Fedora 9 wireless — out of the box!

One of the things I wanted my laptop to do this past weekend was have reliable wireless. Go figure, a bunch of computer-savvy geocachers invade a New-England Inn on the promise that “Oh yes, the internet works here, we’re setting it up just in time for you” and, whaddya know — they messed it up, and wireless internet is not to be found for most of the weekend. (sheesh)

Anyway, the first impressive thing is that out-of-the-box Fedora 9 recognizes my card and it works; at this point I’d finally put in a wireless router in the house. There’s only two out of four bars, even when the laptop is inches away from the router., but it’s already impressive that it works straight out of the box. Remember, this is Fedora, Ndiswrapper is not a part of the distribution. So Fedora has done a good job of integrating wireless.

Here’s the real clincher: my brother recompiles a vanilla kernel from kernel.org, and we’re going to do some tweaking to get the wireless stronger. Whaddya know, just compilling the latest kernel gives me four bars. I wonder if Ndiswrapper is there? Little matter.

Seems that 1) the Fedora people have done a really good job on its end of integrating wireless, 2) the Gnome desktop people have really done a good job at taking over and doing wireless, and 3) Linus et. al. are doing the right thing too.


Laptops, Linux, and US Customs

This weekend I went to meet some friends in the beautiful Commonwealth of Massachussets. I live north of the 45th Parallel in this part of the world (many of you might think “So what?” Think of the 49th Parallel, where the Canada/US border is much of the time out west.) I find crossing the border stressful, I always have all sorts of delusions about the difficulties I’ll be experiencing while answering questions from someone carrying a gun. (Usually the remarkable crossing is returning home: The Canadian guards roll their eyes in a bored kind of way when I pass them my passport, no doubt thinking “Oh, he’s a citizen, we have to let him in.”)

One of the things I was worried about was my laptop. On the advice of my Linux-guru brother, I ask him to set up an automatic login so that should the friendly US border guard ask me to show him my computer, it’ll boot up no trouble and not go through a login that may raise suspicion that I might be logging into a bogus account hiding all sorts of nefarious things. He also recommends that all .mp3’s be absent as well as other, ahem, illicit material (which I don’t normally have anyway), advice I take to heart.

However, besides the nuisance of a possible confiscation of my beloved 5+ year old laptop, what really has me worried is a suspiciously-asked:

“What’s that?”
“The gnome desktop under Fedora Linux.”
“Oh, that looks different.”
“Sure, you can get Linux off the internet for free …” (wince, I shouldn’t have said that, at least not that way …)

And then a bunch of annoying explanations that no Sir, I don’t have any illegally downloaded software, yes Sir it’s free and legal to do so, no Sir, there’s no copyright infringement here, no Sir, I’m not one of those nefarious computer crackers you hear about, think of this the way you might think of a Mac; an alternative to Windows …

Of course, the really nice border guard at the US border couldn’t have been less interested in the fact that I had a laptop with me, let alone that I turn it on.