Intel Investigating Centrino Glitch

UPDATE: Intel is investigating an issue with the mobile technology platform that causes laptops to crash when VPN client software is installed.

Intel Corp. is investigating an issue with its Centrino mobile technology platform that causes laptops to crash when VPN client software is installed.

According to at least one user, new notebooks reverted to a blue screen when he installed Nortel Networks Corp.s Contivity VPN software, a problem he has been wrestling with for about a month.

Currently, when a VPN client is installed into a laptop powered by Centrino, the VPN causes a blue screen to appear when the device is rebooted. Nortel, of Santa Clara, Calif., on May 14 sent a bulletin to users outlining a work-around in which the problem drivers in the PROSet will not be installed.

According to the bulletin, the wireless card in the laptop will still work, but the added functionality provided by the PROSet drivers will not be available. However, customers can use Microsoft Corp.s Windows XP operating system rather than the PROSet drivers to manage the wireless profiles, Nortel says in the bulletin.

Nortel spokesman Pat Cooper said the company is aware of the issue.

"I dont think its a problem. You just have to disable the Adapter Switch," Cooper said. "We are working [with Intel] to make sure this is taken care of in the future."

Intel spokesman Dan Francisco said the chip maker is looking into the issue.

"We are aware of an issue where in some configurations a VPN connection, with our Intel PROSet software and the Adaptive Switching technology enabled, can cause notebooks not to work properly," Francisco said.

The problem is not exclusive to all OEMs or VPN providers, he said. In March, Intel issued a notice to OEMs, and Francisco said he believes that most Centrino-based laptops are now shipped with the Adaptive Switching part of the software disabled or removed. He suggested that end users still having problems contact their OEMs or company IT staffs.

According to Intels Web site, the PROSet Adapter Switching feature also must be disabled when VPN client software from several companies are in use. Included in that list are Cisco Systems Inc.s 3000 VPN, Checkpoint Software Technologies Inc.s VPN (in non-office transparent mode, connect office mode and connect non-office mode), Microsofts VPN (L2TP over IPsec transport and L2TP for configuration with ESP-in-UDP) and Intels own Netstructure VPN.

But for one user, the work-around is not sufficient. Jonathan Jordan, a LAN engineer with a large textile company in South Carolina, said his organization recently bought "hundreds" of laptops from Dell Computer Corp. that cant be used because of the VPN issues with Centrino.

"Its not acceptable," Jordan said. "All youre doing is turning off the Intel PROSet, and it does facilitate the energy savings capabilities of the chip set, and additionally some very nice management features for wireless."

The result is that employees on the road or in sales meetings would not have high-speed Internet access, which makes the laptops useless, he said.

"You can do it basically through Windows, but this is a letdown. This is something that you cannot let just continue," Jordan said.

He said that the frustration is that Centrino offers the Wi-Fi wireless access, energy savings and battery life—as many as five hours—he wants, but that unless the issue is resolved, he wont be able to use the notebooks.

Jordan said he has contacted Intel, but has yet to hear back from the company.

"It appears to me that Intel really is not making concessions to make this work," he said. "This is not a Dell issue, and Nortel is not the issue."

Centrino is a package that includes the Pentium-M chip, formerly known as Banias, an accompanying 855 chip set family and a Wi-Fi module, the Pro/Wireless 2100 Network Connection.

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