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Connecting to a Wireless LAN with Linux, Part 2 - page 2

Getting Online

  • February 7, 2005
  • By Carla Schroder
Red Hat, Fedora, CentOS, and most Red Hat clones have the excellent Network Configuration Tool. On Red Hat the command to open it is redhat-config-network. On Fedora the command is system-config-network. If it is not on your system it can be installed separately.

Fire it up and highlight the wireless adapter on the Devices tab, and click Edit. The key configuration items are:

  1. On the General tab enable "Allow all users to enable and disable the device," and enter your network settings.
  2. On the Wireless Settings tab, set the Mode to "Managed."
  3. Check the "Specified" Network Name (SSID) and enter the SSID for your access point.
  4. Enter your WEP or WPA/WPA2 encryption key name or hex number, if your access point supports any of these. WEP is regarded as feeble and easily cracked; WPA/WPA2 is not supported on all wireless adapters or in all Linux drivers. However, you should use whatever is available--don't transmit in the clear.
  5. Click OK and return to main Network Configuration menu, click File -> Save, hit the Activate button for the wireless adapter, and there you are.
On the General tab there is a checkbox for "Activate Device When Computer Starts." You should enable this for PCI and mini-PCI adapters, but don't use it for PCMCIA cards. These are managed by either the PCMCIA service or the hotplug subsystem. There are two types of PCMCIA cards: PC cards are the older type, and are well-supported in the kernel. These have a 16-bit data bus. CardBus is a newer-fangled standard, with a 32-bit bus. CardBus costs a bit more and claims faster performance. For reliability and least hassles, stick with PC cards. CardBus is managed by the hotplug subsystem, which is not as mature and reliable as the PCMCIA service.

Don't use ad-hoc, or peer-to-peer mode, which leaves you open to random connections. Ad-hoc mode is useful for quick easy connectivity without needing an access point, such as for meetings, so be sure to use it only when you really intend to.
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