[Gllug] Assessing WLAN capabilities

Jan Henkins jan at henkins.za.net
Thu Sep 2 09:09:21 UTC 2010

  Hello there,

On 02/09/10 09:45, DL Neil wrote:
> Are tools available which list a (Linux) machine's WLAN capabilities?
> (I'm assuming that it is a combination of h/w and s/w)
> I run an old IBM Thinkpad R31 (laptop), basically in netbook mode. Have
> been installing an upgraded Linksys '54' wireless network in my new home
> (but still 802.11B and G - not N). Feel that I'm bashing my head against
> a wall of flimsy wireless support and inter-supplier terminology
> obfuscation.
> How am I able to confirm that the little, old, machine will support WPA
> PSK (Pre-Shared Key) with either/both AES or TKIP, ie something beyond
> WEP? (for example)
> Taking a step back from there, how can I tell that a machine will only
> run 802.11B cf B and G? (without opening-up the box, if then)

I would boot from something like the System Rescue CD 
(http://www.sysresccd.org) or similar, and use lshw in order to check 
out named chipsets. With a reasonable amount of luck, you should be able 
to see something like this (my machine is an Acer TM 4670) as part of 
the very verbose lshw output:

                 description: Wireless interface
                 product: PRO/Wireless 3945ABG [Golan] Network Connection
                 vendor: Intel Corporation
                 physical id: 0
                 bus info: pci at 0000:03:00.0
                 logical name: wlan0
                 version: 02
                 serial: 00:13:02:20:aa:3d
                 width: 32 bits
                 clock: 33MHz
                 capabilities: pm msi pciexpress bus_master cap_list 
ethernet physical wireless
                 configuration: broadcast=yes driver=iwl3945 
driverversion=2.6.34-020634-generic firmware= latency=0 link=no 
multicast=yes wireless=IEEE 802.11abg
                 resources: irq:30 memory:84400000-84400fff

In general, if your card supports B, you have an even chance of the 
hardware actually supporting WPA. If your card supports G, the chances 
of it *not* supporting WPA in any form is vanishingly slim. In some 
cases, you might need some form of a binary blob from the chipset vendor 
in order to load firmware into the wlan card before it can work 
properly. In such cases, also depending on the "Linux-friendliness" of 
the chipset vendor, you might be forced to go down the ndiswrapper route 
with all it's trials and tribulations in order to get the card to work 
with the Windows drivers. Not nice, but sometimes one has no other choice.

> Further, but OT. uname tells me:
> Linux Jr-Brown.brothers 2.6.18-194.8.1.el5.centos.plus #1 SMP Wed Jul 7
> 11:50:45 EDT 2010 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux
> but how do I find out if the current CentOS version is 5.3, 5.4, or 5.5...?

You will find that info here:

# cat /etc/redhat-release

Doing this on a CentOS5 machine over here gives me this result:

# cat /etc/redhat-release
CentOS release 5.5 (Final)

Hope this helps!

Jan Henkins

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