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Wireless LAN Devices For Linux? 15

kemster writes "I've seen a few articles on different Wireless ethernet devices which are supported under Linux, but I'd like to know what people's experiences with them are. I'd like to get a wireless ethernet card for my laptop, and Linux support is a must, but I'd also like something that isn't too expensive and has decent range and speed. Does anyone have any suggestions? What have other people used? I'd love any suggestions and/or links people have to products." We've discussed this issue over a year ago and the market for wireless networks has grown dramatically since then. Has the intervening time changed anything when it comes to wireles options for Linux?
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Wireless LAN Devices for Linux?

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  • I just beat my Webgear card into submission (yesterday) so I could dual-boot my laptop. It wasn't easy. There is a lot of information out there, howto's, drivers, etc., and I'm a little reluctant to even post links [] since two seconds of searching will find them for you. Start with the latest version of pcmcia-cs and you shouldn't have many problems.

    What I would ask is this: what's the _cheapest_ supported card? A year or so ago, I bought 2Mbit wireless cards from Webgear at $140 per set of two cards. Recently, I don't think I've seen any wireless LAN cards much under $150 for one card. Admittedly, they're 11Mbit cards now, but still... it seems like they should be cheaper than they are. Probably I'm just not looking hard enough.

    And while I'm at it, does anyone make a cheap access point? I have an ad-hoc network that works well enough, but I keep wondering if I should get a real access point - and then I keep seeing the extreme price tags on those devices, and shaking my head.
  • by chris.dag ( 22141 ) on Monday December 18, 2000 @04:05AM (#552636) Homepage
    The lucent 802.11b cards (sold as 'Orinoco' for home/SOHO users) seem to have the largest amount of Linux suport when it comes to drivers and HOWTO documents. They are not cheap though.

    I bought the RG-1000 gateway and an Orinoco silver card a few days ago and after a bit of fiddling had my linux notebook up and running at 11mbs. The windows client software was better at things like measuring signal strength & noise with a shiny little GUI. Range and performance seem to be very good. One problem with the RG gatway product is that it requires a Windoes system to set up the initial configuration.

    URL would be [].

    Another option depending on driver ability would be the 802.11b stuff from Compaq. I noticed that they are selling their gateway software CD for $125 which means you can build your own access point on an existing system for the cost of the software and a PCI wireless card.

  • I got my webgear cards working under linux in less than 10 minutes, but under Win95 on the same laptop, it never did work. Their tech support monkey told me to upgrade my 486 to Win98. Yeah, right...
  • FWIW, I have gotten my DWL-650 to work under Linux. Kernel version is 2.2.18, but the important point is to get the latest PCMCIA release. It has support for the DWL-650 under the wvlan_cs driver (maybe the wvlan driver, I'm not on my laptop just now).

  • Here is a link to someone working on drivers for the Intersil chipset. Supposedly they are very stable and full featured now. I just picked up some LinkSys cards using this chipset myself, and am just waiting for the access point. If you don't want an access point, this driver should also work in adhoc mode, or it seems to have a mode that makes a workstation with a wireless NIC an access point.
  • here [] is a java configuration utility for the Apple Airport so that you can use any system running java 1.2 to configure the access point. this should also work with the RG1000.

    the Apple Airport runs slightly less than $300 while the RG1000 runs a bit more than that.

    both of these have Lucent silver cards inside them so they support antennas and what not. they can also be upgraded to Lucent gold cards rather trivialy.

    I like the lucent cards as they are support on Mac, FreeBSD, Linux, Windows 95/98, Windows NT, and Windows CE.

    what I have found to be the main difference between cheap 802.11b cards and their expensive brethren is antenna sensitivity. the more you pay, the better the built in antenna is.

    here [] is a decent article comparing 802.11b solutions.

  • by rjsjr ( 105611 ) on Monday December 18, 2000 @04:50AM (#552641) Homepage

    I'm looking around at both cards and access points with linux compatibility, here's what I've found. It seems 802.11b wireless networking is definitely getting cheaper and a number of decent products have been showing up at half previous typical prices. D-Link and SMC are leading the low end of the market with decent quality products and at least stated linux support and Orinico/Lucent and Aironet/Cisco are the leaders if you want a more robust feature set for your access point (in particular, support for external antennas).

    PCMCIA Cards

    • For cards, the cheapest decent card I've been able to find is the D-Link DWL-650 [], which can be had for around $120 from a reputable web retailer. However, while D-Link claims linux support in their FAQ, I can't find a driver to download from their FTP and a google search didn't reveal anything elsewhere. Haven't really looked hard, but dubious with that in mind. I should also note that the D-Link claims shorter ranges (1,000 ft. v. 1,500) than most of the other cards/access points, but I suspect that has little real world relevance.
    • The next best option seems to be the SMC 2632W [], which has linux drivers available for download (haven't tried them out, though). It tends to run about $20-30 more from similar sources, but looks like a good product and appears to have better support.
    • After that, its a tossup in the $200-300 range from the major networking manufacturers. I don't see a clear advantage of any of them over the cheaper products, but haven't looked at power consumption levels and comparison tests from major publications aren't new enough to include these products (that I've seen).

