Wireless in Debian Squeeze – Read carefully

A wireless icon

Image via Wikipedia

I spent 3 days until i managed to make my USB wireless adapter work in Debian. No! You should not spend 3 days installing an USB wireless adapter in GNU/Linux, i made a huge mistake not reading very very carefully the debian wiki and after i focused a little i realised that i could install the thing in a few minutes,  and for demonstration i’ll use my case so you should extrapolate to yours:

1. To start go here: http://wiki.debian.org/WiFi.

2. Read the page entirely.

3. Connect the USB wireless adapter to the computer and in a terminal type: lsusb and press [Enter] (mine is USB, if you have a PCI card the command is lspci).

3. Identify your adapter, mine is Ralink Technology, Corp. RT2070 Wireless Adapter.

4. At this moment i made a mistake, i installed the wrong driver for my chipset. If i read the line in step 3, i could see that my chipset is RT2070 and i thought it was rt73usb. So, note your chipset, see on the debian wiki WiFi page at point 1 that your chipset is listed and follow the link to how to install the driver. If your chipset is not on this page (like in my case) search for your chipset on a search engine, google search for debian rt2070 gave me this first page: http://wiki.debian.org/rt2870sta. You may ask why i went to google which send me back to debian wiki, i don’t know why but searching for rt2070 on the wiki didn’t gave me any results.

5. Anyway, once on the driver page, follow every step and you should be fine installing the driver. If something doesn’t work, the Troubleshooting on the same page is your best friend in 90% of cases.

6. The last installation step is in general “Configure your wireless interface as appropriate”, so follow the link to setup your wireless connection.

7. Configuring the wireless network is as easy as reading the instructions (you might have some problems if you can’t read).

8. After i corrected the driver installation, configuring the network was a snap and the connection was up and running.

So, to wrap up, it’s just reading carefully and following some easy steps, maybe my tutorial seams long but once you do it you’ll see that is as easy as installing a USB wireless adapter and setting up a wireless conncetion on every operating system.

Have fun!


7 thoughts on “Wireless in Debian Squeeze – Read carefully

  1. lspci throws command not found but I’m getting used to nothing working in linux:

    Toshiba says:
    The only reason that Windows has support for new hardware when it is released is that the companies will release the data for the new hardware to Microsoft, so that Microsoft engineers can incorporate it into windows via Windows update. Linux does not have an engineering staff like Microsoft does that can do that.

    On Mint12, Debian6, Ubuntu11.10 I get a kernel panic on install. It does not happen with the debian text installer but with all the gui & live disk boots. The mint4win doesnt work correctly either. This is odd because it used to install all these distros before the new Samsung sata hard drive

    Kernel panic- not syncing: VFS: Unable to mount root fs on unknown-block (0,0)

    Debian is junk on laptop wifi & because I don’t know what the linux guts are, I’m that ?!*_ of luck with it.

    The archlinux people say about the Toshiba Satellite L645 wifi broadcom brcm80211 bcm4313
    but I don’t want to use their distro.

    I was hoping I could just have a computer with a well supported linux OS on it but it’s not working out at all. I’m 2 1/2 months into this linux thing but I still can’t get an install with what I need with which to work. I’ve run the compatibility mode, tried bios settings, HD jumpers fine but get a kernel panic on three different distros. Only win7 or debian6 “textmode” installs but Debian sux wifi. I don’t understand why this distro makes 10 whole useless dvd’s worth of useless wifi. Seems like a petty thing to anger end users.

    • Hello and please calm down. I’m 2 1/2 years into this linux thing and i understand you, but now i’m not frustrated about it and i’m not missing Windows world at all, with all their engineering (great ones i assure you).

      I like very much Linux and don’t feel discouraged (i felt that), if you like linux you will overcome all your problems.

      The best advice i can give you for getting into linux is to think of it like a game, for me is always challenging to get over the problems may appear with linux.

      You know the answer feared by all new linux user when they search for help is “RTFM” = read the f****** manuals. I felt that too, but trust me, almost all my problems were because i didn’t read carefully the docs (this post is the proof).

