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I seem to have gotten it sorted out. First, I found a command sequence that seemed to make it work consistently:
iwconfig eth1 essid <my essid>
iwconfig eth1 key <my key>
ifconfig eth1 down
ifconfig eth1 up
Then today at work I noticed that on my work laptop my essid & key were in rc.wireless.conf, not rc.inet1.conf (as it was on this laptop). I moved the settings to rc.wireless.conf, and it worked. I've rebooted 5 times, and it's worked each time.
I remember reading somewhere that rc.wireless.conf was being phased out, and that using rc.inet1.conf was preferred. Can someone explain what's going on here?
And, slackwaredenny, you'll probably have more luck if you start a new post with your question.