The last networking utility we'll look at is KWiFiManager, for managing wireless connections. We found that though it lacks support for wired networks, it provides a few features that make it quite useful in the wireless arena. Lets take a tour and see.
Like the other utilities, KWiFiManager places a icon in the system tray, however this one can even show the signal strength number in addition to its set of animated signal bars, so you'll always have a solid idea of the signal with just a glance. Plus you on the icon. A click of the icon brings up the KWiFiManager program.
As Figure 6 shows, the Scan for Networks... button brings up a list of nearby Wi-Fi networks. You can select one, based off its network name, signal strength, and encryption settings, and then click Switch to Network.... Then on the window, you'll see the connection's speed (data rate), name or SSID, MAC address of the AP, and the channel. Plus on the left you see the signal bars and number.
From the File menu, you can disable/enable the wireless radio and bring up the Connection Statistics window. This window shows a real-time graph of the signal and, if enabled, noise levels. This is great for checking if RF interference is causing connectivity problems. Plus it could even serve as a crude tool for wireless LAN surveying.
The Settings menu offers even more geeky wireless features. When Acoustic Scanning is enabled, the program emits tones (lower tones for weak signals and higher for better signals) to help you find a better spot for the connection or even the AP itself. This menu is also where you can enable the noise levels to be shown with the signal levels on the Connection Statistics window. Additionally, here is where you can tell the program to always display the tray icon and/or enable the signal strength number on it.
From the Settings menu, you can also launch the Configuration Editor (see Figure 7), where you can create profiles for wireless networks. Though the interface is a bit crude compared to those of other utilities and only WEP encryption is supported, it does provide profile-based management. You can enter a network's name (SSID) and WEP keys, desired speed and power management settings for the adapter, and specify scripts to run on successfully connection.
Wrapping It Up
Now you should have a feel for what three different Linux networking utilities offer and how to get around their interfaces. In the end, we'd like to recommend that for Linux and wireless newbies that are using Ubuntu, you might want to just stick with NetworkManager. However, for those that use multiple wireless networks and desire a utility that shows a bit more Wi-Fi details, Wicd might be the answer. Then for those that need even more advanced wireless features, KWiFiManager could serve great along with another utility to manage wired connections.
Eric Geier is an author of many computing and networking books, including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and 100 Things You Need to Know about Microsoft Windows Vista (Que 2007).
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.