When I first tried to connect my father's PC to my WLAN, I purchased a Linksys PCI card. After the Linksys WRT54G router worked so well and because the WiFi configuration of my Thinkpad notebook was totally hassle-free, I expected the same from installing the PCI card. Little did I know.
Ralink's RT2500 chipset on the card needs a special configuration for WPA encryption (it doesn't use wpa_supplicant), and I couldn't get it to work flawlessly on SUSE Linux 10. Sometimes the interface would be "ra0", sometimes "ra1" -- I couldn't find out why. Well, I don't have the patience any more that I had ten years ago when I actually enjoyed getting my gear going with Linux. So I put the Linksys card on eBay and got a SMC WPCI card. The Atheros chipset worked right out of the box after 5 minutes of configuration. That's how I like it!
Since Carolin's PC will be connected to my WLAN in the new flat, I ordered a second SMCWPCI card a few days ago. But this time, 5 minutes weren't enough to get it working. Even after 5 hours all I got it to do was making the Ubuntu kernel freeze. The problem: SMC exchanged the Atheros chipset with a RealTek 8185 chipset -- without changing the product label! And it seems like the rtl8185 support in the Ubuntu kernel is buggy. First, I tried all PCI slots, changed BIOS configurations, used several run levels, but every time sooner or later, the machine would freeze.
Finally, I removed the card from my father's PC, inserted it into Carolin's PC and, hey presto, it worked! The machine ran stable and smooth.
Dear hardware manufacturers, would you please be so kind and give your products a new name or at least version number when you change their internal technology? It would make buying and using them a lot easier.
So now, I'll get a Netgear WG311T -- hoping that it still has the Atheros chipset that seems to work so fine on Linux.