Linux, Notebooks and Wi-Fi
TL;DR: Don’t buy notebooks from Lenovo, check https://www.tuxedocomputers.com
I’m a big fan of free software and use and recommend it whenever I can. Now for some years I have been facing a very annoying issue, my notebook, a Lenovo G500 that I bought as a student only supports 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi. And while could upgrade the RAM from 4 to 8 GB and switch the SSHD with a SSD, I wasn’t able to upgrade the WI-FI mini PCI-e card that is build into it.
The only reason for that is that the BIOS/UEFI of this device has an inbuilt whitelist for PCI-e cards. Lenovo says this is necessary because of the regulations of the FCC.
Now there are ways to unlock the bios but, it’s either super sketchy or complicated and risky. There is for example https://www.bios-mods.com a forum focused on the modifications of BIOS/UEFIs. The process is like this: You extract your UEFI via some Tool which results in a tar file that you upload on some shared file hoster. Next, someone from the forums will download your bios backup and modify it, upload it and share the link with you. Lastly you flash that file to your bios and hope for the best.
I think I don’t need to explain why I’m not a fan of this at all.
The other option is to do it by yourself but there is not a lot of documentation, and it’s kind of niche topic.
TP-Link Archer T3U AC1300
So while I ignored that issue for a while it came back up when I moved to a new place in which the 2.4GHz band is full. Apparently the walls build between 1930-1950 are not very isolating regarding WI-FI. I even have 5GHz reception in the basement…
And that is why I decided to think about this issue again, I didn’t want to buy a new notebook and decided to buy the AC1300 on Amazon after seeing in the comments that some people got it working on Linux, so I thought it can’t be that hard, right?
At least on Manjaro with the latest kernel at the time of writing (5.10.2) the AC1300 is not supported by default and I can imagine that it never will due to code quality of the driver or license issues.
After some research I found a very nice repository that looked trustworthy and well maintained. https://github.com/morrownr/88x2bu
The README provides all the information you need, so I won’t repeat that here.
I’m very satisfied with this setup and my notebook stays usable until its retirement.