This evening after work I’m taking the D-Link wi-fi card back for a refund. I was unable to get it working under any of the flavors of linux I tried.
What I’ve discovered in the process of trying is that modern wi-fi support is incredibly hit-or-miss with linux. And I don’t mean simply that some models work and some dont. What I mean is that out of two apparently identical cards, one might work and the other fail. Why? In a word, chipsets. In this age of mass-production we think of products as identical to other products in the same line. But in the world of electronics that’s not the case. A single make and model might have any number of hardware revisions, and which one you get depends on when it came off the production line. And these aren’t subtle differences, either – two cards off of the same shelf might contain completely different chips, made by different companies. And the only way to tell, if at all, is by an obscure hardware revision number following the model number on the bottom of the box. If the chipset in the card you picked up at Best Buy happens not to be one that’s supported, you’re out of luck.
Why do I put myself through all this? Because GNU/linux is the environment I’m comfortable with. Up and running, it provides me with far more powerful tools as a software developer than I have under Windows. True, some of those tools are available for Windows, but they’ll never be as well-integrated. And in addition, it provides me with a galaxy of thousands of applications for every conceivable task, all free, all just a few clicks away from being installed on my machine. So despite the pain of getting it up and running, I’m not kidding when I say I use GNU/Linux for the convenience.
Plus I can’t afford a Mac.
But boy can it be a bitch to get hardware working.