SMC sucks (but alas, they're not the only one)

Since Hanneke came to live here, she brought her own computer. And we have a wireless network here, so it would be only fair to buy her a wireless PCI card so she can join in on our network and share our Internet line. All fine and dandy. But of course, me being me, I had already installed Ubuntu Linux (the recently gone-out-of-date Warty Warthog) so I decided to make sure I got a card for Hanneke that was supported by Linux. You'd expect most cards to be supported already, in any case, but alas, reality differs here. So I checked out the Prism 54 project, to see which companies offered cards that were supported by Linux. They have a list of supported cards so I checked with my online supplier which ones were available.

On that list is the SMC2802W which was on my suppliers list too, so that's the one I bought. You guessed it, it doesn't work. And I could've known if I weren't in such a hurry to buy the card in the first place. Because on the herefore mentioned supporterd cards-site, there's a disclaimer just above the list of supported cards:

We have a problem. Manufacturers started buying the SoftMAC chipsets, which are not yet supported and may never be, as drop-in-replacements for the FullMAC chipsets without changing PCI IDs and apparantly sometimes not changing even the FCC ID. That said, you are better off first testing a card before buying it. If you can't test a card and want linux support, I can recommend you just not buy a prism 802.11g based chipset for now.

And the SMC I bought is, of course, a SoftMAC chipset. So it works on Windows XP (some obscure operating system that was already installed on Hanneke's machine, looks a bit Teletubby-ish and doesn't even have GNU utils, as far as I could see, let alone a decent development environment (I couldn't even find the sources of the operating system, but then again, I didn't search all that hard), so I think it's still in development by some company or something), but not on Linux. And reading the disclaimer, it looks like a deliberate tactic to have working devices not work anymore. And it seems SMC isn't even the only company using these tactics.

There's a bug report about this in the Prism54 bugzilla. I hope they can fix this, I certainly don't have the skills to fix it myself :(

Why do companies do this? I'm really frustrated. Mostly because it isn't the first time this happened to me. I had the same trouble when buying a Wifi PCMCIA card for my laptop to use. Then it was a Linksys that just changed chipsets from one version to another, without changing the name of the product. I know use a Cisco Aironet 350 for my laptop, at least I could be sure that one worked. I'll probably have to buy another card for Hanneke too :(


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