Some laptop computer owners have discovered an annoying quirk with their machines: Whenever users install certain Nortel security software, their computers’ screens turn blue and the laptops cease to work.
The problem is caused by Intel’s new Centrino chipset, which is not compatible with Nortel’s Contivity virtual private network. That software lets workers securely check e-mail and other office applications from home.
Nortel, which has shipped more than 35 million units of the VPN, disclosed the problem in a customer support bulletin, which among other remedies, recommended that laptop owners uninstall key Centrino drivers and instead use those of the Windows XP operating system.
In fact, Intel did not include Contivity on a list of VPNs that supported its driver, which lets users receive wireless Internet access – a key feature of the Centrino chipset.
Nortel spokesman Pat Cooper denied Contivity was incompatible with Centrino. He pointed out that Nortel’s bulletin included steps customers could take to run Centrino and Contivity at the same time. Also, the Intel support website does include a note that the problematic drivers should be disabled before any VPN software – even that made by Intel – is installed.
“I don’t think it’s a big problem… if you have to work around it,” Cooper said. “You have to turn off the preset adapters no matter whose VPN client you are using.”
Still, the discrepancy has irked people like Jonathan Jordan, a network administrator in South Carolina, who has had to halt plans to distribute hundreds of laptops to his employees. He said he has had “zero problems” with Contivity and wants to keep using it. “It has worked beautifully,” he said.
But he would also like to take advantage of Intel’s new Centrino chipset, which boasts five hours of battery life and wireless Internet connectivity, he said. Up to now, he has gotten nothing but blue screens from the machines.
“I will continue to sit on (the laptops) until we get a resolution that makes me feel warm and fuzzy about it,” Jordan said. “Maybe we need to switch to another chipset.”
Jordan said he was surprised that Intel did not support Contivity in its latest chip.
Intel spokesman Dan Francisco said it was the first time he had heard about this issue.
“We’re looking into this and I will get you details as soon as I have some,” he said.
In the meantime, Nortel’s technical support team offers Contivity users a series of guidelines when working on a Centrino-enabled laptop. After following certain precautions, the laptop will automatically install drivers other than Intel’s. “Windows XP then can be used to manage the wireless profiles instead of the Intel PROset utilities,” the Nortel bulletin said.