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Alternative Wi-Fi Adapters on the SBC

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At the current moment, if you want to connect to a wireless network with your Single Board Computer, you really only have one feasible option: You can purchase the Phidgets Wi-Fi USB adapter. However, you can go through the very extensive process of recompiling the kernel to include all the drivers that you need to use a multitude of different wireless adapters.

The process of recompiling the kernel is not an easy or simple task, so I would highly recommend against doing anything like this unless you have some kind of intense hatred for our wireless adapter or a bizarre love affair with your favourite wireless adapter. But I assume you wouldn't be reading this unless you fit into either of those categories, so let's continue on.

What Wi-Fi Adapters Can I Use?

For the most part, if a wireless adapter works in Linux, then it will work on the SBC. And nowadays, nearly all wireless adapters are supported in Linux, but it's always worth doing a little bit of research before you go out and spend a bunch of money. If you're interested, there is a comprehensive list of known-working usb adapters on this website. But for the purpose of this guide, we're going to go through the process of adding the drivers for the Patriot Wireless N USB Adapter (Part# PCBOWAU2-N).

I used the Patriot Wireless N USB Adapter

Linux wireless drivers depend on the chipset, not the actual product, so if we're going to have any hope of getting this wireless adapter to work on the SBC then we need to find out what chipset it uses. Alternatively, we can also find out which linux driver it uses, but this is sometimes a little bit more difficult to find directly. In my case, a quick internet search shows us that this particular wireless adapter uses the r8712u driver. So now that we know what we're looking for, we can recompile the kernel with these new drivers.

Recompiling The Kernel

Rather than re-iterating something that has already been explained elsewhere on the site, I'll just point you to this download package: download

It contains all the necessary files and information for recompiling the kernel. When you get to the part about installing new modules, you'll need to install the correct module for your wireless adapter. In my case, the Patriot Wireless N USB Adapter came with a cd that contained the correct module for me to install, so I did not have to go hunting for it on the internet. If you're not as lucky, you can try to find the correct module on the Linux Wireless Website.

Installing New Firmware

Once we've recompiled the kernel with the new drivers, we need to install the new firmware for our wireless adapter. This process is a little easier and usually just involves using "apt-get install". Once again, instead of re-iterating something that is better explained on another website, I'll point you to this link. In my case, I followed the guide to install the rtl8192u firmware.

After you've gone through all that, your wireless usb adapter should work just fine. If it doesn't, don't panic! This is a very complicated process and you might have messed up somewhere along the line. You can try following all the steps again, but please keep in mind that not all wireless adapters will work with the SBC. And if you happen to have one of those devices that just won't work, you might want to purchase a Phidgets wireless usb adapter from our website. The benefit of using one of our adapters is that they work right out of the box!