Laptop Wireless Always Hard Blocked

At work we have a Panasonic Toughbook CF-52F laptop. Previously the laptop experienced ACPI issues with Ubuntu MATE 16.04.

The laptop was restored to Windows 7 and then updated to Windows 10. No such ACPI or wireless issues.

After successfully migrating from Ubuntu MATE 16.04 to Debian 10, on a whim I decided to test Debian 10 on the laptop. To my surprise there were no restart or suspend issues.

The wireless radio again refused to cooperate.

The same basic litany was required to resolve the problem:

  1. rmmod ath5k
  2. rmmod ath
  3. rfkill unblock all
  4. Flip the wireless hardware switch off.
  5. Wait several seconds.
  6. Flip the wireless hardware switch on.
  7. modprobe athk52

Another solution was to use the acpi=off boot parameter. That sledge hammer meant no power management and no suspend to RAM.

After posting the problem online, one person replied with a suggestion to install the firmware-atheros package. I think the package is for newer Atheros cards. I tried anyway and saw the same results.

Another person replied with a link to an interesting article. The author resolved the problem by physically masking Pin 20 on the card. I gave that a try. The pins are tiny — really tiny, but eventually I was able to add a sliver of masking tape.

I was uncertain whether the sliver of tape would remain attached when inserting the card into the slot. There was no way to know because Pin 20 is on the underside of the card slot.

After restoring everything I booted the laptop.

The wireless card booted unblocked.

For a few moments I stared in stunned silence. Then I wondered why this clunky solution was needed for Linux and not Windows. Classic WTF.

I lost count how many times I sought help online only to find nothing. Once in a while, just once in a while, a real hero comes along to help.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Debian, General

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