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My employer has a open WiFi network, it appears that it can tell the difference between Windows XP, and Linux. I was wondering if this was even possible, and if not is it more likely they they are checking for mac address or host name? The reason I ask is that XP will connect every time, but if I boot the same computer to Linux it will only occasionally connect and often when it does it will quickly disconnect when I open a browser.


Sorry to keep adding stuff to this question, but I guess what made leap to OS check is that the Linux install used to work fine and only recently started to drop the connection.

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2 Answers 2

A switch doesn't care. It deals with lower level tcpip protocol. A wifi network includes a router and other equipment that has much higher level control and can potentially distinguish systems to greater detail (I imagine your network has a windows domain).

The xp system probably has a computer account on the domain and therefore can authenticate properly and access resources. The linux system probably does not and is limited based on domain settings.

Again, the switch doesn't care. It'll let you through to the various network locations, but it cannot help you authenticate with them.

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In theory a switch could distinguish different OSes by using TCP/IP stack fingerprinting, but I have never heard of one that does.

In your case, the most likely explanation is that the driver you use on Linux is buggy (or that there is some other problem with the OS installation).

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I agree. The main question you should ask yourself here is "If the switch could tell the difference, would it randomly drop my connection?" If it had denied any connection, it would be odd but possible. This way, it's highly unlikely. –  configurator Sep 30 '10 at 21:42

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