Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unwiring Linux

I am a firm believer in Linux, or at least the idea of Linux. I have used Red Hat at work; I then favoured Ubuntu as an all in desktop with good server support as well. I have now installed SuSe 10.1 on my server at home.

All of these platforms have a common flaw, the lack of or at least the general lack of WiFi support.

Part of the problem is the slow adoption of WPA-PSK on Linux. Until very recently WEP was the only security (other than MAC address filtering) but this is old and so the move to WPA is essential if Linux is to move up to XP again.

Ubuntu Dapper and SuSe 10.1 are very good replacement desktops and I would easily jump across permanently if only we could solve the WiFi issue.

With SuSe the D-Link card I have is potentially supportable with Madwifi or Ndiswrapper. I couldn't get either to work at all. Then some more googling later I [finally] discovered that version C of the PCI card was not Atheros but Ralink. A quick trip to the site (via my laptop and trusty USB/SD stick) got me the driver make files. However the make didn't work.

This is also part of the problem with OS. The community aspect that is a strength (and nice to be part of) is also the biggest weakness. I found six postings on how to configure my card with SuSe, all of them were different and although I appreciate the time and effort people have taken to try and let others know all of them fall a part if it doesn't go exactly 100% as planned.

In the end I tried 4 out of 6 and none of them worked :(

I'm not completely techdense (TM) "the opposite of tech savvy" but while it's down to the user to build the drivers yourself WiFi; and in fact a lot of Linux, will remain the realm of the geek.

But.... there is hope on the horizon. Both Belkin and Linksys produce Wireless Ethernet bridge products that allow me to use the Ethernet interface on my Linux (or XBox, PS2, Tivo et al) hardware to wire to the bridge and then connect to my wireless network this way.

This bypasses the need for drivers and other software on my hardware, it's all on the network element.

So I've found the options, nominally, I am now faced with the usual challenge to try and find someone in Thailand or Singapore that can provide me with one.

If Linksys or Belkin are listening I am more than willing to help you distribute these products to fill a big gap in the OpenSource and home user market in Thailand.

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