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 Forum index » Advanced Topics » Hardware » Networking » Wireless
Temperamental wireless cards
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WIckedWitch

Joined: 29 Mar 2018
Posts: 185
Location: West Wales bandit country

PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr 2018, 09:07    Post subject:  Temperamental wireless cards
Subject description: Do you have to lean out of the window to make them work?
 

Curious recent discovery:

An Intel 2200BG miniPCI wireless card works fine in my ThinkPad R50e with it on my lap in a certain chair. The same card in my R40e only works on my lap in the same chair if I sit sideways so that my skull is not in direct line between the wifi card and the wifi router.

After some consideration, I have dismissed the idea that my skull contains a small black hole.

Anyone else had wifi cards that are so fussy about when and whether they will work?

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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
Posts: 3142
Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr 2018, 09:45    Post subject:  

Take your tin hat off?? Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes
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WIckedWitch

Joined: 29 Mar 2018
Posts: 185
Location: West Wales bandit country

PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr 2018, 13:29    Post subject:  

Burn_IT wrote:
Take your tin hat off?? Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes


Many an enlightening word may be spoken in jest. On my R50e, the miniPCI slot is deep inside the case and needs some dismantling to get at - but it is not immediately next to much metal. On the R40e, however, the miniPCI slot is accessible on the underside of the machine by removing a thin aluminium cover plate.

The only explanation I could think of (I'm no great shakes on electromagnetics) is that proximity to the metal cover might be part of the problem.

Curiously, this card was not one of those that IBM originally supplied for use in the miniPCI slot and I had to change a bit in the BIOS to stop the machine failing to boot with an 1802 message complaining about the card. Maybe IBM tested it, found it troublesome, and simply made the BIOS complain if it found one?

I've not encountered this kind of problem at all before and just wondered what the collective experience was.

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Fossil


Joined: 13 Dec 2005
Posts: 1154
Location: Gloucestershire, UK.

PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr 2018, 13:44    Post subject:  

Ahem! Could this be the orientation of your network card in relationship to your laptop and router? Where and how is it located. Is the polarization in just one plane? The chair - wood or metal? Any other metalwork close by; artificial leg, etc? Failing any other (sane) answer, take the laptop down to Glastonbury, Somerset, and consult with an oracle. I've just come back from there; a fascinating place!
Wi-fi 'dongles' (indoors) are even more choosy where to pick up a signal; a yard or so left/right, up down can and does make all the difference!
Sorry about that - Friday 13th an' all! Rolling Eyes Embarassed
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Burn_IT


Joined: 12 Aug 2006
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Location: Tamworth UK

PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr 2018, 14:06    Post subject:  

There should be two wires running into the space where it fits and there should be two gold contacts on the card that they plug onto.
Of the two wires, which are aerials, one should run around the edge of the screen, and the other should run around the edges of the keyboard space.

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8Geee


Joined: 12 May 2008
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Location: N.E. USA

PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr 2018, 21:00    Post subject:  

Interesting tho strange stuff... I wonder how the antennae are oriented. Usually better cards have two antennae. They should be at right-angles "L". One is usually up and other is left or right. Differences may include that one card has only one antenna. This is cheap and poor design. Not enough oooomph in all 3 dimensions.

Just a thought
8Geee

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rcrsn51


Joined: 05 Sep 2006
Posts: 12208
Location: Stratford, Ontario

PostPosted: Sat 14 Apr 2018, 11:01    Post subject:  

Quote:
Differences may include that one card has only one antenna. This is cheap and poor design.

IIRC, G-mode WiFi devices only use one antenna.

One of the improvments with N-mode is the ability to use multiple antennae.
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WIckedWitch

Joined: 29 Mar 2018
Posts: 185
Location: West Wales bandit country

PostPosted: Sat 14 Apr 2018, 16:52    Post subject:    

Thanks for all the replies. I'd forgotten all about the antenna wires (that's a slow pull-out from SAD for you).

