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How to completely avoid desktop wireless pain


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I've got my Linux desktop on my wireless network, using an internal PCI card. It wasn't pretty, and it's still not perfect (it uses ndiswrapper, whereas I'd prefer a proper native free driver). It took a week of hassle and two separate PCI cards, the second of which cost a good CAN$100.


After going through all of that, though, I've discovered a far better method, so you don't have to :). What you need is one of these:


Linksys wireless gaming adapter (Amazon)


Most of the big-name wireless manufacturers make them, and you can buy them reasonably cheap - around the same CAN$100 mark, or lower - in most big electronics stores, usually in the console gaming section. They're sold as gaming adapters, the idea being that you plug your PS2 or Xbox into it to get it online. But there's nothing about them that makes them *only* work with games consoles. In reality they're plain wireless bridges, which will put ANYTHING with an ethernet connection onto a wireless network.


They're easy as anything to configure. You take it out of the box, plug it into the power then plug it into a spare Windows PC with a network cable. You run a little utility that comes on a CD with the system and program some preset wireless settings - channel, SSID, encryption key, all that stuff, and a static IP address if you want it - into the device. Mine can handle up to five, so you can move it across networks easily. This is a one-shot; once the settings are in there they stay in there, and you just flick between presets with a big button on the side. The configuration process is now entirely done. The device will lock onto the wireless network and stay there. Now all you need to do is plug anything with an ethernet port into the ethernet port on the bridge, tell it to pull an IP address automatically, and it pops online.


So take it over to your desktop PC, plug it into a power outlet and plug it into the PC with an ethernet cable, and restart the network. Thanks to Linux's wired network support being a damn sight better than its wireless network support, you'll probably be online right away. There, wasn't that easier than fighting with dodgy firmware downloads and cryptic dmesg output?


Other advantages - the bridge is a small, light little box which connects to the PC via a cheap standard cable you can buy in various lengths. Treat it as an antenna. Find somewhere where the reception is perfect, stick the bridge there, and buy an ethernet cable exactly long enough to stretch from the PC to the bridge. Isn't that better than the crappy little antenna you get with PCI cards that screws onto the back, leaving you trying to get a wireless connection from ground level two inches away from the inside of your PC, a great source of radio frequency pollution? Also, these things are obscenely flexible. Friend come over with his PC and wants to get it online? Don't fight with wireless settings again, assuming it even has a wireless card. Plug it into the bridge! Want to wire every room in your house for ethernet? No problem, buy a job lot and glue them to the walls. They're fantastic. I bought one for my PS2 and only clued into its potential afterwards. I only wish I'd thought about it before buying the PCI card for my desktop...

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