Wi-Fi card recommendation

Getting your soundcard to work, using Debian on non-i386 hardware, etc

Wi-Fi card recommendation

Postby bob » 2020-04-10 12:46

Hello fellow Debian users. I need a recommendation.

I've been switching my networks to fit my wants and needs and I'm having trouble picking the perfect wireless network card.

I need a USB card with removable antenna (I will probably be boosting the signal a bit) that is based on a chip that is fully compatible with libre drivers and that has all the possible features useful for hacking activities (not a major hacker but I like to have the option). I'm ok with 802.11n speed, if no faster option is available with libre drivers.

FSF RYF certified cards seam to be based on Atheros chips, which points me in that direction, however, looking at some hacking sites, I see people mentioning cards by Alpha and Ralink chips.

Allow me to bombard you with questions. Feel free to answer/ignore whichever you want:

1. Any chip vendor or specific card recommendations?

2. Are all the drivers listed on this site libre software: wireless.wiki.kernel.org ? Cos if they are there's actually lots of options.

3. Are there any libre drivers for IEEE 802.11ac or 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) cards, or any projects working on that?

4. Are Ralink chips superior to Atheros chips? Why?

5. Do you know if all/most of the cards by Alpha are based on Ralink chips?

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Re: Wi-Fi card recommendation

Postby Head_on_a_Stick » 2020-04-10 16:09

bob wrote:libre drivers

Almost all drivers are open source, the only notable exceptions are for Broadcom devices but more of those are being supported by open source drivers as time goes on.

OTOH almost all wireless devices require proprietary firmware, good luck finding ones that don't need that.

For example, I have an Intel AC 9260 PCIe card for which the open source drivers are excellent and provide full functionality but it needs non-free firmware and will not work at all without it.
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Re: Wi-Fi card recommendation

Postby bob » 2020-04-11 02:02

Thank you for the info. I didn't really think too much and started reading "drivers" whenever I saw "network card firmware".
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Re: Wi-Fi card recommendation

Postby scouser » 2020-04-11 13:14

Take a look here gives some chipset info for various wifi cards.

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Re: Wi-Fi card recommendation

Postby shep » 2020-04-11 19:56

RaLink/Mediatek, Atheros and Realtek manufacture usb devices; Intel does not.

There are some older Ralink usb devices (b/g) that do not require firmware and this can be a lifesaver if you are installing to a Laptop without a ethernet port or CDrom. Don't laugh, I have an HP Stream 14.

The Ralink and Realtek devices (11n) have received the attention of the arm based developers and come with external antennae. The Realtek based ones can be had cheap. I picked up some rtl8188cu based dongles for under $4each.

My impression, not based on rigid testing but more on forum posts, is that the Ralink/Mediatek devices tend to be more stable. There is native support in Debian 10 for mt7610u.

There are also Atheros based USB devices but I do not have experience with them.
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