and there seemed little in the way of resolution. It’s somewhat difficult (if not impossible) to update software if you cannot connect to the internet.  One blogger mentioned that he tethered his iPhone to get “an outside line”.

Since I had access to the router, and an ethernet cable, I figured “why not”.  I know it’s not the most “clever” solution, but I’m sure I’m not alone in deciding to just “GET R DONE” and use the cable to connect to internet and let Synaptic do what it needs to do.

The version I installed is ‘201012’, and there is an earlier version is available if you want to try it out and see if wifi works out of the box.  I don’t recommend it though, because (in general) a later version is better than an earlier version (bug fixes, security patches, etc.)

Best of luck out there. Linux Mint Debian is proving to be a great distro so far.  Openbox is a bit buggy, (wearing “crashy-pants” to coin a phrase) but I can live with that for now.

4 Responses to “Fix Wifi: Mint Debian on Macbook”

  1. Nick W. says on :

    Actually, Crunchbang has moved to Debian as its primary base rather than Ubuntu (where for Mint its still a bit of an experiment). Crunchbang alpha 10 has been Debian based and working for a long time, but they waited until the official release of Squeeze stable to declare Crunchbang 10 finished.

    I’ve been experimenting with both Cruncbang 10 and Mint Debian this weekend, planning to move to Debian to escape Unity. As best I can tell, my wifi works out of the box on an Ubuntu base but other packages need installing on a Debian base (hence, the trip to the router downstairs with a cable). But I like having live-cds for troubleshooting, so it looks like I’ll still be carrying a copy of Xubuntu around for a while until the Mint guys polish up wifi out of the box on LMDE.

    The moral to the story is, LMDE is great, but Crunchbang is also Debian based (and rolling release if you enable the testing branch), and provides a cleaner, lighter desktop for power users.

  2. adamlinuxhelp says on :

    Great comment! I already miss the lighweight desktop that Crunchbang provided. I figure it won’t be long until the Mint team solves the issue.
    Thanks!

  3. adamlinuxhelp says on :

    Hello and thanks for your feedback. I tried out the link at the bottom of the page http://nylinuxhelp.com/blogs/feed and in Google Chromium on Linux, it simply displays an XML Document.

    This is not what I wanted. Tried for a while to put a plugin on there within wordpress but nothing worked.

    I then tried the same link in Mozilla Firefox (also in Linux) and it worked ok. I was able to see the syndicated content.

    If I may ask, which browser were you using? And on what platform (Mac/Windows/Linux/Other)?

    Thanks,
    Adam

  4. adamlinuxhelp says on :

    Followup, I noticed that on Google Chrome, if you download an extension, you can manage and pull content from the feed url.

    I installed “SlickRSS” and simply configured it to point at the feed URL
    http://nylinuxhelp.com/blogs/feed
    and it worked great.

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