Conexant PrismGT and the Prism54 Project

Another capable chipset is Conexant's Prism GT chipset. First some history: the Prism family, which includes the Prism 2, 2.5, and 3 chipsets, was sold by originators Intersil to GlobespanVirata in 2003, which then merged with Conexant that same year. The open-source drivers that enable Linux aficionados to access the full capabilities of this chipset come from the Prism54 project (http://www.prism54.org). Unlike the Atheros/MADwifi-ng combination mentioned previously, the Prism54 drivers rely only on the Linux Wireless-Tools package (iwconfig, iwpriv, etc.) to configure the card fully. However, unlike the Atheros/MADwifi-ng combo, you must consider whether any wireless card bearing a Prism chipset is a FullMAC or a SoftMAC card.

FullMAC Cards FullMAC cards require firmware to be loaded into the WNIC. This file, which can be found at the prism54.org website, is placed in either the /usr/lib/hotplug/ firmware or the /lib/firmware directories depending on which particular Linux distribution is being used. You have to rename the file as isl3890. You also need to modify the /etc/modprobe.conf file by entering the following line:

alias <insert-name-of-your-WNIC-interface> islpci cb

After making the modification, you load the firmware by typing /sbin/modprobe prism54.

SoftMAC Cards Due to cost-cutting measures, the FullMACs have pretty much been replaced by the SoftMACs. Unlike the FullMAC implementation where the entire 802.11 medium access control (MAC) functions are handled by the firmware, the SoftMACs offload part of the FullMAC's medium access control (MAC) functions to the host. This results in less hardware being required per card and thus lowers production costs. All USB devices bearing any variant of the Prism chipset are SoftMAC devices. While PCMCIA cards are more likely to be FullMACs, e.g., Compex WL54Grev0 or Netgear WG511v1, this is by no means guaranteed: Caveat emptor ("let the buyer beware") applies.

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