[aprssig] Dirt Cheap USB WiFi Dongle

Stephen H. Smith wa8lmf2 at aol.com
Tue Oct 8 09:39:23 EDT 2013

On 10/7/2013 4:42 PM, Steve Noskowicz wrote:
> How does the computer know these devices are to be found in the USB port rather
> than the usual wireless network port?
> Do these come with the software needed to get the network connection to talk
> through the USB port?  Or is this something you configure in a setup process?
> Sent from my KnightKit Crystal Set.
> --
> 73, Steve, K9DCI   USN (Vet)  MOT (Ret)  Ham (Yet)

These are intended for machines that DON'T HAVE an existing WiFi system built 
in, or that are obsolete (like supporting only WiFi "B").

If the system already has an obsolete built-in system (such as WiFi "B"-only), 
you disable it with it's hardware or software switch (or on the BIOS setup 
screen) before plugging in the USB WiFi device.

Since Windows XP, the user interface for controlling/setting WiFi devices has 
been a standard part of the operating system.  You only need a relatively small 
hardware-specific driver that connects the particular device to the existing 
Windows user interface and the existing TCP/IP stack.

Just like plugging virtually anything else into a USB port for the first time, 
Windows "Plug-N-Pray" automatically tries to locate the required driver from 
it's library of known devices. If that fails, you are then prompted to insert a 
manufacturer's CD, or to point to a directory location on your hard disk where 
you previously downloaded the driver set.

The chances of a first-try success from Window's own internal library of known 
devices goes up dramatically with Windows 7,  which has a very extensive 
collection of WiFi hardware drivers.  [The vast majority of WiFi devices are 
based on only a handful of chip designs from a handful of chip mfrs, regardless 
of who's name is on the outside of the device.]

Note that mfr's CDs often install a proprietary user interface or "control 
panel" for the device in question,  as well as the low-level hardware driver. 
In most cases the generic user interface already provided with Windows will 
work just as well.

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