24 May 2008 acj   » (Journeyer)

Last week I bought a Netgear WG511 wireless adapter for my laptop, intending to replace the archaic prism2-based adapter that didn't support WPA and barely worked. Initial searches indicated success in making it work with Linux, so I wasn't worried.

It turns out that there are at least three different versions of this card, each with a different chipset, and the only clear delineation is the "Made in X" label on the adapter, where X is either "China" or "Taiwan". My WG511 was made in China and has a Marvell chipset. Among other things, this means that I'm forced to use ndiswrapper and the Windows 2000 drivers. (The adapters made in Taiwan are natively supported by the prism54 driver included with the Linux kernel.) Okay, fine, I thought. It's not ideal, but the adapter is popular enough that maybe development of a native Marvell driver is underway.

The next step was to get WPA working. The NetworkManager applet listed my ESSID with good signal strength, but after repeated unsuccessful attempts to associate it was clear that something was wrong. The applet would spin for a few seconds trying to connect before immediately returning to the "no connection" icon. I tried the Windows XP drivers with the same result. I tried rebooting to give the card a chance to reset: same result.

The solution was to use wpasupplicant directly, specifying my ESSID, pre-shared key, algorithms, and so on directly in the wpa_supplicant.conf. After a few seconds of key negotiation, I was associated and had acquired an IP address.

So:

  • Manufacturers need to play ball more. Openness will sell more units!
  • What exactly is causing nm-applet to fail?
  • Yay for SoC hacking on the front porch.

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