I've used Netgear for awhile and though this seems to be an easy answer I found that no one even mentioned it.
When you install your Netgear adapter there are drivers that will override your system app for identifying open networks. In my experience I installed the drivers first – i.e. seperately – then installed the adapter and the new drivers picked up the adapter (it being one of their own) and had no problem with connection.
They seem to fight for the default position, and the only problem I had was in keeping the connection on for a while. Then, restarting the computer, I found I had to reinstall drivers again to get that fresh connection.
I also found that Netgear adapters work better if they are kept cool (maybe it's just me) — let's face it: they are thrown together cheaply. I wound up changing to Belkin myself.