Linux-compatible wireless USB adaptor: Results

After my 3 previous posts, I decided to get serious. I tried four different USB wireless adaptors – the most widely available ones that were most likely to work based on my previous entries. I knew one of them would work, but I wanted facts.

My interpretation of “widely available” is “available from Amazon”, partly because they have a wide range, including products from extra sellers. And because I’d like to fund my research through the Amazon associates links, by creating an über-simple page of just-works Ubuntu hardware. If that works then I can use the income to keep the results up-to-date by buying new devices for testing. It’s unlikely that I’d make a profit on that.

Maybe it’s a silly idea, but nobody else is offering a list of just-works hardware for just one distro, for the people who want a simple answer. All the lists I’ve seen so far are vague and out-of-date and/or have a bizarre understanding of “works out-of-the-box”. It’s time to simplify the question that we are trying to answer.

Summary

Update: Get a ZyXEL ZyAir G-220 v2. Otherwise try to get the MSI US54SE (more difficult as time passes). The ZyXEL ZyAir G-220 v2 now works perfectly in Ubuntu Gutsy, and it’s still available. There is no improvement in the support of the other cards in Ubuntu Gutsy.

Old text: Get an MSI US54SE if you possibly can. That seems difficult in the USA, but it’s on Amazon Germany. It works out-of-the-box on Ubuntu Edgy, and Feisty, but not Dapper. There don’t seem to be any alternative non-working versions with the same model number. This is how it should be. If someone finds a source for MSI US54SE sticks in the USA, please let me know. Richard Hughes’ experience with a 3CRUSB10075 suggests that it might be just as good, probably with the same chipset, using the same zd1211rw driver, but the model name is vague and I suspect there are various different versions.

And Linux Emporium generously sent me a sample of their Edimax 7318USg wireless USB stick. They know this doesn’t work out-of-the-box, due to driver problems with the new RT2571 chipset, but they’ve done lots of research and testing on various Linux distributions, and provide drivers on a CD, with a very simple command-line script that installs everything, and then works on Dapper, Edgy, and Feisty. This model is not available on any Amazon sites, so they seem to have found something special. They’ve spent considerable time on a product that probably has a very small profit margin, because they want to give back to the community, out of the goodness of their hearts. So buy stuff from them.

Note: This test was only on an open wireless network. Frankly I was glad to get something that worked at all, and more detailed tests can happen later.

Details

ASUS WL-167G

  • Ubuntu 6.06 “Dapper”: Not recognized in any UI, and not even by iwconfig on the command-line.
  • Ubuntu 6.10 “Edgy”: wlan0 and wmaster0 show up in the Networking control panel, but can not make connections. Shows up as “Unknown USB Vendor Specific Interface” in the Network Manager applet, without a list of access points.
  • Ubuntu Feisty: Recognized by Network Manager applet, but could not connect to any of the listed access points, which are also listed as having zero strength. Listed as wlan0 and wmaster in the Networking control panel, but trying to configure either crashes the control panel.
  • Ubuntu Gutsy (as of 7th September 2007): Hangs the entire system when it’s inserted, or when logging in with it inserted.

Notes:
It’s no longer available from Amazon.com right now anyway. You can still get it from amazon.de.
The script/driver from Linux Emporium for the Edimax 7318USg also made this ASUS WL-167G work, though with the same lack of integration with the Network Applet or Networking control panel.

Edimax 7318USg

  • Ubuntu 6.06 “Dapper”: Not recognized in any UI, and not even by iwconfig on the command-line.
  • Ubuntu 6.10 “Edgy”: wlan0 and wmaster0 show up in the Networking control panel but can not make connections. Shows up as “Unknown USB Vendor Specific Interface” in the Network Manager applet, without a list of access points.
  • Ubuntu Feisty: Recognized by Network Manager applet, but could not connect to any of the listed access points, which are also listed as having zero strength. Listed as wlan0 and wmaster in the Networking control panel, but trying to configure either crashes the control panel.
  • Ubuntu Gutsy (as of 7th September 2007): Not recognized by Network Manager applet.

