RT73 (Belkin 54g USB) on Ubuntu 7.10

1. The Back Story [Note: If you just want to know how to make the adapter work, skip to section 2] In my previous post, I mentioned that my music pc’s hard drive bit the dust. There are few things that can make an IT person’s heart sink like turning on their computer and hearing “click click CHUNK CHUNK CHUNK” and then SILENCE, followed by a nice “INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER” message. Thankfully I had backed up at least the majority of the content that I really cared about. So I went to Micro Center and bought a new Seagate 250GB SATA drive. Yay. Now, to reinstall the OS. Previous to this crash, I had been dual-booting between Windows XP and Ubuntu 7.10. I would

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much prefer to use Linux for everything, as I find the user interface far more compelling, and the available software amazing. The only thing that was holding me back previously was the large amount of stuff I already had setup in Windows, and the fact that I couldn’t get Ableton Live to work in Linux. At this point, however, I really dislike how much Ableton costs (though I love the program itself) and am really trying to get away from using illegitimate software, so I have switched over to Reaper for my music production. $50 is a much easier to swallow price for registration than $400(+), and Reaper works pretty darn well in Linux (if you follow this tutorial). On top of all that, I’ve learned that the FFADO project

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supports my Presonus FP-10 in Linux, so I’m not reinstalling Windows on my PC (for the time being). This all sounds great, doesn’t it? One problem with Linux though: terrible hardware support from most vendors. Granted there are definite exceptions to this, but in many cases, since the hardware vendor doesn’t supply a GPL’d driver, some Linux hacker has to reverse-engineer one. This often means that the hardware simply doesn’t work as well or as easily/consistently in Linux as it does in Windows. Such is the case with the Belkin 54G USB adapter. 2.How to get the Belkin 54G to work in Linux. The Belkin 54G USB adapter is a pretty nice piece of hardware over-all, with a USB “base” the adapter connects to (via a normal USB port), which allows you to stand up the adapter somewhere it will get good reception (often NOT on the floor behind your PC where most USB devices are). The problem is that it can be tricky to get to work in Linux. What you will find, though, is that if you boot off the Ubuntu 7.10 Live CD, the adapter works just fine (though I’ve found I have to enter my WEP key twice before it accepts it)! I believe this is due to the Live CD using some fairly custom-hacked kernel modules that play some neat tricks with the networking in Linux. Why the actual OS can’t just install these same modules, I have no idea. So how do you get it to work? There are several answers. The easy one: before booting, pull out the adapter. Once the OS is loaded and you’re logged in, plug in the adapter and wait about 30 seconds. Now when you click on the Network icon up on

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the top panel in Gnome, you will see your SSID show up (you still may have to enter your WEP key twice..). Really. For some reason the module to make this adapter work just doesn’t load right if the adapter is plugged in at boot, with the way the system is initially setup. I’ve seen mixed results once all the initial system updates are done (290+MB worth as of this writing), and think this is really just a problem with the “vanilla” install of Ubuntu 7.10. YMMV. So you’re not happy with this as a “fix” either? Then you may want to look at the “hard” answers, which are well documented on their own page. Thanks to the WLANFR folks for taking the time to lay all this out. Now how about Belkin actually supporting their devices under Linux? Wait.. that sounds like too easy of an answer…

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