Stories about Software


Ubuntu and Belkin Dongles Revisited

Previously, I posted about odyssey to get belkin wireless dongles working with Ubuntu. Actually, the previous post was tame compared to what I’ve hacked together with these things over the years, including getting them to work on Damn Small Linux where I had to ferret out the text for the entire wpa_supplicant configuration using kernel messages from demsg. But, I digress.

I’m in the middle of creating an ad-hoc “music throughout the house” setup for my home automation, and this involves a client computer in most rooms in the house. Over the years, I’ve accepted donations of computers that range in manufacture date from 1995 to 2008, and these are perfect for my task. Reappropriated and freed from their Windows whatever, they run ably if not spectacularly with XUbunutu (and, in some cases DSL or Slackware when that’s too much for a machine that maxes out at 64 meg of RAM).

So, I have this setup in most rooms, and I just remodeled my basement, which was the last room to get the setup. I had one of these things working with the dongle and everything, but the sound card was this HP Pavilion special that was integrated with a fax card or something, and the sound just wasn’t happening. So, after sort of borking it while trying to configure, I scrapped the effort and reappropriated an old Dell.

Each time I do this, I grab the latest and greatest Ubuntu, and this time was no different. Each time, I check to see if maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to pull the Belkin drivers off of the CD and use ndiswrapper, and lo and behold, this was the breaking point – I finally didn’t.

I wish I could say it worked out of the box, but alas, not quite. I plugged in the dongle and the network manager popped up, and sure enough it was detecting wireless networks, but when I put in all of my credentials, it just kept prompting me for a password. I remembered that Network manager had difficulty with these cards and WPA-PSK security protocol, so I tried another network manager: wicd. Bam! Up and running.

So, for those keeping score at home, if you have Ubuntu 11.10 (Ocelot) and a belkin dongle, all you need to do is:

sudo apt-get install --reinstall wicd
sudo service network-manager stop
sudo apt-get remove --purge network-manager network-manager-gnome
sudo service wicd restart

And, that’s it. You should be twittering and facebooking and whatever else in no time.


Since making this post, I set up another machine in this fashion, and realized that I made an important omission. The wicd wireless setup did not just work out of the box with WPA2. I had to modify my /etc/network/interfaces file to look like this:

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet static
address {my local IP}
wpa-driver wext
wpa-ssid {my network SSID}
wpa-ap-scan 2
wpa-proto WPA RSN
wpa-pairwise TKIP CCMP
wpa-group TKIP CCMP
wpa-key-mgmt WPA-PSK
wpa-psk {my encrypted key}

For my network, I use static IPs and this setup was necessary to get that going as well as the encryption protocol. Without this step, the setup I mentioned above does not work out of the box — wicd continuously fails with a “bad password” message. Adding this in fixed it.