Why couldn’t it just work?

Fedex dropped off a new toy a couple days ago, a new Netbook computer.  The purchase was a bit impulsive but the Netbook was offered for a price I couldn’t refuse, $130 from Geeks.com.  The Netbook I bought was an ASUS Eee PC 900.  This is last year’s model and the processor is a bit weak but for 130 bucks, who cares?

My first impression of the Eee PC 900 was good.  The unit is lightweight and compact enclosed in an attractive clam-shell case.  Even though the screen is mere nine inches across; it is bright, sharp and easy to read.  The keyboard is a bit small, especially for my big fingers but, it is understood that this tradeoff was necessary to preserve the compact form factor.

After charging the battery, I powered up the Eee PC for the first time.  The first run setup was quite simple and soon I was presented with the desktop.  The last step was to setup the wireless connection.  A balloon message appeared informing me that wireless access points have been detected.  Clicking on the balloon, I was able to choose my access point and enter the passkey.  I clicked OK and waited for the Eee PC to connect.  I double checked the settings and tried again and again.  Rats, it didn’t work.  It was a Linux moment.

Up to now, all of the PCs connected to my wireless network were running a flavor of Windows.  The Eee PC that would not connect was running a flavor of Linux.  After many hours of study, I found the documentation that explained the configuration file for WPA security.  After a few more hours of experimentation, I finally got the Eee PC to connect to my access point.  Here lies the primary difference between Linux and Windows:  Linux can be made to work if you know what you are doing;  Windows just works.

Now in all fairness, I am running WPA2-PSK security on my wireless network.  WPA2 is one of the newer, more secure protocols and I have run into some older wireless interfaces that do not support it.  That said, the Linux distribution on my Eee PC includes the wpa_supplicant which properly supports WPA2-PSK but, the GUI that populates the conf file does not.  With holes like this, I do not expect to see Linux make many inroads into the consumer PC market.

For those who are interested, I will document my wpa_supplicant.conf file in my following blog post.

The Denki-Guy

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