batnandu (batnandu) wrote,

I'm on a Mexican radio

After two days of wrestling with Mandrake, PCMCIA, and a Belkin F5D6020, I'm finally wireless. Of course, the whole endeavor was like crawling around in a dark room with a round peg that you're not sure is actually in your hand, looking for a hole that may or may not be square. Matters improved considerably once I realized that some things really do work better as root. Meanwhile the realization that we'd more or less accidentally chosen one of the best supported cards simultaneously elated me (because it's one of the best supported cards) and embarassed me (because we seemed to be the only people unable to make this combination work). Oh, and let's not forget the interminable mockery of the Windows users who frequently find themselves downwind of my derision.

On a project of this length, this far from home, it's unacceptable for us to have no internet access after hours. So we were quite concerned when we checked into the hotel and they told us the only access they offer is wireless. None of us knew the first thing about wifi, so we were prepared to switch to a hotel with copper. But the guys at the company we're working for lent us some Nortel wifi cards. For Windows XP, this wasn't a problem--the card had a CD with drivers on it. For Mandrake, not so much. Now, prior to the Belkin, my only NIC on this laptop was a Xircom 10/100 ethernet adapter that occupies one PCMCIA slot and obscures the other. I always thought it looked kind of cool. But when you have to search the web and download drivers for a NIC, it really helps to have two, so you can surf with one while you test the other. On the other hand, it was convenient to have a wired net as well as a wireless net at the office so I could do both. It was pretty slow going for a while, swapping cards so I could alternately test and search. In the end, we gave up on those cards.

Somehow we settled on the Belkin, but the results were mostly the same at the office. Everything seemed to be fine, but I had no IP address. Eventually, on the verge of giving up not only on a second card, but on Linux wifi in general as well as this hotel, I tried it at the hotel. Out of thin air appeared an IP address for me! It turns out that I did have a round peg, and the hole (at the office) was actually square. But the network at the hotel is wide open.

So tonight, after we savored scotches and the novelty of surfing at the hotel bar, I decided to explore a bit. I think ethereal and nmap are going to waste more of my time than Homestar. I checked the version of Cisco IOS running on the access point downstairs. I saw Windows machines whose users probably never considered I might be watching or what I might see coming from their computers. I found networked MP3 players! And that was all at 1am. I can't wait to do this tomorrow or back home.
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