How to set up my portable for roaming?

Mattt mattt at
Thu Dec 30 04:08:14 EST 2004


  I've worked on this for days, and can't quite seem to get something 
respectable together...

  I have acquired an ultralight notebook for field and away-from-office 
work. It has built-in ethernet, and I bought a Belkin 54g (7011) card. 
I'd like to do the following:

  * Ethernet - rarely used, and usually DHCP'd when connected. Already 
have ifplugd handling this.

  * Wireless:

    - Office - I have a Belkin 54g (7001) PCI card in my desktop 
machine, with which
        I create an ad-hoc network. It's presently unsecured, but I'd 
like to at least use
        WPA ultimately. Don't want to buy an AP for the office yet, as 
this is the only
        wireless link here.

    - Roaming - Am always attending other offices and sites with all 
manner of AP's,
        running all manner of security schemes. Also, we work with 
Internet Cafe's,
        wireless hotspots, etc. Ideally, I'd like to be able to 
pre-configure some known,
        probably secured nets for automatic association, and the ability 
to fall back to
        association with anything we can find (doubtlessly unsecured, 
and broadcasting
        an SID we can associate with.

  I'm running Debian (testing), and would like to achieve all of the 
above with just ifplugd, wpa_supplicant, and hotplug (for the sake of 
simplicity). I can get all the different bits running (except 
wpa_supplicant, which seems to choke on either the configuration or the 
office network (the ad-hoc one mentioned above) I'm testing in). When I 
tested wpa_supplicant by hand at build/install-time, it seemed to be 
working (the debug messages showed it finding the peer, etc).

  Presently, I do the following:

    - Load the ndiswrapper module at boot-time (/etc/modules)
    - Have hotplug watch for the card
    - Insert the card
    - Hotplug instantiates wpa_supplicant (with -Bw -ixxx -cxxx)
    - Hotplug ifup's the interface
    - Debian's 'interfaces' file includes:

        mapping hotplug
            script grep
            map wlan0
        iface wlan0 inet dhcp
            wireless_essid mynetname
            wireless_mode ad-hoc

        (without the wireless_ parameters above, I can't associate with the
         office ad-hoc net, although I'm worried that, with them, I won't be
         able to roam, etc...)

    - dhclient executes as expected (unless I omit the wireless_ params
        from interfaces)

    - Can successfully ping other hosts

    - Remove card

    - Interface comes down as expected, but hotplug fails to "killall 
        leaving that process to consume about 95% processor time until the
        machine starts to heat up. wpa_supplicant can't be subsequently
        shut down (machine needs to be rebooted).

  Sorry about the long-winded explanation, but I wanted to be as clear 
as possible :-)

  How should I go about all of this? I can post my current config, if 
needed - but I'm probably going about it all wrong, anyways...

 aust: 0414 830 989
 int'l: 614 1483 0989
 mattt at

   Windows XP: 64 bit upgrade to a 32-bit patch for a 16-bit
    GUI shell running on top of an 8-bit operating system
    written for a 4-bit processor by a 2-bit company who cannot
    stand 1 bit of competition (but it's better than a Mac!).

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