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And that would mean one that works with little to no finagling, I think.

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You'll want something based on an Atheros AR24XX (ath5k module). They're found in several cards; take a look around.

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RaLink chip based wifi cards are known to be Linux friendly. I have one at home, installation is really 5 minutes (plug-in, let system install what it wants, copy firmware file to specified folder). If you have a wired Internet access, all modern Linux distributions will probably automatically download the firmware, too.

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Anything by intel or atheros is usually good for wireless. Avoid broadcom like the plague, though their physical wire ethernet adapators work. Just not their wireless.

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Intel doesn't make wireless desktop cards, so you'll need a PCI or PCI Express adapter in order to use them. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 13 '10 at 9:23

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