Note that this worked on all vesions of Ubuntu with the supplied driver, though you’ll need to use the command-line to connect, and you’ll need to rebuild the driver every few months when your Linux kernel is automatically updated.

MSI US54SE

  • Ubuntu 6.06 “Dapper”: Not recognized in any UI, and not even by iwconfig on the command-line.
  • Ubuntu 6.10 “Edgy”: Works out-of-the-box. It is recognized by the Network Manager applet, which lets you choose an access point from a list. You may also configure it via the Networking control panel.Slight imperfections: The Network Manager applet lists all access points with the same 80% signal strength, though I know some are very weak. The Networking control panel does not show a list of access points, so you must type in the access point name manually.
  • Ubuntu Feisty: Works, as in Edgy.
  • Ubuntu Gutsy: Works, as in Feisty.

Note: I also tried to get the MSI US54G, because it’s available in the USA, and I suppose there’s a remote chance that it’s similar to the MSI US54SE, but after two weeks Amazon.de has not yet been able to deliver it. Frankly, it’s not very likely that it works. I’ll update this information if I get my hands on one.

ZyXEL ZyAir G-220 v2

  • Ubuntu 6.06 “Dapper”: Not recognized in any UI, and not even by iwconfig on the command-line.
  • Ubuntu 6.10 “Edgy”: Not recognized in any UI, and not even by iwconfig on the command-line.
  • Ubuntu Feisty: Recognized by Network Manager applet, but could not connect to any of the listed access points, which are also listed as having zero strength. Listed as wlan0 and wmaster in the Networking control panel, but trying to configure either crashes the control panel.
  • Ubuntu Gutsy: Works out of the box.

This was a wild-card choice, because I’d read somewhere that some of their other models, now unavailable, worked out of the box. I think this one has a zd1211b chipset. In Ubuntu Gutsy it seems to use the “zd1211rw” driver. I’d love to hear reports about the more recent ZyXEL models.

34 thoughts on “Linux-compatible wireless USB adaptor: Results

  1. David Benjamin

    “Maybe it’s a silly idea, but nobody else is offering a list of just-works hardware for just one distro, for the people who want a simple answer. All the lists I’ve seen so far are vague and out-of-date and/or have a bizarre understanding of “works out-of-the-box”. It’s time to simplify the question that we are trying to answer.”

    Incidentally, I have been toying with the idea of a Linux Hardware Wiki for that… although preferably distro-agnostic, but with distro-specific stuff at the bottom…

    Admittedly, that has consisted solely of me playing with getting a decent looking template in MediaWiki on a private installation… but meh, it’s a start. :-)

    Reply
  2. murrayc Post author

    Michael, no idea. Hence the need for regular purchases and re-testing.

    David, this idea has failed so far. I’m convinced that only two things can possibly work:
    1. A list with just one item that really really works for each category, for just one distro.
    2. A database which can handle information about each model, each version of it, each distro, and each version of the distro, so the information can be organized properly. This would also allow an editor (or other users) to ruthlessly downgrade information that’s incomplete, vague, or wrong. In many cases, the end result would look a lot like 1. A wiki isn’t structured enough to get us there.

    Reply
  3. Tenco

    Wow. Great. Now if had known linuxemporium earlier (sadly, system76 only ships to USA and Canada) i wouldn’t have bought that Toshiba laptop ( Satellite A100, dont’ buy these – even better, don’t buy Toshiba – they are CRAP! ) which barely works with linux. Next time, when i can afford a new one…

    Reply
  4. Jon Smirl

    ASUS WL-167G, Ralink RT73 based
    Get the current driver here
    http://rt2x00.serialmonkey.com

    Edimax 7318USg, Ralink RT73 based with external antenna

    167g and 7313USg should have the same module inside:
    http://www.ralinktech.com/ralink/resources/resource/RT2501_USBx5.pdf

    MSI US54SE, zd1211 based
    Drivers here: http://zd1211.ath.cx/

    ZyXEL ZyAir G-220 v2, zd1211 based
    USB ID was missing from driver until recently

    Open the devices up, the last two probably have the same hardware inside.

