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Why Switch to Linux on Your Laptop?
There are several reasons why you might install a Linux distro such as Ubuntu on your HP laptop, but the best is probably to discard of the Microsoft resource-hog that is Windows. After all, the point of portable computing is to deliver the power of a desktop PC with the ability to run your notebook off the battery, something that requires power efficiency.
Setting up Linux on a HP laptop will give you control over your system resources once again, as well as deliver the power of open source computing to your fingertips. However you may run into a few problems in trying to configure Linux wireless software for you HP laptop.
Fortunately there is a very easy way around this problem, particularly if you are using a recent version of Linux.
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Installing Ubuntu Linux Wireless Software for HP Laptops
You’ve probably found that by installing a Linux distro (we’ll use Ubuntu 10.10 as an example) onto your HP laptop you have access to all of the expected features and programs, even an Ethernet connection to your local area network, but no wireless signal.
There are various reasons for this, and these mainly surround the fact that laptops feature wireless cards that only have official drivers for use with Microsoft Windows operating systems. The challenge therefore, is to find a custom driver that has been designed to allow functional access to the wireless device by the operating system (in this case Ubuntu).
As there are different wireless cards in use in different HP laptops, a universal solution for the manual installation of Linux wireless software drivers isn’t possible.
However what you can do is begin by identifying your wireless card (by opening Applications > Terminal and typing lspci) and then use the NDISWrapper method of forcing your wireless card to use the Windows driver (which you must download from the manufacturer’s website).
See NDISWrapper: Easing the Work With Wireless Cards for full details on doing this.
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Automatically Install Linux Wireless Software for HP Laptops
Recently things have become a lot simpler for anyone wanting to install drivers for their laptop wireless card. Again looking at the problem for anyone using the most recent version of Ubuntu, the issue can be resolved after installation by plugging an Ethernet cable into the laptop to achieve a network connection to the Internet and opening System > Administration > Update Manager.
Ubuntu will then check online for all currently available updates, which will include updates for you wireless device. As there are plenty of related updates and other necessary files included in the first update for your Ubuntu OS, you should instruct the computer to download all updates and then leave it to the task in hand.
Following a reboot, you will find that wireless networking is now activated on your Ubuntu laptop. The software is designed to automatically detect your wireless network - all you will need to do is enter the password!
Image credit: screenshot by author
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One Last Point…
There is a good chance that neither of these methods will work if the laptop is not properly configured. This might happen if your wireless card is not activated in the BIOS.
A reboot of your HP laptop and entry into the system BIOS will reveal whether or not this is the case. You should follow any available instructions for activating the wireless card in order to successfully use the methods listed here to achieve a successful Wi-Fi connection.
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Author's own experience