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So I recently installed Debian 9.0 and tried to get my WLAN adapter working. As it's not supported it seems I have to get a new one. I was surprised to learn that there are almost no WiFi adapters with Linux support out there.

How can that be?

That can't possibly be a natural state as quite a number of people are using Linux and hence are potential customers of such products.

What I expected (after accepting that I have to get a new adapter and excluding that I expected compatible adapters to be sold in local/offline electronics stores): pages which show me the exact models of WiFi adapters that are known to work with Debian so that I can order them over an online store. And a page (preferably of the manufacturer) for the bought model that describes how exactly to get them to work under Linux/Debian.

What I got: a sparse number of pages with "chipset" information and only 2 blogentries that describe how to set up only 1 adapter of which 1 was only reachable via the google-cache and the other has no clear instructions but a multitude of information of personal endeavors and problems and commands which will put off any newcomer. (And in addition to all of that it seems non-FOSS firmware is required.)


To fix a problem one needs to first identify the issue/s and hence I would like to gain some insight into why this current situation is as it is.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Rui F Ribeiro, Stephen Rauch, hildred, Jenny D, user34720 Jun 27 '17 at 18:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I have got this one at home. aliexpress.com/item/… – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 27 '17 at 14:57
  • If you had a concrete issue, you could get actual help. Most adapters can be used in Linux. That said, compatibility issues can arise, mostly when manufacturers refuse to provide details on how their device operates. So instead of complaining at the open source community which does an amazing job, you should complain to those manufacturers instead. – Julie Pelletier Jun 27 '17 at 16:08
  • @JuliePelletier I'm not complaining about the open source community. I'm asking for what the problems are. The open source community for the most part doesn't seem to be doing that. So "m refuse to provide details on how their devices operate" would be an answer to my question. I'm interested in further information on that, why it's that bad for WiFi adapters and also I think it would only be a partial answer: a more complete one would also explain why those manufacturers are acting like that. Also "complaining" is useless. Furthermore I don't see how "most adapters" can pract. be used in L. – mYnDstrEAm Jun 27 '17 at 16:43
  • I am sorry, what is wrong with wireless.wiki.kernel.org/en/users/drivers ? In linux you generally need driver to be installed as kernel module and loaded with modprobe (or automatically with udev) or you could compile it in kernel. You just need to find your card chipset, make sure it is supported and install Linux. Udev should load driver for you. If it does not you should modprobe it. – user996142 Jun 27 '17 at 17:20
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There are two issues firstly in that the availability of Linux compatible devices is perceived to be less than it actually is, and hardware vendors may in an anticompetitive spirit not be helpful.

The first is actually the more common. Let's say that Billy Bob's Air Freight and Catering decides to make a wireless card. They grab some standard chips, an antenna design and proceed to make a wireless card, but never give a thought to linux. This results in most cases in either a card that just works with linux since the standard chipset is already supported or might need some simple configuration to identify which driver to use. But it might not. If they don't mention which chipset they use or worse sell two different versions of the product with the same name and different chipsets it is hard to know before testing if it works with Linux.

The other case is the real shame. When a manufacturer in an effort to either make things difficult for their competition or make more money from system integrators refuses to disclose the interfaces needed to write a driver for their hardware It is much more difficult to get a driver working at all, much less well. The reason this is a shame is that the manufacturers that do this don't actually benefit from doing this, they just loose customers.

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