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Getting Started with Wireless Network Technology

Part III: Adding Wireless to a Linux-Based Laptop or Notebook PC

Mike Angelo -- 28 January 2002 (c) -- Page 3


The Proxim Skyline 802.11b PC Card for Notebooks uses the Intersil (previously Harris Semiconductor) Prism2 chip. Thus, it's likely you could follow the same procedures described in this article to get most Prism2-based wireless PC Cards to run with Red Hat Linux 7.2 and perhaps other newer Linux distributions too.

The only other Linux distribution that we tried with the Skyline 11b PC Card wireless network adapter is Caldera OpenLinux 3.1. So far we have been unable to get the Skyline 11b PC Card to run under OpenLinux 3.1. Red Hat 7.2 has a newer kernel (2.4.7-10) than does OpenLinux 3.1 (2.4.2). That could be the problem -- kernel and driver incompatibility.

Tania Cantrell is a Public Relations Manager at Caldera. She told MozillaQuest Magazine that the older kernel in Caldera OpenLinux 3.1 (2.4.2) does not behave as well with wireless LAN devices as later [revisions] do. We are aware, however, that these cards do work with the 2.4.9 kernel on Caldera . . . in the next short while, Caldera will have another version of our OpenLinux product coming out . . . We can assure you that with the newer kernel the difficulty is overcome.

If you are having trouble running any wireless network PC Card with any Linux distribution, check the boot messages to see if PCMCIA services are being started after the boot process tries to load the Ethernet stuff. If so, you might wish to try reordering the boot sequence as we did above.

There are some links in the Resources section below that point to wireless PC Card drivers and tutorials for Linux.

Conclusion

Wireless network devices use low power, line-of-sight, radio signals to communicate with each other. The radio signal power diminishes rapidly as the distance between two communicating wireless network devices increases -- even if there is nothing in-between the wireless devices. If you are more-technically oriented, you might recall the inverse square law -- that law governs the reduction of radio-signal strength in the best of radio transmission circumstances.

If there are any walls, ceilings, or other obstructions in-between the wireless devices, they will further degrade the radio-signal strength. Metal or concrete walls and obstructions will degrade the radio-signal strength more than plaster or wood will degrade the signal -- and the thicker the obstruction, the greater the signal-strength reduction.

Without a wireless network connection for your notebook or laptop computer, you must plug that portable computer into the wired LAN and then unplug it every time you move around with it -- if you want to have it connected to your LAN. Even worse, you might not have network cabling every place in your home, office, or school environment where you might like to use your laptop or notebook computer.

In like manner, you might not be able to plug your laptop or notebook computer into a modem for Internet access every place in your home, office, or school environment where you might like to use your laptop or notebook computer. Or, you might have to disconnect and then re-connect to the Internet every time you drag your laptop or notebook from one place to another.

Of course you know this but the problem is that you prefer to use Linux on your laptop or notebook computer and you do not have a wireless-capable, Linux-based laptop or notebook computer.

Fortunately, some Linux distributions, such as Red Hat Linux 7.2 for example, support wireless PC Card network adapters whose vendors do not support Linux. Moreover third-party Linux drivers for some wireless PC Card network adapters are available. Even so, you still might have to do some tweaking such as modifying startup-scripts to get a wireless PC Card network adapter working on your Linux-based laptop or notebook computer.

In Part IV, we will look at installing a PCI wireless network adapter in a desktop computer. Stay tuned.

Proxim's suggested retail price for the Skyline 802.11b PC Card for Notebooks is $149.


(Back to Page 2)



Related Articles


Getting Started with Wireless Network Technology Part I: A Simple Wireless Computer Connection for Home, Office, or School

Part II: Connecting a Wireless Laptop or Notebook PC to a Wired PC Network

Computer Connections at Home, Office, & School

Some Basics for Computing & Networking Novices


Triple-Boot Caldera OpenLinux, Red Hat Linux, & MS Windows for Best of Three Worlds

Caldera OpenLinux Workstation 3.1 -- A First Look

Red Hat Linux 7.2 Distribution Release


Belkin 4-Port USB Switch for Linux, Mac, & Windows

Laptop & Notebook Docking -- Peripheral Device Sharing


Linux Wireless Lan Info and Drivers


Wireless LAN resources for Linux

The Linux Wireless LAN Howto

Intersil PrismII based cards

AbsoluteValue Systems (Linux drivers)


Products Discussed in Article


Caldera OpenLinux

Proxim Skyline Products

networking by example

Linux and Networking Books:

Here are some books to help you with Linux and with networking. They cover different user levels, take different approaches, and discuss different Linux or networking features. Pick the book or books that suit your needs best.


For Wireless Networking:


Chapters 14-16 in Upgrading and Repairing Networks 3rd Edition, Que Books, ISBN 0-7897-2557-6. $60.

Chapters 13-15 in How Wireless Works, Que Books, ISBN 0-7897-2487-6. $30.


Linux/UNIX Books


Red Hat Linux 7.2 Unleashed, SAMS, 0-672-32282-X. $50

UNIX Unleashed, 4th Ed., SAMS, 0-672-32251-X. $50


For Networking in General:


Complete Idiot's Guide to Networking Your Home, Que Books, ISBN 0-7897-1963-0. $17

Networking by Example, Que Books, 0-7897-2356-5. $38

Networking For Dummies, IDG Books, 0-7645-0772-9. $22.

Peter Norton's Complete Guide To Networking, Sams, ISBN 0-672-31593-9. $30


Samba Primer Plus, Sams, ISBN 0-672-21932-2. $35. (Use Samba to share Windows and Linux files on the same network.)

Sams Teach Yourself Windows Networking in 24 Hours, Sams, ISBN: 0-672-31475-4. $20

This Wired Home: The Microsoft Guide to Home Networking, 2nd Ed, Microsoft Press, ISBN 0-7356-1158-0. $30

Understanding the Network, A Practical Guide to Internetworking, New Riders, ISBN 0735709777. $40

Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, IDG Books, 0-7645-0347-2. $30.


Credits

The graphic above the article index is adapted from artwork on Proxim Skyline Web pages cited in the Resources section of this article



Copyright 2000-2002 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved


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