AB9IL.net: Legacy RT73 Wireless Driver Update for Kernels 2.6.27 - 2.6.29

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There are a considerable number of people using computers with Linux that depend on Ralink RT73 devices for wireles network access. As usage of the advanced kernels increases, legacy wireless drivers lose compatability, and require replacement. The excellent K2WRLZ drivers for Ralink wireless devices are an example, and recently they have ben made compatible with kernels 2.6.27 through 2.6.29. Follow the procedure below to upgrade the legacy RT73 wireless driver for compatibility with Debian or Slackware based systems (Sidux, Ubuntu, Slax, Bluewhite64, etc) that use kernels 2.6.27 through 2.6.29.

If your system uses Linux kernel 2.6.30 or later, better wi fi drivers are in the Compat Wireles package. Compile and install it instead of this older RT73 driver.

The upgrade process consists of obtaining the source code, then compiling and installing the new driver. From start to finish, no more than fifteen minutes are required of the average person. The author is rather slow, and was successful in the upgrade; anyone who can download files and work in the Linux console (executing a few commands) should have no problem.

  1. Start by downloading the latest driver: rt73-k2wrlz-3.0.3.tar.bz2. If you have Wget, use a "wget" command in a console:
ironhand@onosideboard:~$ wget http://homepages.tu-darmstadt.de/~p_larbig/wlan/rt73-k2wrlz-3.0.3.tar.bz2
  1. Navigate to the location of the source package, and extract it by opening a console window and using the "tar" command:
ironhand@onosideboard:~$ tar -xjf rt73-k2wrlz-3.0.3.tar.bz2
  1. Navigate to the "module" directory, and with root priveleges, compile and install the driver:
ironhand@onosideboard:~$ sudo make && make install
[sudo] password for ironhand:

At this point, the driver should have compiled and installed without errors. Warnings may occur due to minor faults in the code, but the process shouldn\'t break outright. Two new files should now be in your system:

/lib/firmware/rt73.bin (rt73 firmware)
/lib/modules/*yourkernel*/extra/rt73.ko (rt73 driver)

Another pair of commands in the console will load the driver:

ironhand@onosideboard:~$  sudo depmod -ae
[sudo] password for ironhand:
ironhand@onosideboard:~$ sudo modprobe rt73

After executing the "modprobe" command, the rt73 wireless driver should load, and any wireless connection manager (Wlassistant, Ceni, Wi-Fi Radar, etc) should properly scan for and report any access points in range. Connectivity with this enhanced legacy RT73 wireless driver should be possible over longer distances than the standard rt2x00 / rt73usb software.

In order for the module to properly autoload during start-up and not conflict with the standard rt2x00 drivers, there are two system files that need editing. First is /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist. Add the following lines to the end of the list:

blacklist rt2x00
blacklist rt73usb

Next, make an entry in /etc/init.d/rc.local:

modprobe rt73


Software being what it is, there are sometimes bugs, breaks, and annoyances. Fortunately, there is plenty of discussion of solutions. The pentesters in the aircrack-ng forums tend to be rigorous in vetting problems with the legacy rt73 wireless driver. Also, keep an eye on Larbig\'s wireless page and the rt2x00 SerialMoonkey forum.

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