18:16 Sunday, November 11 2009

2 years later, and Atheros still sucks

Nearly 2 years ago, I ranted about how badly the Atheros line of wifi chips sucked in Linux. Flash forward to present day, and little has changed. I recently bought myself an (early) holiday gift of a nice Toshiba 46" 1080p LCD TV and a tiny Zotac IONITX-A-U ION system to drive it at full resolution. I installed Fedora12 on the system, and for the most part, the entire setup process went incredibly smoothly from start to finish. No OS installation hiccups, all the HW has full Linux support, and surprisingly, even HDMI audio worked out of the box with zero configuration changes. Yesterday afternoon, I finally moved the system into the TV cabinet, with the goal of streaming all the media content over wifi from the NFS fileserver in my office. That part worked until it didn't . Seemingly random, the 'Network controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR928X Wireless Network Adapter (PCI-Express) (rev 01)' wireless adapter just stops working altogether. In dmesg, I always see:

wlan0: no probe response from AP 00:16:b6:da:8a:44 - disassociating

After some Googling, I found this gem of a bug. Now, I'm sure that some people will wonder why I'm blaming Atheros, when this is clearly a Linux kernel regression. The reason that I'm blaming Atheros is because they still provide zero Linux support. In the dark of night, they'll occasionally pass along some specs for some of their chipsets, and the Linux community is stuck having to write & maintain a driver. I can only assume that they are undercutting all the competition on price, since their chips are so prevalent.
So now I'm stuck with this horrible show stopper of a bug. Its kinda hard to sit down in front of the TV, and have the show grind to a halt at random. Thus far, the thing has died a total of 4 times in the past 48 hours. Its looking increasingly likely that I'm going to have to run cat5 from my office to the TV cabinet as a workaround for this craptastic Atheros chipset.