TL;DR. Two issues:

  1. can't get wlan0 working,
  2. can't get wpa_supplicant working.

I compiled & installed kernel 4.4 (rev. eb4d55) with revamped rtl8xxxu support enabled. In order to compile & install kernel, I used officil steps for raspbian.

After booting up with new kernel, I did this:

  1. unloaded now-obsolete 8192cu module:

    sudo modprobe -r 8192cu
  2. loaded newly available rtl8xxxu module:

    sudo modprobe rtl8892xxxu
  3. confirmed this via dmesg:

    [ 1225.566010] usbcore: deregistering interface driver rtl8192cu
    [ 1362.505013] usbcore: registered new interface driver rtl8xxxu

However, I have 2 problems:

  1. I can't seem to get wlan0 up:

    $ sudo ifdown wlan0
    ifdown: interface wlan0 not configured
    $ sudo ifup wlan0
    $ sudo ifup wlan0
    ifup: interface wlan0 already configured
  2. I can't seem to get wpa_supplicant working, likely because wlan0 is down:

    $ sudo wpa_supplicant -Dnl80211 -iwlan0 -c my_wpa.conf 
    Successfully initialized wpa_supplicant
    Could not read interface wlan0 flags: No such device
    nl80211: Driver does not support authentication/association or connect commands
    Could not read interface wlan0 flags: No such device
    wlan0: Failed to initialize driver interface

This is my /etc/netword/interfaces/:

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

iface eth0 inet manual

allow-hotplug wlan0
iface wlan0 inet manual

About my environment

Stock version of wpa_supplicant:

$ wpa_supplicant -v 
wpa_supplicant v2.3
Copyright (c) 2003-2014, Jouni Malinen <j@w1.fi> and contributors

Contents of wpa_supplicant.conf:

$ cat wpa_supplicant.conf 

List of USB devices:

$ lsusb
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0bda:8176 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTL8188CUS 802.11n WLAN Adapter
Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0424:ec00 Standard Microsystems Corp. SMSC9512/9514 Fast Ethernet Adapter
Bus 001 Device 002: ID 0424:9514 Standard Microsystems Corp. 
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

Distro version:

$ uname -a
Linux raspberrypi 4.4.5+ #7 Thu Mar 17 11:48:18 GMT 2016 armv6l GNU/Linux

Loaded kernel modules:

$ lsmod
Module                  Size  Used by
rtl8xxxu               53252  0 
mac80211              602908  1 rtl8xxxu
cfg80211              488954  1 mac80211
rfkill                 21277  1 cfg80211
bcm2835_gpiomem         3823  0 
snd_bcm2835            27597  0 
bcm2835_wdt             4133  0 
snd_pcm                92845  1 snd_bcm2835
snd_timer              22312  1 snd_pcm
snd                    66956  3 snd_bcm2835,snd_timer,snd_pcm
uio_pdrv_genirq         3654  0 
uio                    10166  1 uio_pdrv_genirq

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