The card is a miniPCI card and has a main and an auxiliary antenna socket ... but I can't see any antenna wires near it under the cover plate. Some cards will work without antennae plugged in but this one is obviously marginal without them. I'll try a more extensive dismantling and if I find antenna wires, I'll plug them in and try again.

Sorry for my lapse of attention but as regards electronic engineering, I'm the kind of person who would pick up the wrong end of a soldering iron ... twice!

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WIckedWitch

Joined: 29 Mar 2018
Posts: 185
Location: West Wales bandit country

PostPosted: Sat 21 Apr 2018, 20:20    Post subject:  

Denouement:

Although the ThinkPad R40e has a readily accessible miniPCI slot to accommodate a wifi card, not all R40 series machines are actually equipped with wifi antennae. After grubbing around on the web, I found that my model 2684 LKG R40e is precisely one of those models with the slot but without the antennae - easily confirmed by peeking sideways past the slot area onto the adjacent motherboard. No wires anywhere!

A couple of weeks ago, I did a BIOS mod to stop the machine objecting to the wifi card and not booting. Evidently IBM put this check into the BIOS to prevent lots of support calls from people who put wifi cards into antennaless models.

Anyway, PCMCIA wifi card now solving the problem - mennithanx for all replies Smile

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Burn_IT


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PostPosted: Sun 22 Apr 2018, 07:52    Post subject:  

They put the restriction there to stop the use of all sorts of "none approved" hardware. The silliest of which was none approved hard drives - but only in the main drive bay.
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WIckedWitch

Joined: 29 Mar 2018
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Location: West Wales bandit country

PostPosted: Sun 22 Apr 2018, 18:03    Post subject:  

Burn_IT wrote:
They put the restriction there to stop the use of all sorts of "none approved" hardware. The silliest of which was none approved hard drives - but only in the main drive bay.


Curiously, I've had several HDDs in the R40e at one time or another - with never a peep of complaint from the BIOS.

Looking at the large number of models/variants in the R40 series, I'm more inclined to regard it as a CM cockup than a supposed Big Blue conspiracy.

I worked for IBM UK labs in the late 1980s on their project to write a formal specification of the CICS API in Z. FWIW they always came across to me then as one of the more ethical firms I've worked for.

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Burn_IT


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PostPosted: Mon 23 Apr 2018, 07:41    Post subject:  

The restrictions didn't last long and were there purely for support and legal reasons.
IBM were supplying kit to many government agencies an as such the kit had to be "authorised". That means it had to undergo thorough tests in the machine before it could be used, and IBM found it easier to make it a general case rather than risk exceptions.

Similar conditions apply to the supply of kit to certain agencies in the UK.
I know I sold a certain piece of useful hardware and not only did the hardware have to be tested and approved, but I had to go through quite an approval process as a business before they would buy it.
Fortunately it was a one off process and didn't need repeating for each agency. I haven't checked for some years, but I suspect I am still listed as an official supplier to the government and specifically to the defence agency.

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WIckedWitch

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Location: West Wales bandit country

PostPosted: Mon 23 Apr 2018, 22:17    Post subject:  

Ah, yes ... the said "certain government agency". Back in 1983 , I wrote a noddy little book on codebreaking for kids playing on Sinclair Spectrum kit. In the last chapter I included a pseudorandomly keyed cipher that was designed to give codebreakers an "opportunity to demonstrate their prowess". Twenty years later, I was told by a source that I had reason to consider well informed that it caused a flat panic at RSRE Malvern. As a result of this and a few other antics, I'm reasonably confident that each of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ hold modest files on me.
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Burn_IT


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PostPosted: Tue 24 Apr 2018, 07:07    Post subject:  

Having worked at Rolls Royce Derby, and since done many contracts around the UK at "Government" , banking, and Software developer sites(including ones at GCHQ and IBM), I would be extremely surprised if I wasn't still on several watch lists.
At one point in the past I was quietly told not to bother ever trying to get a visa for any eastern country.

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