atheros hide and seek

greetings forum,
i have have been trying to install suse 11.1 on a sony notebook. the 1st attempt was with kde4 and i loaded the madwifi repository and set up the card. it worked for a while and then did a disappearing act.
i am not fan of kde4 so i thought i would try gnome and installed it from the cd. to my surprise suse/gnome read the card as wlan0, and it worked for several days. then it is off and on. sometimes lspci will show the card and then nothing. if i mess around with yast>network device> i can get it back. when the card is working the ath_5k can be seen in lsmod when the card is not working ath_5k is gone. the same with lspci.
i can not find where the ath_5k is stored i searched etc/modprobe.d and etc/systemconfig. should it not appear as an alias ath_5k in the /etc/modprobe.d file. i could try the ath_pci setup but that did not work for long with kde4. so is there a fix?