WPA Supplicant under Ubuntu Linux 8.10 works perfectly, even though it might seem that it is unreliable under certain conditions. The story:

A few months ago a friend of my daughter gave her the perfect low-cost desktop computer for running Linux. It was a high-end laptop at the time of its original purchase, but that currently had no direct salvage value because it had a battery that no longer kept a charge, and it had a license for the obsolete Microsoft Windows Me operating system, and it had no networking capability other than dial-up modem.

Here are the specs as reported by /proc etc: Gateway Solo, Pentium III 845MHZ, 256KB Cache, DVD Reader, 550MB RAM, 30GB DISK.

Definitely not worth spending any money on upgrading.

However, I had an old Belkin F5D7010 laying around (which Amazon lists for $19 plus $6 shipping, and at least one Ebay auction lists a buy-it-now with free shipping for $15.55).

If you search the web for Linux support issues for WPA WPA2 IEEE 802.1X, and in particular for Belkin drivers, you will find a lot of old references, with a complexity that borders on the depressing.

The Ubuntu version 8.10 was supposed to just work with many devices.

The F5D7010 was recognized as soon as I plugged it in, and lspci reported Broadcom BCM4306. The /var/log/messages indicated that it was looking for some firmware files. So I did have to follow the instructions at LinuxWireLess.org to get those files installed.

However, it still did not seem to work. Then I searched the web some more and found complaints about the wpa_supplication being unreliable. It did connect once, after many tries, but only held the connection for a minute or two. The built-in configuration mechanism was so nice, so easy to set up using the GUI, that it was too bad it was not working. I even tried various manual configuration options too horrible to repeat here, it would only make me look like foolish.

Note: Another laptop with Windows XP and a built-in 802.11g card had never had any problem connecting and keeping a connection to the same hub.

Was WPA the problem, or was it something else? Being too lazy to want to reconfigure my wifi hub to WEP or anything else, I decided to experiment by taking the laptop to the local Starbucks to test on an open wireless. It worked perfectly.

Then I thought, well, maybe WEP would work. I had a 802.11b Linksys Camera that I had not used in months, so I figured I might as well bring my old 802.11b wifi hub back on-line. First, using factory reset settings. But since the wifi channel would be the same as my 802.11g router I decided to change the channel of the 802.11g to something else.

When I configured the 802.11b hub, at first as an open wireless connection, (WEP would be next) and tried to connect the Ubuntu laptop, the connection was: *UNRELIABLE*.

So then I tried making the connection to the 802.11g hub that would not work before, and now it worked *PERFECTLY*

The moral of the story: If you are having reliability problems with a wifi connection, it might be caused by truly hardware-level issues such as radio frequency interference. Try changing the channel.