Wireless network headaches
I run Mandriva 2006 (MDK) on a laptop where I have many different network connections: sometimes hardwired ethernet, sometimes wireless.
The problem I have is that with wireless one has to connect to many different networks with different SSID's, sometimes encryption. The existing MDK tools allow this, but so far as I can tell poorly-designed and often just do not work (or work in inexplictable ways). I often spend 20 minutes getting wireless connection to work, whereas as Windows and Mac users get these things automaticaly with little or no user intervention. Truely pathetic.
MDK has a "net applet" in the KDE toolbar. In principle this looks like a wonderful tool, but it hardly seems to work.
Problem 1: User needs to enter root password to do nearly any action.
The application offers to "remember password", but this is of extremely limited utility - it only applies to the particular action you are doing, and only for one login session (logout or reboot and you must reenter password again). Just this feature alone make the net applet a big PITA.
I've tried giving myself sudo authority to all the net applet commands, assigning myself to root group, but so far I can't figure out how to get the net applet to let me do actions without entering the root password. I really wonder if MDK engineers really try to use their system. It is immediately obvious that it is not at all convenient to have to enter the root password many times to do anything.
If anyone know how to configure net applet to not require root password constantly I'd love to know it.
Problem 2: Net applet works in strange and mysterious ways.
a) It does not automatically scan for available wireless networks.
Often when I boot up with the wireless card in, the netapplet shows no wireless networks. I seem to first have to configure a connection, i.e. put in a SSID that I know exists, and then it scans. Sometimes it just won't seem to ever list the wireless networks. Really, what is the point of this applet if it won't automatically scan for the available networks? It always seem to take some screwing around with configuration to get the scanning to start.
b) Windows and Macs will automatically connect to the wireless with the strongest signal, so far as I can tell. I think sometimes net applet has done this, but not regularly. Usually, I have a screw around and enter an SSID by hand. However, even when I "configure a network", the net applet does not necessarily try to connect to this network, but sometimes tries to connect to some other random network within range or does nothing. Other times, it does not connect to anything until I give it an "connect eth1" command (eth1 being my wireless interface). Sometimes I give up and just enter "ifup eth1" at the command line, but that does not always work - I get this strange error:
grep: /etc/sysconfig/networking/default/ifcfg-*: No such file or directory
interface 'eth1' not found
Device eth1 has different MAC address than expected, ignoring.
There have been times, when I simply could not get my wireless card to work at all. The card was on, modules loaded, but I just could not get any network to connect. I had to reboot and start over.
Of course, one can always use "drakconf network panel to connect to wireless. This does work, but is hardly convenient - su to root, start drakconf (not fast), go through a long series of entry panels to enter the paramters, etc. If you are configuring a fixed network setup this is fine, but for frequent wireless network changes this is not convenient.
Overall, I think Mandriva 2006 is a very good linux distribution. But unless I figure out how to get wireless to work without so many hassles, I think I try another Linux dist on my laptop.