    Access Points

    For those who are also interested in what's going on with access points, including linux support on configuration:

    • Currently thinking about the D-Link DWL-1000AP [] which goes for a little under $300 if you look around for a good web retailer. Main downside is a lack of linux support in configuration software (needed to set static IPs by address), though this isn't a big deal for me as I run a mixed network. Too bad it doesn't have a nice mini-web server for management like my HP printer (LaserJet 2100NT). They list telnet support in the data sheet, but its not clear to me if you can telnet to the hub to make changes ...
    • Another potentially good and cheap model is the SMC 2652W [], but supply seems to be limited on this right now. Again, no linux configuration utilities, but you can console connect via RS-232, which the D-Link doesn't have. SMC has linux drivers available for its PCMCIA card now.

    Unfortunately, neither of these have the antenna adapter that some of the Lucent Orinoco (formerly WaveLAN) access points [] feature, but they also don't cost $700+ (its more for the 2 radio model). Not really much of an issue for household use (unless you have a multilevel apartment with concrete flooring), but if you want to cover multiple houses, roam around farther outdoors, or set up a free wireless LAN [] (slashdot discussion []) for people in the area [SF for me] [] (I could run a really popular access point, living across the street from Moscone). There are a number of other good access points from Cisco/Aironet, HP, Intel, etc., but these are the standouts for price/performance in my research.

    Regards, RJS

  • I'm using an Apple Airport, configured with the no-Windog-required Java program from t/ and Lucent/WaveLAN/Orinoco/NameOfTheDay WEP-capable 802.11 cards. Works great. There's a hack to add an external antenna to the Airport which allegedly increases the range dramatically. I haven't needed it.

    The parts were cheapest at PC Connection about 6 months ago.
  • I bought my Webgear pair last Spring for $130 for the two cards (and two ISA adapters). Haven't seen anything near that price since. Both are installed in Linux boxes, one running a 2.0.x kernel and one 2.2.y, one on the second floor and one in the basement. As I recall, setting it up took a couple of evenings; would have gone faster but I had to install several pieces of software. I seem to get between 75 Kbytes/sec and 95 KBytes/sec on file transfers fairly consistently, which I regard as pretty good considering all the metal clutter between the two and the max rating on the devices.

    The older proprietary wireless links and the 802.11 stuff seem to be disappearing in favor of the faster (and more expensive) 802.11b. When I decide that the current link is not fast enough, I'll probably drop 10BaseT down the outside of the house rather than trying the more expensive wireless stuff.

  • The web site doesn't seem to mention it anywhere else but the user guide and data sheet for the SMC 2652W mentions supporting 128 and 64 bit WEP (D-link's only supports 40 bit). 32.pdf []

    Typically other companies like Lucent charge extra for the 128 bit cards. SMC's access point (as you would guess) also supports 128 bit.

    Actually, how does D-Link's 40 bit WEP work with other products? I'm accustomed to Orinoco Silver cards which support 64 bit WEP. Can other products use weaker keys to match what the D-Link is capable of or can the D-Link onlly use its WEP with other products that support specifically 40 bit keys? I suspect the latter. That would be important if WEP is required in an environment.

  • I went to a slightly cheaper route, which has some disadvantages but works fine for most things. I bought two Wavelan PCMCIA cards, one for my laptop and one for my desktop PC. I bought a $50 ISA PCMCIA card reader (A PC-700 from if I remember correctly). Configuration on both machines was a snap and network performance is great. This doesn't work as an access point, I use Ad-hoc networking mode for both cards. The Wavelan interface runs over IPMasq.

    If you want to save a few bucks and you really don't need an access point (or you want to use an existing IP Masq box) this will work fine for you.

  • 40 vs 60 bit WEP:

    40 bit WEP uses 40 bits of secret key and 24 bits of shared key. Although it is really 64 bits of encryption, it has traditionally been called 40 bit WEP to get around the old encryption export restriction. 128 bit WEP uses 104 bits of secret key and 24 bits of shared key.

  • I dont have any experience with this subject personally, but ive been doing research on it myself. This page is the best source of info Ive found: []
    It has the howto plus hundreds of links to related info around the web. Check it out!
  • The Lucent WaveLAN (as was) Orinoco cards worked with no problems at all for me on Linux (RH7), Windows 98 or Windows 2000. They're around 120UKP iirc. I'm using them with an Apple AirPort base station, which has got to be the cheapest access point around. I think I remember reading somewhere that it used a Lucent card internally as well. The drivers included with the newer Linux kernels worked fine with the Orinoco (Silver) card for me, but Lucent do supply source code on CD for their own Linux driver (which may or may not be the same one, I haven't checked).
  • I have the DWL-650 working. David Hinds helped me get it working. The card is a rebadged WaveLAN, and this is what it took for me:

    1. Add some information to /etc/pcmcia/conf:

    card "D-Link DWL-650"
    manfid 0x0156, 0x0002
    bind "wvlan_cs"

    (In my file, this is around line 280, between the entries for "D-Link DE-650" and "DynaLink L10C Ethernet".)

    2. Run 'netconf' (the network configuration part of linuxconf) and under Basic Host information add an adaptor left otherwise blank but with 'wvlan0' filled in as the interface name.

System checkpoint complete.