    Gigafast WF748-CUI should be identical to the zd1211 devices and cheaper.

    Best adapters I have seen are Atheros based but they cost $60.
    In the $20 range I have had more luck with Ralink ones.
    The older rt2500 seems to me to be performing much better that the current rt2571W

    I don’t own any of you adapters so I may have mis-identified them.

    Reply
  5. King

    Great article!

    Any updates on the MSI US54G on Edgy/Feisty? I’m really considering getting this but am a bit hesitant based on your comment.

    Reply
  6. Morgan

    Thanks for putting this up. We really need to get a wiki going with this stuff. Quite a nightmare unless you have an intel pro wireless built in.

    Reply
  7. Celejar

    Jon Smirlwrote:

    Best adapters I have seen are Atheros based but they cost $60.

    Last I heard, Madwifi doesn’t support the USB chipsets. Do you mean using ndiswrapper?

    Reply
  8. francesco44

    Hello…..

    What do you mean by “out of the box”? I have a regular Edgy install…..When I plug the US54SE nothing happens!

    Thank you for eventual advice….

    Francesco44

    Reply
  9. daniel

    Hey murray,

    I just wanted to let you know that the Asus WL 167G card work “out of the box” for me on Edgy. It showed up as rausb0 in network config, and all I had to do is set up the connection params. But since I updated to Feisty, things started to get messy. It began to show up as wlan0 and wmaster0 and I couldn’t configure it from NetworkManager only from command line (after disableing NM). Now it doesn’t work at all (after upgrading to kernel >=2.16.18). The driver used now is rt2500usb. I really don’t know what driver used before, but as soon as I get a Edgy CD I’ll let you know.

    B r,
    Daniel.

    Reply
  10. daniel

    Ok, so I’m back. It just hit me, that I’m … running Edgy on my laptop (it’s almost 2 in the morning). So I disabled my built in wireless card, plugged in the usb adapter and … there you go, worked like a charm. Ok let’s have a look at the info:

    daniel@daniel-laptop:~$ lsusb
    Bus 004 Device 003: ID 0b05:1706 ASUSTek Computer, Inc.

    daniel@daniel-laptop:~$ sudo lshw
    …….
    *-usb:0
    description: Generic USB device
    product: 802.11g WLAN Drive
    vendor: ASUS
    physical id: 4
    bus info: usb@4:4
    version: 0.01
    capabilities: usb-2.00
    configuration: driver=rtusb maxpower=300mA speed=480.0MB/s
    …….

    daniel@daniel-laptop:~$ lsmod | grep usb
    usbcore 134912 4 rt2570,ehci_hcd,uhci_hcd

    In feisty, I the driver is rt2500usb. I tried compiling the driver but it resulted in a kernel panic when booting, and in recovery mode, rasub0 showed up, but with no luck in connecting to the network.

    Bottom line, good Edgy, bad Feisty.

    Br,
    Daniel.

    Reply
  11. murrayc Post author

    francesco44,

    > What do you mean by “out of the box”? I have a regular Edgy install…..When I plug the US54SE nothing happens!

    I mean “It is recognized by the Network Manager applet, which lets you choose an access point from a list. You may also configure it via the Networking control panel.”

    If that is not working for you then maybe they have already changed the chip in the MSI US54SE. I hope not.

    Reply
  12. Anne Wijbenga

    Hi,
    I have been tossing around with speedtouch 121g to get it working under Feisty. I managed to get the ssid regognized, but my router exppects a WPA code while Feisty only permits me to give for this spedific wireless usb adapter a WEP code. So it won’t work. Unfortunately I have been forced bythe vendor of ADSL to have a speedtouch 121g as it is one of the supported connections for XP. OK so far.

    I have 2 choices, keep on trying to find a solution for Feisty or spend a little money on a second wireless usb adapter. The last choice is quicker an better for my humor. As I live in the Netherlands, close to the German border, getting a MSI US54SE should not be to difficult.

    My concern is whether it supports WPA encoding. Does it?

