I have a TL-WN821N wifi adapter that is supposed to work using purely free software.

It used to work when I used the Trisquel Linux distribution but now when I have switched to Debian it does not work.

I know that the device is connected because it shows up in the output from the lsusb command.

$ lsusb
Bus 008 Device 002: ID 0cf3:7015 Atheros Communications, Inc. TP-Link TL-WN821N v3 802.11n [Atheros AR7010+AR9287]
Bus 008 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 006 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub

You can also see in the output that this device is identical to the one listed here on h-node which is supposed to work using the ath9k_htc driver.

The ath9k_htc driver is installed as it shows up in the listing of the lsmod command:

$ lsmod | grep ath
ath9k_htc              51019  0 
ath9k_common           21530  1 ath9k_htc
ath9k_hw              380024  2 ath9k_common,ath9k_htc
ath                    21707  3 ath9k_common,ath9k_htc,ath9k_hw
mac80211              421481  1 ath9k_htc
cfg80211              350041  5 ath,iwlwifi,ath9k_common,mac80211,ath9k_htc
usbcore               170994  5 uhci_hcd,ehci_hcd,ehci_pci,usbhid,ath9k_htc

The problem is that the adapter does not light up and I get no connection. It is as if the adapter does not start up.

I do not know what could be causing this problem. Do you know what could be wrong and how I can fix it?

Update: I just noticed that I get this error message printed during the boot:

[12423.2421] usb8-1: firmware: failed to load htc_7010.fw (-2)

I do not remember the exact number between the square brackets ([ and ]). I hope this information is useful.

I also get error messages about the firmware for the integrated WiFi card but that is because the firmware for it is missing. I want to run 100 % free software (except for BIOS) so I installed Debian without the proprietary firmware for the integrated WiFi card.

  • Your driver requires firmware, free or not, to operate, as @sam_pan_mariusz points out in his answer. – eyoung100 Aug 30 '15 at 22:17

A quick search on packages.debian.org revealed the missing htc_7010.fw file in firmware-atheros package.

There's some chance this firmware is free. IIRC some years ago the developers working on ath5k/ath9k drivers were able to reverse-engineer the proprietary firmware blob and forced Atheros to change their policy. Consult attached /usr/share/doc/firmware-atheros/copyright file.

  • I managed to solve the problem by following these instructions on installing the free firmware manually: – wefwefa3 Sep 1 '15 at 19:24

Debian doesn't package ath9-htc and ath9k(and other ath firmware) separately. So you have to install the nonfree firmware package to get ath9-htc, despite htc being free.

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