wi-fi suggestions

Gilles Gravier ggravier at fsfe.org
Fri Jun 25 18:30:04 UTC 2010

 Hi, Albert!

On 25/06/2010 19:07, Albert Wagner wrote:
> I have never been wireless before, but am exploring wireless routers.  
> So far,
> Cisco-Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Broadband Router (Compatible with Linux)
> seems OK for me.  Does anyone know just what "Compatible with Linux" 
> means for this product?  Is there anything else you would recommend, 
> knowing, as you must, just what software Ubuntu offers in support of wi-fi

"Compatible with Linux". Historically, the Linksys WRT54xx routers (G,
and then GS) were made with Linux as the operating system. Then somebody
figured out that because Linux is GPL, the whole embedded stack of the
WRT54xx was GPL (GPL is a "viral" license) and asked for source code.
After some time, Linksys made the source code available.

Once that code was available, it was an easy trick to make custom
firmwares. These routers became the most popular on the planet and
became VERY cheap. Then people started hacking them... in particular
with drivers for the WiFi stack that could be configured to go beyond
the 42mW that most countries accept as the maximum for WiFi. They can
easily be driven to 100mW (and 200mW if you aren't afraid of burning the
power transistors of the beast). This got Linksys in trouble with local
telecom authorities for making a device too easy to hack to something of
unacceptable caracteristics.

So Linksys decided to make cheap WRT54G and GS routers now using
VxWorks, which is proprietary and, happily, has a smaller memory
footprint. Cheaper routers, with cheaper components, and proprietary
firmware for which they didn't need to publish the source... so not
hackable (ahem, not EASILY hackable).

This got some OEM integrators which used the Linksys routers to put
their own firmware inside and sell them (the first FON routers were
"Linksys inside") very upset.

So Linksys decided to make a new WRT54 router, back again with Linux
inside, but more expensive. So normal people buy the cheap ones... no
problems. Integrators and hobbyists buy the more expensive one, the
WRT54GL which has Linux inside, and for which source code (and hacked
firmwares) are available. My favorite hacked firmware for WRT54GL is
called Tomato and you can get it at : http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato/

So this router is "Linux" compatible because it runs Linux. Actually,
ANY WiFi router is Linux compatible because they all have available pure
web-based administration interfaces and none require a Windows utility
to get them to work (none that I know of, that is).

You can safely take any Belkin, Linksys, D-Link, ZyXel WiFi and it will
be compatible with Linux machines.

There you have it. Your WRT54GL is a very nice box. It's even nicer with
Tomato firmware on it.

>From a Ubuntu perspective, WiFi support is integrated in the OS. If your
WiFi chipset is standard, it's supported OUT OF THE BOX with Ubuntu. If
it isn't... You can either add one of the madwifi (depending on the
chipset) drivers, or, to be simple, you can instal the "ndiswrapper".
This is a package that lets you use the Windows XP drivers that came
with your WiFi card, and directly run them under Linux as if they were
Linux drivers. If nothing else works, just install "ndisgtk" from the
Synaptic Package Manager. This will bring in all the required packages
for the NDISwrappers, and will install a nice UI that you can launch
from System->Administration->Windows Wireless Drivers.

Launch that tool, and add a driver by pointing to the ".inf* file of the
WindowsXP drivers and you are all set. :)

Once the WiFi driver is in place, the network manager applet will
identify and list the available WiFi networks for you to chose from...
you should be in familiar territory then.


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