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I have tried turning on both the physical hardware switch and the fn, f2 and the same problem persists. I am dual booting with windows 7. it works fine with 7. I consider myself able to navigate most computer problems but not able to write code or completely understand how and where it works. This is my first day with ubuntu.

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we need some hardware and logs to help you - please see this question and answers - add to your question the suggestions please. askubuntu.com/questions/14008/… –  fossfreedom Dec 8 '11 at 16:22
    
Assuming that you are using 11.10 can you confirm that you have followed the guidance given in the Ubuntu Desktop Guide under networking, web, email & chat, including wireless networking. You find this document by typing help in the dash search bar. –  grahammechanical Dec 8 '11 at 18:56
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2 Answers

I ran into an issue that reminds me of what you're experiencing. In my case, switching off the wireless with the hardware switch switched off a software switch. Try to type the following command in a terminal: $ sudo rfkill unblock all

That solved the issue for me (with Ubuntu 11.04).

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Worked for me - I am running a Dell Inspiron 1420 with a physical wireless switch. In my case, I only needed to run "sudo rfkill unblock wifi". –  frankadelic Feb 12 '12 at 23:22
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There is a bit of a learning curve with a new OS and it is frustrating when your hardware does not work.

Do you know what wireless card you have ? Brand / model ? Once we identify the card we can determine if it is going to be easy or difficult to fix.

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