As I’ve mentioned in previous articles (Linux, Ubuntu and Me; Ubuntu, Stage One; and Ubuntu, Stage Two) my network is wireless using a USB dongle that I insist on keeping in the set up.

I have several reasons for this: all my upgrade slots are filled (AGP has video card, PCI has Soundblaster Live! and WinTV cards) and running cables would require a large amount of cat-5 wiring strung across several doorways, ceilings and down a flight of stairs. Ugly, time consuming and annoying to say the least. The current dongle I have works excellent (better than my old PCI card in fact) and came at a decent price.

The catch is that the Linux drivers for the RTL8187 chipset don’t include the B model. It’s functionally compatible, just not recognized by the driver. Lucky for me, someone did some correspondence with RealTek and found out what codes to enter into the driver to correct this. Furthermore they provided him with the source code, allowing him to make the appropriate changes. The source package is freely available for download.

Compiling the drivers was simple – as per RealTek’s README included in the files, the only caveat I encountered was that WPA encryption doesn’t seem to work (WEP 64 and 128 do) and it doesn’t automatically load on startup. I live in the suburbs and can get away with 128 bit encryption, so I can compromise on this point. By adding pre-up /{path to drivers}/wlan0up to /etc/network/interfaces just before the first wlan0 line (iface wlan0 inet dhcp on my system) it works perfectly. I reboot, and it just connects. Voila!

As a footnote, I’d like to mention that all my previous posts on this matter where made on my Windows XP laptop (which has to stay that way since it’s used at / owned by work) but this is the first post made with my newly configured Ubuntu system.