    Reply
  13. Guttorm Flatabø

    I’ve just attemted to get the ASUS WL-167G (“v2″, id 0B05 1723) using the rt73 module (rt73usb is the module bundled with Ubuntu Feisty Fawn), without success. Nor did I get the driver from ralinktech.com working. Ended up using ndiswrapper and the Windows XP driver on the bundled CD-ROM (had to blacklist rt73usb). Both Linux drivers are pretty close though, they both recognize the card, and with the driver from Ralink I even managed to connect. I guess it will work out in not too long time.

    Aren’t there any other cards using the same chipset as MSI US54SE that might work?

    Reply
  14. Inkeri

    Hi! This is cool! I bought Zyxel G-220 and it really worked “out of the box”. All I did was that I plugged it in and downloaded Wireless Assistant. I’m using Kubuntu Gutsy. Thank you for the great article!

    Reply
  15. Dennis Myers

    I also appreciate your efforts and would like to add that the D-link WUA1340 usb access works out of the box with excellent range. 1st floor wireless router to 3rd floor laptop, many of the other adaptors will not connect, even the built in broadcom wireless using ndiswrapper. Thanks again for posting your research on this.

    Reply
  16. Ranko

    Hi

    I’m having some questions concerning the Hawking HWUG1. Is it true that it’s based on the rt73 chip? And if so will it work with any rt73 chip driver? I want to use it on Linux Debian, do you have some tips or links I might use.

    Thanks in advance.

    Ranko

    Reply
  17. borgward

    Looks like they are not really Linux compatible USB Adaptors! They use windows, not Linux drivers, so only work w/Ubuntu which I am guessing uses a wrapper behind the scenes to make them work. If they were truly Linux compatible, they would work w/most distros out of the box.

    Reply
  18. borgward

    So, you are saying that these will work with most Linux distros besides Ubuntu w/out using a wrapper. The USB Adaptors you reviewed have windows drivers, not linux drivers. I do not see how they are going to work with any Linux distro except for Ubuntu out of the box. Of course they might work w/other Linux distros if one fools around with wrappers, which is not recommended by many in the Linux community. Have you tried using the Adaptors with Debian, Red Hat, etc? and have them work out of the box.?

    Reply
  19. murrayc Post author

    borgward, anything that works out-of-the-box with a recent Ubuntu Linux is likely to work with a recent RedHat, Debian, etc. But I haven’t tested them, so it would be foolish to say for sure.

    > The USB Adaptors you reviewed have windows drivers, not linux drivers

    I don’t know what you mean, but maybe you don’t know that Linux contains the drivers already. You rarely need to install an extra driver on Linux, and I would not consider that an acceptable user experience.

    Reply
  20. borgward

    Meaning that Ubuntu has made compromises and agreements to utilize non free source elements such as Windows drivers. Linux does not contain windows drivers. I know that Linux contains Linux drivers.

    Perhaps you do not understand what a wrapper is. It is not a driver, rather it is software that enables a Linux system to run a device that has a windows driver, but for which no Linux driver has been developed. Kind of like you can run a windows application in Linux using virtual machine ware.(VM ware)

    A person can utilize a wrapper to run a windows driver on many Linux distros, but that takes some expertise. I would rather buy something that just works w/the non Ubuntu distros.

    I do not like to run Ubuntu, because it is extremely slow on anything but the newest equipment.
    It would be nice of you to state that you only tested the stuff on Ubuntu, and that it may or probably won’t work on most Linux distros so that some one does not purchase something that may not work w/his non Ubuntu distro out of the box.

    Reply
  21. murrayc Post author

    borgward, no. The, again, the recommened adaptors here require no Windows drivers. I would never use NSDiswrapper.

    I think I’ve now helped you more than enough. You are just determined to believe something that is wrong. This conversation is no longer interesting to me.

    Reply
  22. Fabrizio Balsaq

    i want to make my linux mint compute run wireless. what should i buy? i have had no luck trying to get ubuntu or puppy linux running wireless. i trieda linksys ubd g with spped booster so far. it works good on my xp pro computer.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>