This is the second post in this series. The subject in this post is networking for a laptop. Like in the previous post I use Ubuntu Edgy 6.10 as a reference platform.
One of the main characteristics of a laptop is that it is used in different locations. Different locations implies different network connections. In my daily use I connect to the internet through UTP, Wifi and a Bluetooth/GPRS combination. The bluetooth/GPRS connection is a connection to my phone using bluetooth which is connected to the internet through GPRS, a 2.5G mobile network service here in Europe.
The main setup of my laptop is to have UTP enabled with DHCP combined with a fixed wifi setup for my home network using a WEP-key. This works reliable. The problems start when I want to use another Wifi network or Bluetooth/GPRS.
For connecting to a different Wifi network I need to go in the networking tools of Gnome and often need to issue commandline commands to find the available Wifi networks at that location. This is not what I expect. I expect that my Operating Systems tells me it cannot find any default (or configured) networks to connect to with a question if I would like to search for a new network. I expect to have a list of available Wifi networks with their characteristics like their SSID and encryption setting. Based on that network I would like to choose which network to connect to.
Likewise with the Bluetooth/GPRS combination. This is a dialup type of network which should be an option I can select and configure from my network configuration dialog. It is possible to setup such a connection using the available commandline tools and utilities. But there are no configuration dialogs available. Without the expert knowledge on how to setup such a connection it is virtually impossible for the average user. Even though the configuration in itself is not very complicated. It is possible to capture all the information in a configuration dialog and let the user click through the setup. Just look at the Maemo / Nokia N770. They have that in their distribution.
For me the creation and maintenance of these kind of configuration dialogs is one of the primary add-on functionalities distribution can bring. Even though that the development would benefit all Linux distributions it is essential that some distribution vendor picks it up and develops it. I will leave my vision on the community and distribution interacting scenarios for another post because this topic deserves an article on its own. It is the foundation of the Open Source / Linux ecosystem.