Know your Wireless Cards!

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I recently spent a few hours debugging some wireless cards I had bought. The cards in question I had purchased from Amazon here:

AWUS036NEH (RT2800USB) – 1000mW 1W 802.11g/n High Gain USB Wireless

But, a year or so prior, I had actually purchased the AWUS036EW (RTL8187). Notice how they look almost exactly the same. There is but one visual indicator that the cards are different, the RTL8187 chipset based card had a funky floral pattern on it.

So, whats the big deal about a little bit of floral eye candy? The capabilities of these two cards are quite different, and most importantly, they use separate drivers. So, I had spent a few hours debugging why the older card would work but the pair of newer cards were not. Turns out I had to load the modules for both cards. The command to do so looks like this, and these drivers are available with most linux kernels.

modprobe rtl8187
modprobe rt2800usb

So, as a word of warning to the reader, everytime you get new hardware look up the model number printed on the bottom, it is crazy how different two similar devices can be. Oh, and the RTL8187 is better :p.

Thomas Hunter II Avatar

Thomas has contributed to dozens of enterprise Node.js services and has worked for a company dedicated to securing Node.js. He has spoken at several conferences on Node.js and JavaScript and is an O'Reilly published author.