i don’t know why it started working.
i did some combination of the following things:
iwconfig wlan0 ap any
iwconfig wlan0 rate 11M
and the /etc/network/interfaces file looked like this:
iface wlan0 inet dhcp
edit: install the open-source driver from scratch, fwcutter and all, then load the module. internet will magically start working even though ubuntu’s network manager refuses to believe theis.