Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wireless just works better with WICD than Gnome Network Manager

As I mentioned in my post about getting Ubuntu to start your wireless connection before login, Gnome Network Manager has to be uninstalled so that Ubuntu will rely on your /etc/network/interfaces file to start up your wireless connection. This worked great for me and my Ubuntu laptop until I started having to take my laptop away from home and use other wireless networks. In order to connect to other wireless networks, I would have to set my /etc/network/interfaces file so that my wlan0 interface relied on dhcp instead of static settings. I would then have to re-initialize my networking settings and then use the command-line to scan for dhcp requests on my wireless interface. This was no good!

To remedy the situation, I discovered another graphical network manager called WICD. The version in the Ubuntu repositories was actually a bit buggy, so I went directly to the WICD launchpad website and downloaded the latest release (version 1.7.0). I've tested it out at home and away and I can now say that it works quite nicely. WICD allows Ubuntu to start up my wireless connection before the Login screen. It also allows me to connect to other wireless networks despite the settings in my /etc/network/interfaces file.

As you can see above, WICD puts an icon in your system tray with a green indicator bar that tells you how good your signal is. If you hover your mouse over the icon it tells you what network you're connected to, what percentage signal strength you have, and what your IP address is.

Above is the window that pops up when you left click on the WICD icon in the system tray. As you can see, the window contains information about all available wireless network SSIDs in your vicinity, how strong the signal is to those networks, and what type of encryption (if any) protects each network. You can click on the properties button for any network that you want to connect to if you have to put in a wireless encryption key. The screen that pops up follows

Once you're ready, you can click on the Connect button and you're on your way!

Setting Up WICD

As I mentioned above, I first installed WICD from the Ubuntu Repositories. I think this forced my computer to install all the appropriate dependencies so that the newer version could work. When you download the newer version, extract it to whatever directory you want. Then, open up your terminal, navigate to the directory with the WICD setup files that you just extracted, and type in sudo python setup.py install. Now, when you restart your computer, you should see WICD in your system tray ready to do your bidding.


  1. Hi there,

    i am also a big fan of WICD over the gnome network manager. But getting to connect WICD to a WLAN automatically does only work for me after login. As it uses the keyring for accessing the WLAN passwords, it needs me to login i guess.

    So now you are writing, that you can get it to connect before login, how do you do that?


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