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PowerBook G3 Series (Bronze Keyboard): The Quest for WiFi

There are a bunch of sites out there that say "oh any Lucent card will just work with the AirPort drivers". So I assumed this would be a trivial task. Unfortunately the Lucent cards were never sold in Japan, so not so easy to get ahold of.

There are other sites that claim that third-party cards with the Lucent/Proxim/ORiNOCO chipsets might work with the AirPort drivers, but those are all lies.

I got the Buffalo card working for a while with the terrible ancient Buffalo drivers, but one day it just stopped working. I tried the ORiNOCO drivers instead, and they act like they work but I still can't actually communicate on the LAN. I'm kinda worried there's something screwed up with Open Transport / TCP/IP in my setup, but Ethernet still works perfectly, and I've triple-checked that there isn't a mix of drivers left installed.

For one card I even tried hacking the AirPort drivers with HexEdit to no avail.

PCMCIA cards I've tested:

 

Buffalo (Melco) AirConnect WLI-PCM-L11

  • 200 yen HARD OFF bin find
  • Equivalent to WaveLan Silver
  • AirPort drivers don't see it
  • ORiNOCO 7.2 drivers sees it as "3rd Party Silver Card" Versions HW 4.0, Prim 4.4, Station 8.35
  • With ORiNOCO 7.2 drivers, sees wifi, connects to it, doesn't get IP

 

Buffalo (Melco) AirStation WLI-PCM-L11G

  • 300 yen HARD OFF bin find
  • Equivalent to WaveLan Gold
  • AirPort drivers don't see it
  • With the official Buffalo drivers, it worked for a couple months, then stopped working. The official Buffalo Control Panel is terrible though, it's based on the really ancient Lucent drivers and doesn't have any basic features such as a network search, signal strength meter or even status as to if you're connected or not.
  • ORiNOCO 7.2 drivers sees it as "3rd Party Gold Card" Versions HW 4.2, Prim 4.4, Station 8.35
  • With ORiNOCO 7.2 drivers, sees wifi, connects to it, doesn't get IP

 

IBM High Rate Wireless LAN 128RC4 PC24E-H-FC

  • 300 yen HARD OFF bin find
  • Equivalent to WaveLan Gold
  • AirPort drivers don't see it
  • ORiNOCO 7.2 drivers sees it as "3rd Party Gold Card" Versions HW 4.2, Prim 4.4, Station 8.35
  • With ORiNOCO 7.2 drivers, sees wifi, connects to it, doesn't get IP

 

NCR WaveLAN TURBO PC24E-L-JP

Bought this one since it has the same label design as the Lucent card, so maybe it had the same manufacturer device name and would work with the AirPort drivers? Nope, it didn't.

Since this card LOOKS so similar to the Lucent card (it's just a brand logo swap) I assumed it would be the most similar firmware and electrical-wise. So I attempted to edit the AirPort drivers to swap out the device name so it would recognize it.

  1. First, I found the device name by booting into MacOS X.
  2. PowerPC code is stored in the Data fork so this is a HexEdit hack instead of a ResEdit hack. I opened up the "AirPort PC Card" file and replaced Lucent with NCR.
  3. It didn't work. It managed to see it as an AirPort card, but the network list just says "256" instead of network names and you can't connect.

Sony PCWA-C150S for Vaio

Bought this one since it has the same physical form factor as the Apple AirPort card, and another report online claimed they got it working with AirPort drivers installed internally in an iBook G3.

Since this card has the same physical form factor as the AirPort, and it has a much newer HW version according to the Orinico drivers, I tried to HexEdit the AirPort drivers again. This time it didn't even get as far as with the NCR card, probably because it has a different device name in addition to a different manufactuter name.

Buffalo AirStation WLI-CB-G54(SC0)

Only supported on OS X, but it works great there with no drivers using the built-in AirPort support.

 

At this point I've given up and just ordered a proper Lucent WaveLAN card off of eBay, paying the exhorbitant international shipping and praying it will work with the Airport drivers like everyone says it will.

The fallback

I have an 8-year-old USB-powered micro-router (Planex MZK-RP150N) which is perfect for when you just need to WiFi something, and it works, but it's old, n-only (no AC), and I didn't want to tie it up here, so I bought one just for use with the G3, an Elecom WRH-300CRWH. It works but has two major problems:

  1. If it fails to connect to the network it's set to connect to, it resets back from converter mode to router mode
  2. The web UI for it uses too modern JavaScript to set it back to converter mode (or pick a network) using any MacOS 9 browsers like Classilla.

    When I get less lazy I may write a custom OS 9 app that mimics the HTTP calls that the JavaScript makes.

Last updated: 2019-04-25
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