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WiFi Radar eases connections

By Joe Barr on July 20, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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WiFi Radar is a handy tool for those who move from one wireless access point (AP) to another. My laptop regularly connects to a wireless AP on my home LAN, to a free wireless service in downtown Austin where we hold our weekly LUG meetings, and to whatever is available at airports and hotels when I'm on the road. WiFi Radar makes it simple to switch connections no matter where I am.
The software is available in pre-packaged form for Gentoo, Debian, Ubuntu, and SUSE distributions. You can also get the latest tarball from the WiFi Radar homepage.

I downloaded wifi-radar-1.9.6.tar.bz2 and untarred it by entering tar xjf wifi-radar-1.9.6.tar.bz2 at the command line. I then entered the wifi-radar-1.9.6 subdirectory created by the tar command and took a look at the included INSTALL and README texts for installation and usage tips.

WiFi Radar requires the python and pygtk2 packages be installed, but you don't have to compile it before you use it. The WiFi Radar homepage recommends installing a distribution-specific package if one is available for your flavor of Linux. If not, run make install as root from the installation directory. If you prefer, you can install it manually by moving the wifi-radar executable from the installation directory to /usr/bin or elsewhere in your path, marking it as executable, and creating an /etc/wifi-radar subdirectory where the configuration file (wifi-radar.conf) will live. On my Ubuntu machine, I did it like this:

mv wifi-radar /usr/bin
chmod +x /usr/bin/wifi-radar
mkdir /etc/wifi-radar

WiFi Radar creates a default configuration file if it doesn't find one at startup. This file may need to be tweaked before it can "see" any wireless access points. The built-in wireless card in my IBM ThinkPad T40 is seen by Ubuntu as eth0, for example, but WiFi Radar looks at eth2 in the default configuration, or at eth1 if no configuration is found.

If you don't see any access points listed in the program's interface and you know they are there, edit the configuration file and make sure the line that begins interface = is pointing at the correct network adapter device. Figure 1 shows how WiFi Radar lists the connections it finds after it has been properly configured as eth0 and had profiles added.

WiFi Radar Connections
Figure 1
Run this way

You can run WiFi Radar in two different ways: as a daemon without a user interface, or by starting it up as you would any other program. The daemon requires at least one profile in order to function correctly, and we need the UI to create a profile, so let's start there.

When WiFi Radar runs normally, it displays all the available wireless networks it detects. The first time you run it, that's all it does. To connect to one of the listed access points, click on its name and then select Connect. WiFi Radar will tell you that it does not have a profile configured for the network, and ask if you want to create one. Click Yes.

That brings up a new window which allows you to set various wireless options, such as mode, channel, and WEP key. You can also set a WPA driver, tweak the DHCP settings, and specify startup commands. When you're finished editing the profile, click Save. Assuming that the network likes the way you've configured it, you'll be connected to the access point. Even better, the profile will be there the next time you need it.

WiFi Radar maintains its list of APs in priority order, and when run as a daemon it will automatically connect to the highest priority network that it detects. With the UI, you can change the priority of the list by dragging and dropping an AP name.

The advantage of running WiFi Radar as a daemon is that you won't have to start the user interface, select the AP, and click on Connect each time you fire up the laptop. You can let the daemon do it for you. Here's an example of what you may see when you start the daemon:


$ sudo wifi-radar -d
Password:

Error for wireless request "Set Frequency" (8B04) :
  SET failed on device eth0 ; Operation not supported.
Stale pid file. Removing
Internet Systems Consortium DHCP Client V3.0.3
Copyright 2004-2005 Internet Systems Consortium.
All rights reserved.
For info, please visit http://www.isc.org/products/DHCP

Listening on LPF/eth0/00:0c:f1:28:de:c9
Sending on  LPF/eth0/00:0c:f1:28:de:c9
Sending on  Socket/fallback
DHCPREQUEST on eth0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67
DHCPACK from 192.168.1.1
bound to 192.168.1.102 -- renewal in 21410 seconds.

Some people like to run that command at boot time; I refer you to the docs for your distro for details on how to accomplish that.

I can start the daemon if I'm at home or at a LUG meeting and get connected automagically, or I can start the UI if I'm on the road at a new AP. Either way, WiFi Radar gets me connected a little more quickly.

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on WiFi Radar eases connections

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WPA requires wpa_supplicant

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 20, 2006 06:14 PM
Both the article and the wifi-radar website fail to mention that to support WPA, the wpa_supplicant package is required *and must be already configured with network data*. Since the wpa_supplicant does all the heavy lifting, wifi-radar is nothing more than a GUI for wpa_supplicant.

#

theorical!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 20, 2006 09:41 PM
I run Ubuntu 6.06 but WiFi Radar doesn't connect to any AP it founds... Preferably, I run
<tt>iwconfig</tt>
plus
<tt>dhclient</tt>
the only way for me to connect to anonymous wifi spots...

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Re:theorical!

Posted by: Joe Barr on July 20, 2006 11:26 PM

I'm running Ubuntu 6.06, too, and it works fine. Did you install from the Ubuntu repositories?

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Re:Network Manager?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 21, 2006 04:54 AM
My experience:
NetworkManager is slower in discovering new networks, but works most of the time, including WPA (which is a must today).
WiFi-Radar is harder to use with WPA

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Re:Network Manager?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 31, 2006 01:29 PM
Has anyone here had succesfully run with wpa configuration?

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Re:theorical!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 23, 2006 05:18 AM
Applications > Add/Remove ??? yup...

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wpa problems

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 04, 2006 05:33 PM
I tried WiFi Radar on Zenwalk Linux and was pretty disappointed when I realized that I had to configure WPA myself. Network Manager worked pretty fine with just entering the password

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Network Manager?

Posted by: Administrator on July 20, 2006 09:37 PM
How does this compare to <a href="http://www.gnome.org/projects/NetworkManager" title="gnome.org"> NetworkManager</a gnome.org>, an official GNOME project? That is very easy to set up on Ubuntu, and I'd imagine the same is said for other distributions, but Wifi Radar looks pretty interesting. (I, for one, have had less than stellar results with current NetworkManager, and while future releases will fix these, perhaps Wifi Radar will work well now!)

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German ifconfig

Posted by: Administrator on August 08, 2006 05:29 AM
To get wifi-radar working with and german ifconfig I had to change line 197 in<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/usr/sbin/wifi-radar from
<tt>r'inet ad?dr:</tt>
to
<tt>r'inet [Aa]d?dr[^.]*:</tt>
because in the german ifconfig the text ip addr: in front of the ip address is ip Adresse.

Regarding NetworkManager: I'm unable to use it, because I'm still using ndiswrapper with my card, so I'm very happy to have a similar tool which I can use.


PS: Can't post the whole line because it has a lot of regex in it, which is regarded as Junk character post by the Junk Filter...

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WiFi Radar eases connections

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.109.29.201] on August 09, 2007 06:11 PM
thnk you

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WiFi Radar eases connections

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 87.109.29.201] on August 09, 2007 06:21 PM
WiFi Radar eases connections

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WiFi Radar eases connections

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 213.106.175.39] on December 20, 2007 01:03 PM
Wifi Radar works very fine in my laptop Acer Aspire 3680, much better than the network-manager (if I was lucky I was able to connect to a public wireless network)
Thanks Wifi Radar.

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Re: WiFi Radar eases connections

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 213.106.175.39] on December 20, 2007 01:06 PM
Sorry I forgot to mention that I'm using Ubuntu 7.10 - the Gutsy Gibbon, to make works the wireless card I've installed the ndiswrapper.

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