network profiles

I started a laptop program at my university and for the last few years have written a series of articles on how to set up Redhat and now Fedora Core on them. Since most of the students still use Windows XP so I have written about dual booting and made comparison's.

On the Windows XP side I consider the IBM Access Connections (IAC) utility to be the gold standard for NetworkManager type utilities. IAC maintains its own internal database of network profiles that contain very detailed information. NM does something similar with the gconf database. Using gconf-editor, you can add, edit, and remove keys in gconf but you cannot add a network using the gconf-editor. I suppose you could edit the XML file directly. I created a network entry for my campus where the essid's are hidden. I added to the addresses list the MAC's of all the AP's I normally see. If my campus ESSID and WEP key should change, I can easily edit these two keys.

Does NM need its own internal database? Personally I do not have the need to deal with static ip's anymore but for those that do, I can see that it would be advantageous to be able to go into the NM database and enter profiles that contained static ip's, dns, default printer, ... . If NM is going to have its own dhcp client, does it make sense to use the network profiles provided by the distribution. I think not. Like IAC, the NM applet should present a dropdown menu of all defined profiles and an option for starting the database editor, gconf-editor or whatever. IAC allows the user to turn on autoswitching and specify what to do when the current network is no longer available. IAC connnects with equal ease to my home network where the ESSID is broadcast and to my campus network where the ESSID's are hidden. This is something that NM currently does not do. Everytime I boot on campus, I have to select 'Other Wireless Network' and re-enter the ESSID and WEP key.

Bill Moss
Professor, Mathematical Sciences
Clemson University

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