      What i do for a linux installation:
      1. the most important thing is to do a research first for what are you trying to do. It is the most important part!!!
      2. i always do a clean install of linux, preferably with no other OS on that drive. Even with distro upgrade i do a clean install.
      3. read the docs carefully, in silence and with calm of a zen monk. (Eg.: for Debian, the Debian wiki have great documentation).
      4. It is advisable to have another working internet connection for online search or IRC channel questions.
      5. do it! and very very important…HAVE FUN !!!

      Let’s take it slow with your problems:

      1. run lspci as root
      2. please tell me the type and model of the computer you want to install linux.
      3. please tell me the hardware you have trouble with.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write this. It was exactly what I needed to get a wireless USB working on an old donated computer. I find myself guilty of figuring out an issue that I was having and not passing along the knowledge. Thanks for paying it forward!

  3. I am a long time linux and UNIX user, therefore I see both vi, xterm and C compiler as the greatest tools ever created and all others are just downstream. Well, that is a bit biased because in the 80’s we had DEC terminals if we were lucky and punchcards if we were not.

    I found your page after a fresh install of Debian wheezy on my laptop showed me two wireless interfaces as well as a cool external Ralink USB device which was inside a linksys/cisco USB thingy. Cool. Three interfaces. I did a “iwlist scan” and saw a nice collection of wireless ssid’s out there. With piles of info you just don’t normally see on windows. Awesome. I then edited the /etc/network/interfaces file to insert this sort of good stuff :

    # This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
    # and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).

    # The loopback network interface
    auto lo
    iface lo inet loopback

    # wireless
    auto wlan0
    iface wlan0 inet dhcp
    wpa-ssid myssidname
    wpa-psk mysupersecretpassword

    Then tried “ifup wlan0” :

    # ifup wlan0
    wpa_supplicant: /sbin/wpa_supplicant daemon failed to start
    run-parts: /etc/network/if-pre-up.d/wpasupplicant exited with return code 1
    Internet Systems Consortium DHCP Client 4.2.4
    Copyright 2004-2012 Internet Systems Consortium.
    All rights reserved.
    For info, please visit https://www.isc.org/software/dhcp/

    Listening on LPF/wlan0/9c:b7:0d:86:a7:cd
    Sending on LPF/wlan0/9c:b7:0d:86:a7:cd
    Sending on Socket/fallback
    DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to port 67 interval 7
    DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to port 67 interval 17
    DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to port 67 interval 9
    DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to port 67 interval 17
    DHCPDISCOVER on wlan0 to port 67 interval 11
    No DHCPOFFERS received.
    Unable to obtain a lease on first try. Exiting.
    Failed to bring up wlan0.

    Looks like the wpa-supplicant, whatever that is, fails here.

    I then hunted around a bit and figured that this wpa_supplicant probably needs to be started manually and found a script called ifupdown.sh in /etc/wpa_supplicant/ :

    root@mars:~# /etc/wpa_supplicant/ifupdown.sh start
    wpa_supplicant: unknown mode: “”

    Hrmmmm .. this is not going well.

    Perhaps the secret is in wicd ?

    root@mars:~# /etc/init.d/wicd start
    Starting Network connection manager: wicd.


    Then as a regular user I run

    $ wicd-client -n

    That pops up a cute GUI which says “No wireless networks found” when I know that iwlist shows me a collection of them.

    So I understand peoples frustration with wireless config on linux but am happy to keep digging. Perhaps I have daemons confues about what to do ? Perhaps a reboot? That would be the evil Microsoft way of things and I avoid that where possible.

    In any case … I have an ethernet cable plugged in and that just works. What I am a tad confused about is how iwlist sees a collection of essids and wicd sees none.


    • The thing is that when i got into this /etc/network/interfaces editing, i get in all sort of troubles. What did the thing for me is finding the right firmware for my usb wireless and reading carefuly the docs. I did not touche the interfaces file. Maybe the good thing for me is that i have the problem on a desktop computer and not a laptop which is a different story. *-*. I’m not very experienced but i am sure you will find the answer online, the debian channel on IRC got me out of lots of problems. Have fun! *-*

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