Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dell Inspiron 3520 Wifi Upgrade (Goodbye, Broadcom 43142)

I bought this laptop in 2012 for $399, and the biggest complaint I've had about it, by far, is the Broadcom 43142 Wifi card in Linux.  I even completely switched distros once to get the updated BlueZ Bluetooth stack, hoping for better Bluetooth support.  Nope.  I switched back to Linux Mint.

In Windows the card has seemed to work well, but in Linux -- not so much.
  • Frequently reports signal strength as 100% but has no connection at all
  • Bluetooth will stop working after the laptop sleeps in Linux (a boot to Windows will resolve this problem, presumably because the card gets updated w/ fresh firmware)
  • Terrible wifi reception when the card is actually working
I wrote once before about my frustrations with this card, and I had another article written about my experience with BlueZ and Arch Linux, but I never published it, and probably won't.

You win, Broadcom, I can't beat you.  So you're sitting on my desk, and I bought the Intel 7260 from Amazon to replace you.

Removal of the old card was a snap:
  • Remove the keyboard
  • Disconnect the antenna coax cables
  • Remove one screw that secures the card
  • Tilt the card out
Installation of the new card is the reverse of removal.

wskellenger@marquette ~ $ sudo apt-get remove bcmwl-kernel-source

Booting into Windows it was almost as if I made no changes, the device was detected and drivers installed.  It just worked.

It was the same booting into Linux, the card was identified and started working without any intervention on my part.  I can't say the same for the Broadcom card, which required some Googling to initially get it running in Linux.

Update Feb-9-2016:
I had some dropped connections with dmesg showing a bunch of stuff like this:

[  415.105430] cfg80211: Calling CRDA for country: US
[  415.110984] cfg80211: Regulatory domain changed to country: US
[  415.110992] cfg80211:   (start_freq - end_freq @ bandwidth), (max_antenna_gain, max_eirp)
[  415.110996] cfg80211:   (2402000 KHz - 2472000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2700 mBm)
[  415.111000] cfg80211:   (5170000 KHz - 5250000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 1700 mBm)
[  415.111004] cfg80211:   (5250000 KHz - 5330000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[  415.111007] cfg80211:   (5490000 KHz - 5600000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[  415.111010] cfg80211:   (5650000 KHz - 5710000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 2000 mBm)
[  415.111013] cfg80211:   (5735000 KHz - 5835000 KHz @ 40000 KHz), (300 mBi, 3000 mBm)
[  415.111016] cfg80211:   (57240000 KHz - 63720000 KHz @ 2160000 KHz), (N/A, 4000 mBm)

Typically after seeing some stuff like this the connection would drop.

Solution:  This post has the steps that resolved this issue for me. 

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