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I have used several Linux distributions (Arch, Debian, Ubuntu) over the years and I would consider myself not an expert but certainly an experienced user. It happened now for the 3rd time that I was travelling and had major trouble getting my wifi to work whereas my girlfriend who is using Mac didn't even have the slightest trouble. For example, the most recent issue was that my laptop has a Intel Ultimate-N 6300 and the linux driver leads to trouble with some wifi connections (modprobe iwlwifi 11n_disable=1 did the job), however at home it works flawless!

Since this was extremely inconvenient and I sometimes rely on internet access for my job I guess my question is: is there a way to ensure such things do not happen or have a at least a backup for the worst case scenario?

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You can make the modprobe options persistent by setting it in /etc/modprobe.d/<somefile>. – jordanm Jan 18 '13 at 3:43
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Simple answer: you really can't. There will always be cases when the wireless subsystem may fail (for example because of misconfiguration f the network).

You can minimize the chance by thoroughly researching what hardware seems to have the best support (IMHO those with drivers open sourced or even maintained by the manufacturer have a bit of advantage). Note that Apple really only has one hardware configuration ("any color you like as long as it is black") which minimizes troubles with having to deal with various drivers.

3G/4G mobile broadband might be viable solution for backup (depending on your location) - the infrastructure you are connecting to is usually much better organized and redundant than a small WLAN and the connection as such can be abstracted by the AT commands.

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Thanks for the answer - I was actually afraid I'd hear something along these lines. It's just annoying that everything else works perfect but when it comes to this, my friends who are stuck with windows or mac never have such issues. – john Jan 19 '13 at 10:33
I don't know how many of these issues you experience (i.e. how annoying it gets), but in the end it's the price you pay for having open-source software that is available for free (as in both beer and freedom) and able to run on a bleeding edge hardware. It is also usually updated more often (than proprietary sw), so it may happen that in let's say a year you won't see the issues. – peterph Jan 19 '13 at 21:26
Yeah, but the annoying thing is just that everything else is perfect and when I'm at home it's of course not an issue to look for a fix. However, the worst case scenario is that I travel and then the roaming doesn't work etc. Maybe I just get some other distros on a usb stick in live edition which at least increases the chance to get a working driver etc. – john Jan 20 '13 at 22:45
Another option is to use an enterprise distribution (SUSE or RedHat or Ubuntu) which would give you access to the technical support - however you'd have to check whether the WI-FI stack is officially supported. I'd expect it to be, since some hw vendors bundle Linux with their machines and they do some testing on it, before releasing it into the wild. – peterph Jan 21 '13 at 13:24

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