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I am experienced with Ubuntu for two years now, using it full-time, but on a desktop computer with a wired connection and a fixed and permanent network connection, so once it was setup I didn't have to worry about it anymore.
But after the recent Ubuntu 8.04 (hardy) relase a couple of weeks ago I decided to put it in my laptop (IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet). All my hardware was recognized except the modem which I fortunately managed to get working with a free-as-in-beer closed-source driver provided by DELL.
I can say that I have no hardware issues AFAICT, but nevertheless I have so much non-hardware-related network issues, most of them related to Gnome's network manager. I'll explain.
I connect at work through a wireless LAN, but when I get home I connect through a dial-up connection. I have issues with the way Gnome's Network Manager handles both of them.
First, the wireless LAN. Gnome does not seem to remember the WLAN's password, so everytime I reboot in my office I need to go into the network manager manual configuration dialog (which requires sudo privileges and asks for my user password) and re-type the wlan password again. Only after doing this the WLAN works.
Second, when I get home and want to dial my ISP, I also have to get into the network manager (sudo privileges required once again, and my user password re-typed once again). This time is not to put my ISP account password, which is correctly remembered, but to activate the checkbox of the modem connection. There is no explicit connect/disconnect for the dial-up connection. I tried to use gnome-ppp and it connects but the connection hangs-up after a few seconds. So I am stuck with the network manager, which ultimately works and I get to use my ISP account, but it is so unconfortable.
I can say that all my network hardware works, because I am ultimately able to connect either through wlan or through modem. What I complain the most is because of the hassle of having to go to the network manager everytime I want to connect through both ways (wlan and modem), and I also wonder what would happen if I have two different dial-up connections from two different ISPs, or if I have two different WLANs to connect to at two different places.
What you describe does sound uncomfortable..however I haven't noticed the same. Maybe because I don't use a dialup modem on the laptop, but at least between the lan connections (wireless & wired lan) it works just fine: I plug a cable in, Network Manager connects automatically, I take it off and it connects to the wireless that I point it to. And it does remember the WPA key too, no need to put it anywhere -- I think it's using the Gnome Keyring Manager (or something like that, anyway the app that takes care for your stored passwords), so have you checked it's all right?
If I had a dialup ISP I could try the modem on the laptop too, to see if it plays tricks on me too, but unluckily I don't..so I can only offer my experience on wired/wireless connectivity, which works without hazzle like I said.
Check the Keyring manager app if you like..I think it's point was exactly that you wouldn't need to type in your everyday passwords all the time, like for WLAN networks for example.
I do not know exactly what you mean by checking my keyring app. I went to gnome's menu System -> Preferences -> Encryption and Keyrings and I found a predefined keyring named login, with a description that reads "Automatically unlocked when user logs in". I assume this means that there's a default keyring that works just out-of-the-box. But I do not know how to check if this keyring is storing the WPA key or not.
I also have to say that when I go into my WLAN configuration dialog there's a password written in the password text field, one that is much longer than the one I have for my WLAN. But of course, I do not know what's the password because it only shows black dots (*****) instead of the actual characters. But I can say that when the computers starts up inside my office with the WLAN router working, my laptop is not connected, and as soon as I get inside the configuration and write the WPA key again, the network manager brings up a small window with a progress-bar telling me that the configuration is being applied, and then all of a sudden the WLAN works.
The other question that I made is what happens if I want to use my laptop in two different WLANs at two different places? Because there's only one WLAN configuration with a single entry field for the ESSID of the WLAN and one entry field for the WPA key. Where can I configure another WLAN? If it is possible, then will it automatically and transparently try to connect to the one that is available according to my location? Or do I have to manually tell the network manager the place I am in at any given time?
Thanks anyway for your time. I hope you're still able to help me further, or anyone else. Thanks again.