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Intel concedes Centrino snag

The chipmaker says a software incompatibility may trip up people trying to use a Centrino-based notebook with a virtual private network. But it says a fix has been available.

Chipmaker Intel acknowledged that a software incompatibility may cause problems for people trying to use a Centrino-based notebook with a virtual private network.

The flaw involving the new chip family--which Intel said it had rigorously tested--was mentioned in a bulletin issued this month by VPN software maker Nortel Networks. The bulletin said the issue could cause notebooks to crash and display the Windows blue screen error notice.

Intel said possible notebook malfunctions could indeed be caused by an incompatibility between the application that controls its Intel Pro Wireless 2100 module--the wireless module from the Centrino family--and some VPN applications. But the company said it knew about the problem and had issued a fix in a bulletin to PC makers in early March, around the time the Centrino line was unveiled.

Intel said the fix has limited the impact of any problems. The fix suggests that PC makers disable or remove a feature inside Intel PROset software--which controls the wireless module--called Adapter Switching, an Intel representative said.

"We are aware of an issue where in some configurations, a VPN connection with our Intel PROset software and Adapter Switching technology enabled can cause a notebook PC to not work properly," Intel spokesman Dan Francisco said. "We believe that most systems shipping today have this adaptive switching feature disabled or removed, but there will still be instances where the issue occurs."

Meanwhile, some VPN software markers, such as Nortel, have issued their own fixes. Nortel's bulletin, located on its tech support site, calls for customers to uninstall the Intel PROset software and use Windows to control the wireless module instead.

Intel said the problem is only with software and not inherent in the Centrino chips. It also isn't specific to one PC maker or one type of VPN software. As a result, Francisco referred notebook users who believe they might be experiencing a problem to tech support at the notebook manufacturer from which they purchased their machine.

Francisco was unable to say whether Intel was working on an update for the Intel PROset application or, if so, when that update would come out.