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Xiwtool: Convenient and (Hopefully) Easier Wireless Scanning and Configuration for Linux

A screen shot of xiwtool displaying the nearby Wireless Access Points and the signal strength of the network the Linux notebook is connected to.
A screen shot of xiwtool displaying the nearby Wireless Access Points and the signal strength of the network the Linux notebook is connected to.

The program here, xiwtool, can help make your life with a Linux system and wireless networks easier.

You would think that connecting to a wireless network would be easy. You tell the system which network you want to connect to, and the configuration program does the rest.

Linux's way of configuring network interfaces using text files and command line tools is neither easy nor convenient when all you want to do is connect to a Wireless Access Point when you drop in at, say, a Starbuck's or Burger King.

Xiwtool, which you can download as a source code package from the link below, is what we use to get from point A to point B: getting your machine's wireless network card connected to one of possibly several WAPs nearby. The program also provides guidance if it needs a program or file that isn't where is necessarily should be.

At a minimum, if your machine has the Linux wireless driver installed (xiwtool tells you if the wireless driver isn't there or isn't installed correctly), you can view nearby WAPs and their characteristics, like authentication type, if the network uses it, and whether the WAP is a master access point or a peer in an ad-hoc network.

If the machine has the Linux wireless tools - most distributions provide them - and the ifupdown package to configure network interfaces, you can connect to public wireless networks. We chose to use the existing ifupdown configuration because it provides a simple interface to each system's particular network setup and makes xiwtool compatible with most Linux distributions. That makes connecting much simpler when you need to select the network, figure out how to log in, and get the system to acquire a network address using DHCP.

However, OpenSuse Linux, for example, is said to use a different configuration scheme, and so xiwtool isn't compatible with it.

The package, which you can download from the link below, also includes much information about how to configure Linux wireless networks that isn't available anywhere outside of the source code. After building and installing the program - you'll need development packages for the graphics and password authentication libraries - a look at the xiwtool manual page should provide most of the information you need to get connected, if the program itself doesn't explain everything.

 Last updated on February 20, 2014

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