It figures that the day after a week-long winter holiday, I end up with mysterious network failures on my Thinkpad. It’s running Arch right now, and about two minutes after the first startup, the wireless network dropped, and there’s no sign of the outside world.
I have two other machines that run wireless and I’m sure it’s not the network that’s at fault. That is the only one running Arch though, and the fact that it is failing is all the more disappointing. In general, that’s the one I use to manage my daily tasks, manage my e-mail, hold my music collection, watch movies, track my desktop wiki … and yes, it’s only a 550Mhz Celeron.
My fear is that it might be something hardware-related. I didn’t update any core software in the past few days. Looking at /var/log/pacman.log I can see that I synced with the repositories yesterday, but didn’t upgrade. Technically, nothing has changed.
But I’ve tried two different PCMCIA wireless cards — a Buffalo WLI-PCM-L11 that uses the prism module, and a Linksys WPC11 v3 that uses orinoco-cs — and both of them behave erratically.
The Linksys is worse, but that’s the one that was working fine up until this morning. When that one is inserted, I get wacky keyboard behavior like sticking keypresses, one- and two-second-long lags on typing. dmesg is littered with “CMDMODE_ACCESS failed” messages. It’s almost like working with Windows.
I booted to the 2008-06 core CD and tried there, and things were better, but not perfect. No keyboard misbehavior and the Buffalo card would insert and work properly, but the Linksys card is still tetchy. Neither one will associate with my network. I don’t manage my modules or rearrange any boot scripts, mostly because I want Arch to do it all by itself on this machine. So I am fairly certain that my mismanagement hasn’t fouled this up.
The strange thing is (and perhaps this is just my memory that’s failing) I know that this has happened to me in the past — both times running Arch on a wireless machine. I’ll have to scrape this site and see if I can find the reason, but I could swear that this machine and my OLPC were both knocked offline about six months ago, and I never resolved it.
But on the whole this is rather problematic. If it were a software issue, I’d think I’d be able to access the network from the live CD. If it were a card problem, I’d think one of them would work. But what’s scaring me now is the thought that the PCMCIA socket hardware in this machine, which I love dearly, might be at fault.
Edit, 2009-01-07: Well, now it appears to be okay. Whatever difficulty I was having has disappeared, and I haven’t the slightest clue why. Maybe something was interfering with the system. Like gremlins. I’m keeping an eye on this one though. I haven’t quit chasing it yet.