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I am pretty much clueless about operating systems and such, so I tried a couple of versions of Linux: Knoppix and Slax from live CD's. In both cases I could not get on to the internet because they would not recognize my wireless connection, and I'm not confident enough to go mucking around in the system.
How do I get my wireless to work?
Another thing is that I can't locate any of the existing files on my computer after I load Linux.
It would help to know what kind of hardware you have, laptop or non-laptop, wireless card, CPU, and RAM.
If you've got a P IV (Pentium IV) CPU and 512 MB RAM, you should be able to use Ubuntu or XUbuntu, whose wireless is in most cases self-configuring. It's a little more complicated if you are WEP-encrypted.
Depending on your distribution, your network config files are almost always under /etc, mine are under /etc/network (Ubuntu). On Red Hat the configuration files are under /etc/sysconfig/networking.
Ubuntu 7.10 should be able to pick up your wireless card and set it up once you provide the encryption password. I have a presario and an inspiron that are both older than your C500 that work with ubuntu 7.10.
Could you point me in the direction of a guide to using WEP in Ubuntu (7.10)? I've got my wireless card up and running and my router showing up in Network Manager, but every time I enter the key (64 bit hex) it comes back asking for a 128-bit passphrase. Thanks.
I am not sure which distro you are using. I am only familiar with Network Manager on Ubuntu.
Network Manager detects your wireless network is web-encrypted, and prompts you for a information. It is at that point you have to tell Network Manager what you are supplying. I have used my original ascii passphrase and Network Manager has wep-encrypted it, and it was accepted by my Linksys wireless router.
If your network is expecting a passphrase, my guess is you are being prompted for whatever generated the hex key, the ascii text.
You may try editing the ifcfg-ethN file directly. (look in /etc/sysconfig/networking/ for an ifcfg-* file where the rest of the name matches your device)
Are you certain that the router doesn't use wpa-psk. Using WPA instead of WEP would be advisable since WEP is thoroughly broken. A war driver will be able to crack it in 1-2 minutes. Maybe faster than it would take you to authenticate using a known key!
The router may have a web interface where you can change the encryption used and update the key with a new one. They should be changed occasionally anyway.
The text passphrase probably goes thought some complicated hoops to derive a 32 byte hash value. It is probably a one way hash, which means that you can't go backwards.