SUSE not switching on NETGEAR card

Q I'm running two Toshiba laptops. The first is a Toshiba Satellite 522 with a built-in Atheros AR5001 wireless adaptor that conforms to the 802.11a/b specifications, the second a Toshiba 8000 with a NETGEAR WG511 wireless card. SUSE 9.3 recognises the NETGEAR card but does not switch it on! The ADSL wireless router is a NETGEAR DG834G. Assuming a clean, out of the box installation of SUSE 9.3 with no configuration, what are the actual individual steps I need to take to configure the hardware?

A SUSE 9.3 has support for the prism54 chip used in the NETGEAR WG51 and it is enabled by default. Unfortunately, the specification of the prism54 chip was changed recently and it is not possible to make the driver work with the newer version. This is made worse by the fact that you cannot tell which chip a card has until you try to use it. Manufacturers have an annoying habit of changing the chip on which a product is based without changing the model number... The new chip requires some firmware code in the driver - code that the open source community cannot use.

So in their ever-resourceful fashion, they found another solution, a program called NdisWrapper, which uses the code from the Windows driver supplied with the card. The first step is to install NdisWrapper from YaST. You can now use the driver for the CD that came with the card or download the most recent, tested driver. To use the supplied driver, find the directory on the CD containing the drivers (there should be a .inf and a .sys file for your card in here). As root, type

ndiswrapper -i /path/to/driver.inf
ndiswrapper -l
modprobe ndiswrapper

The first command installs the driver and the second shows the installed drivers, so you can see if the installation worked. The third command loads the driver, and your card should start working. You can now configure the card in YaST's Network Devices > Network Cards section. It should be enough to leave this on Automatic Address Setup and let the card get its address and connection information from your router. If you have problems with the drivers on the CD, follow the instructions at to download a new version. This procedure should also work with the Atheros adaptor in your other laptop.

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