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I want to find a brand and model of wireless PCI card for use in Debian computers. My computer club has numerous computers to refurbish and distribute to people who can't afford to buy a computer. Some recipients can use only wireless. I want to buy a supply of such cards for use as needed.

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Do you need to run the cards in master mode? Are you willing to install non-free firmware? – Marco Sep 17 '12 at 13:19
I'm too ignorant to know what mode will be used. I'm quite willing to install non-free firmware, if that means firmware where the license is "clouded," as with Firefox. However I do not want to have to buy firmware in addition to the hardware. – L Miles Standish Sep 17 '12 at 14:56

Intel's WIFI card works best, their drivers are directly included in kernel, also can be downloaded as a separate package from its official website.

Sometimes you might need to download a firmware as well.

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Thanks very much! I found a Debian package of firmware for my card, and it works fine. – L Miles Standish Sep 24 '12 at 16:44

You should have a look at LinuxWireless and serialmonkey. There you already have a huge list of hardware.

If you need master mode I would recommend NICs with Ralink chipset. However, you need to include the non-free repository, since the firmware is not free. (You don't have to pay for the firmware.)

Another option which does not rely on propretary firmware would be to use some of the devices with e.g. rtl8187 chipset. They work out-of-the-box.

And there are dozens of other chipsets which are working perfectly. But I have no experience to tell you which. Just have a look at the pages I linked to, they even mention particular brands and models.

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The way I do this is to find a chipset that works with open source drivers, and then search for hardware that uses that chipset.

There is an excellent summary on the Ubuntu wiki of chipsets and cards that will work. Each device has testing and installation notes. You can easily browse the list to find a PCI card you're happy with.

If you're not interested in researching lots of options, and just want to buy some cards, ThinkPenguin.com has a selection specifically chosen for Linux compatibility.

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