Solving Bluetooth connection problems

Q A while ago I took the plunge and installed SUSE 8.2 with a Centrino wireless card on my Acer laptop. I've since upgraded to 9.2 and have 9.1 Professional installed on my desktop. I expected all sorts of problems with the laptop, but they didn't materialise, except for one major issue - I can't get it to talk to anything. That's not quite true - it will connect to the internet if I cable it into my Linksys router, but... Neither of my Linux boxes can see one another (I set the Samba server up on the desktop using YaST, and the laptop up as a Samba client). The wireless card won't connect to the internet or see the other computer. I can't get a connection via bluetooth to my T610 phone. Infrared works according to YaST's Test button, but won't do anything beyond this. The inbuilt modem is recognised and dials telephone numbers, but beyond that PPPd crashes - no connection again.

I'm on the verge of stripping SUSE off the laptop because it's using up so much of my work time just trying to get connected to deliver work to clients. Why does it have to be so difficult? I'm not a techie but I'm a very competent Windows user. If I could find someone to talk me through this, I'd feel different, I expect. As it is, I only have limited time to trawl the internet and then start tailoring dangerous-looking configuration files. I like Linux and I support open source software and make donations but it's just getting to be too much. If you can help me get wireless and bluetooth operating on my laptop and make my two Linux boxes 'see' one another, I'd be mighty pleased. Otherwise, I guess it'll be back to Windows but using as much open source as I can.

A The simplest way to solve this problem is to begin at a low level and try to ping hosts on the network. If you can ping the other system by its IP address, then the chances are that the basic network is OK. There are situations where pinging works and file transfers do not, but these are few and far between, and are generally limited to complex network configurations. You can verify the IP configuration and routing on the laptop using ifconfig -a and route -n. Your on-board Ethernet will be eth0, and your wireless will be eth1 or wlan0, depending on how the distribution handles wireless access. If you can access the wireless router, but can't get out onto the Internet, then the fault is likely to be a routing issue on the device; either because a default route is missing, or the system is trying to send all traffic out of the wired Ethernet interface.

Without information on specific configuration options, and the current state of the system, it's difficult to put my finger on an individual cause of your network problems. Samba on each host will need to be configured via the etc/smb.conf file, so they'll both belong to the same workgroup. Even without this change, you'll be able to access shares permitted in etc/smb.conf by specifying the IP address of the host in the Samba client. Rather than using Samba, file sharing on Linux is better done using NFS, which can be configured using the SUSE system configuration tools, or by editing etc/exports.

With all laptops, it's a good idea to start over at www.linux-laptops.net, and see what success others have had with Linux and specific configuration options used. Laptops are, unfortunately, rather strange beasts, and it can be difficult for developers to get their hands on every single variant out there. You may want to give a distribution such as Mandrake or Fedora a try and see if you have anymore success. Often, different Linux distributions have kernel patches installed, which resolves any problems interacting with various hardware devices.

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