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16 February 2010 @ 01:25 pm
The Computer Is Your Friend: No Strings Attached  
Okay, here's the deal.

I currently only have wireless internet access -- which means that, for most of what I require, I'm limited to my laptop, and my desktop is a Giant Blue Paperweight. My laptop is doing a fine job as Primary System -- it's actually newer and faster than the desktop -- but having to rely on it exclusively means that I've had to load it down with a lot of extraneous applications, rather than keeping it the Lean Mean Portable Productivity Machine that would be my preference.

My birthday is coming up soon, and when Quelonzia asked me what I wanted, the only thing I could think of was a wireless card.

Now, Ubuntu has a long list of supported wireless cards, but it's a long and poorly-organized list, hinging largely on information about internal chipsets that doesn't pop up in most advertising copy. It's also a list of cards that Ubuntu will recognize during the installation of the operating system -- it doesn't really say if you can plug a new card onto an existing Ubuntu box and have the appropriate drivers pop up.

I am polling the LiveJournal Hive Mind for wireless card recommendations.

I need something that is:

  1. Ubuntu Compatible.
  2. Old-skool PCI bus: my motherboard is Vintage 2003.
  3. Reliable.
  4. Available new.

If folks who Know Enough About Stuff To Have Opinions About Brands And Models could peruse the list and make suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it.

Helvetica 'Foofers' Bold: Shiny Bubblesfoofers on February 16th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
Wireless cards and Ubuntu make me cry. Been there. It's a kludge on top of a clusterfuck.

Consider a wireless-to-Ethernet bridge instead, something like this one. This connects to the Ethernet port, and the system thinks it's on a wired network; no wireless drivers required.

Every time I get some funky old machine to do Frankenstein projects on, I'll install Unbuntu and then lose two days trying to get wireless to work. Either the chipset is proprietary and unsupported, or it's some vintage hardware that doesn't play nice with WPA2 networks, or it's just flaky as heck and doesn't feel like connecting. So I usually end up digging out the WiFi bridge anyway, and it's always worked, saved my butt many a time.
Your Obedient Serpent: barcodeathelind on February 16th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Ooh, good feedback. Exactly what I was looking for. How do you configure the bridge, if you need an encryption key? The same kind of null IP address most routers use?

Oddly, when I installed Ubuntu on my Acer Aspire laptop, it recognized the wireless just fine -- but doesn't recognize the Ethernet port!

After looking into it, I discovered that this was a known issue, and stopped worrying about it.

Edited at 2010-02-16 10:59 pm (UTC)
Helvetica 'Foofers' Bold: Shiny Bubblesfoofers on February 16th, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly like a router. Browser-based configuration screen using a fixed IP address.

Having an external box isn't the most elegant solution, space- and cable-wise, but once configured it's been rock solid reliable. Some bonus perks are that there's no need to enter a Keychain password every time the wireless connection is made, and the box can be moved to other systems (and used driverlessly) should the need arise. More than once I've had guests visiting who wanted to get on the WiFi, but their antiquated cards didn't handle WPA2. I have a USB WiFi adapter but it's useless if they can't get on the net in the first place to download a driver (if even available for their OS). Plug in the box and hand them an Ethernet cable, and it's worked Every Single Time.
Braxusbraxus on February 17th, 2010 12:20 am (UTC)
You might also want to consider a Buffalo WHR-HP-G54. Has an amplified antenna and receiver.

Load third party OSS firmware (e.g. Tomato, DD-WRT) on it and have it run in wireless Ethernet bridge mode.

Takes a bit to set it up, but once you do, you'll have one of the most versatile pieces of wireless networking equipment out there.