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I would like to know a distribution independent way to connect to WPA2 wireless networks.

Do the wireless tools support wpa2? iwconfig and such?

Or is it necessary to use wpa_supplicant? Having to edit a config file every time if changing between many networks is quickly frustrating.

I am aware of tools like wicd, but would like to know if there is a standard way to do this on all distributions without requiring third party software.

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3 Answers

Most distributions currently rely on NetworkManager to manage their network configuration, and wpa_supplicant takes care of the WPA/WPA2 authentication process.

The problem with NetworkManager is that controlling it requires mostly GUI programs which integrate very tightly with the desktop environment you're using.

I've found it useful lately to begin to use cnetworkmanager, a command line interface to NetworkManager, when I don't want to depend on a desktop environment but I want to control my wifi connections practically, or when I want to script wiki connections (especially when using WPA authentication).

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wpa_supplicant.conf can contain this clause:

network={
    key_mgmt=NONE
}

which is enough to get it to try and authenticate with most (all?) open wireless APs. Secured APs, on the other hand... I personally haven't tried very hand to figure that one out; as it is, I manually edit wpa_supplicant.conf when I want to add a new secured network. (I use autowifi to do the detection and switching.)

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WPA supplicant is quite convenient to configure on debian/ubuntu, thanks to ifupdown integration. What distro are you using?

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