WPA setup under Linux is way too complex (It shouldn't take hours for each computer...)

We run our home/office access point in WPA encrypted mode. This is, AFAIK the only reasonably secure protocol available in the common Linksys WRT* routers.

It works very well on my Gentoo laptop using madwifi (and has worked well for quite a while now). Took a bit of fiddling, probably 4 or 5 hours, but a lot of that was figuring out the basics of how it wpa is supposed to work and how you're supposed to integrate it into Gentoo.

Gentoo's documentation was very helpful here once I got past the "what do you mean I can't just configure it via the UI" thing.

Soni's (new) Lenovo laptop (using ndiswrapper) can be nudged onto the network if we manually run wpa_supplicant or keep re-running /etc/init.d/networking restart. We spent a very long time on this, probably 2-3 hours, and that's with the configuration from my laptop available for reference.

Ubuntu (Kubuntu)'s documentation was comparatively poor for this, though a lot of the problems were just down to my not having built the system (which, of course, I do for the Gentoo boxes) and thus not knowing where each of the configuration files was or how they worked. Obviously we still haven't finished the task, so more documentation needed.

Rose's Gentoo laptop (using ndiswrapper) can't get onto the network at all (it was on at one point, but it doesn't work any more). I've only spent about 10 minutes on trying to figure this one out, Rose doesn't use Linux very often and Soni has her new laptop now. I was just wanting to upgrade the machine using the binary packages from my laptop this evening... but without a network (the hard links are all in the other room) it's difficult.

It seems that, as with WEP, it should be reasonably possible to just have klaptop (or whatever) provide a WPA encryption setup option alongside the WEP one. I get that it's a different piece of software providing the "supplication", and I get that it's rather finicky and distribution-specific (believe me, I get that), but this seems like it should be way up on the list of basic requirements for desktop (laptop) Linux. "Able to connect to WiFi networks as easily and universally as possible."


  1. Ants Aasma

    Ants Aasma on 01/31/2007 5:55 a.m. #

    Using kubuntu, I spent about about 2 minutes configuring the access point and 2 minutes setting up the connection using the knetworkmanager UI. It pretty much just worked as expected.<br />
    <br />
    With Gentoo I'm not particularly surprised about not being able to configure with an UI, but having a pretty much algorithmic HowTo available. It seems to be the Gentoo way.

  2. Damjan

    Damjan on 01/31/2007 7:25 p.m. #

    There are two problems with WiFi under Linux:<br />
    1. No open-source drivers, meaning you have to use binary drivers with questionable quality and compatibility (and this is not a fault of the Linux developers).<br />
    2. People not knowing to use networkmanager (and it's GUI tools).<br />
    <br />
    BTW.. have you tried to setup WPA/Radius in Windows? Don't tell me that's easy.<br />

  3. Mike Fletcher

    Mike Fletcher on 02/01/2007 10:15 p.m. #

    It could be that we don't know how to use knetworkmanager properly, but that's largely because it just doesn't run at all on Soni's Kubuntu machine (it's installed, but it does nothing when we run it). I'm guessing it's missing a dependency or setup somewhere.<br />
    <br />
    I may try setting up a Sabayon portage overlay and emerge knetworkmanager on my laptop to test it. Seems like rather more work to set it up on Gentoo than to get wpa_supplicant working ;) .<br />
    <br />
    I have set up WPA (non-radius) in Windows (for the same network), took a few minutes, but was relatively painless once we found the correct spot in the UI; choose WPA (personal), enter the key, done. Only significant complexity was remembering that we were filtering on MAC as well (that took quite a while, but that wasn't Windows fault).<br />
    <br />
    Anyway, for right now Soni's surviving with having to restart /etc/init.d/networking . The problem appears to just be one of timing on her box (wpa_supplicant hasn't finished before the dhcpclient call tries to run, so dhcpclient fails, when restarted, wpa_supplicant has already run, so it just falls through and dhcpclient succeeds).

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