Realtek RTL8188EE

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chaosmonk

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A few weeks ago I installed Trisquel 8 on a friend's laptop. His Realtek RTL8188EE Wireless card was immediately detected and worked fine until yesterday. NetworkManager still detects the card, but no wireless access points show up in nm-applet or nmcli. This is the first case I've encountered in which there is a problem with WiFi that is apparently not the result of a missing driver.

Every thread I've managed to find online pertaining to this card is about a case in which a driver is missing and there is no WiFi card available. The driver that is usually recommended appears to be non-free[1]. I can't find a case in which the WiFi card had been working without the non-free driver, suddenly stopped finding wireless connections, and yet was still recognized as "available" by NetworkManager.

Does anyone have experience with this WiFi card or other Realtek cards in Trisquel? Should it work with free software, or is it a licensing bug that the card worked for several weeks?

[1] https://github.com/lwfinger/rtlwifi_new/blob/master/firmware/rtlwifi/Realtek-Firmware-License.txt

andyprough
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Similar behavior was reported in January by Magic Banana: https://trisquel.info/fr/forum/testing-trisquel-8-upgrade-process#comment-125668

chaosmonk

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> Similar behavior was reported in January by Magic Banana: https://trisquel.info/fr/forum/testing-trisquel-8-upgrade-process#comment-125668

Thanks. It seems that the conclusion in that thread was that the WiFi card should not have worked in Trisquel. Maybe jxself's suggestion of trying 4.16 will work, but even so it's still a freedom bug that it worked with 4.4 in Trisquel.

jxself
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I guess the first question is what changed between yesterday and today? Because something clearly did.
It would be good to check through the logs to see what is happening.

It's also possible that 4.16 and newer might restore functionality:
https://trisquel.info/en/forum/linux-libre-416-realtek-radeon-more

chaosmonk

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> I guess the first question is what changed between yesterday and today?
> Because something clearly did.
> It would be good to check through the logs to see what is happening.

I agree, but he can't recall any changes, and he's out of town and can only communicate by text message, so troubleshooting is difficult and I won't be able to look at the logs until he gets back.

> It's also possible that 4.16 and newer might restore functionality:
> https://trisquel.info/en/forum/linux-libre-416-realtek-radeon-more

Thanks. It seems like that could be worth a try. If he could access the Internet on his machine I would have him add your repo to his sources.list, but he has no means of accessing the Internet other than WiFi. Is there a way for him to install 4.16 offline by downloading the necessary files on someone else's machine and copying them over on a USB drive? Building from source might be a problem if he's missing dependencies, since he'd have no way of installing them, but a .deb file might work.

chaosmonk

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Never mind. He says WiFi is working now, from a new location. Maybe it was a problem with the access points he was trying. Sorry for the noise.

When I have a chance to look at his computer I'll look into whether or not the working WiFi is a freedom issue.

jxself
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Yeah, you download the .deb, copy the file to the machine, and do sudo dpkg -i /path/to/file

nadebula.1984
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Once I heard that certain Realtek WLAN adapters do work on free/libre distributions like Trisquel. Does this mean that such models have been "reverse engineered" (i.e. free firmware available)?

Magic Banana

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No. They work without the firmware. See https://www.fsfla.org/pipermail/linux-libre/2018-April/003284.html (second paragraph) for the technical explanations about why they started working with Linux-libre 4.16.

nadebula.1984
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Thank you very much for the clarification. It seems that the (non-free) firmware is not absolutely necessary for those cards.

Next, I may want to find a Realtek card and see whether it works with Debian testing with deblobbed Linux 4.16.x kernel.