Using wcid instead of NetworkManager on Ubuntu 8.10

This post came about due to an issue with NetworkManager connecting to our wpa-enterprise authenticated network at work, but demonstrates that there is more than one choice when it comes to almost everything on Linux. It’s not too fiddly, and I’ll hopefully have a rebuild of Ubuntu incorporating these changes within 24 hours.

First off, you need to add a line to your sources list, by issuing the following command:

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the following line at the bottom of the file:

deb intrepid extras

Then press ctrl+o to save and then ctrl+x to quit and then issue the following command:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install wcid

This will download wcid (a network management tool that doesn’t suffer issues connecting to enterprise level networks), uninstall NetworkManager and then install wcid. At some point in this process you will lose network connectivity, but this is fine.

To make wcid start at boot, go to System > Preferences > Sessions and add a new item to startup. The path for the application is:


Reboot, and you should find that wcid adds an applet similar to nm-applet which will allow you to view available networks, and connect and configure them. I’ve tested this with my EeePC 701 and an Acer Aspire One (both running Ubuntu 8.10), and it is known to work (with a bit of tweaking) on Fedora 10 as well.


So far this weekend I have:

  • Built a webserver out of the useable parts from my dead PC (and the case of another less powerful machine).
  • Set up webmin on all my Linux machines and built a webmin cluster.
  • Copied 10gb of music (the stuff I actually listen to) onto my new laptop.
  • Rebuilt my old PC (OS and config files) as a VM on my laptop.

So all in all a busy weekend.

New laptop

On Sunday I finally got round to replacing my dead desktop computer. As planned, I ditched the idea of buying another desktop, and decided to get something that would replace both the dead PC and my slowly dying 5 year old laptop. I ended up with a Sony Vaio laptop that is far more powerful than both computers put together, and which pretty much caters for all my computing needs (with my EeePC still very much in use for lunchtime browsing and computing on the move).

OS-wise I’ve stuck with Ubuntu, with a 50gb Vista partition because I promised myself I would learn Vista this year. So far I’ve been in Ubuntu 95% of the time at least, but it is good to know that if I need to test a bit of Windows software then I can do it without bugging Steph.

Going from 768mb of Ram to 3Gb feels quite liberating, and this is actually the first computer I’ve owned with a DVD burner. I think I might have to do something creative at some point.


This week I’ve been looking at ways of setting up alerts that only actually happen when I’m sitting in front of my computer to read them. This has lead to me using xmessage. For example:

xmessage -center Hello! This is a message created using xmessage &

This would give me a message popping up with the text I choose to input. Not too useful on its own, but when used as part of a shell script it becomes really powerful.

What I’ve done is set up several of these as cron jobs. These run when I need to do something useful like stop checking email and get ready for work, or (most usefully) when I have to go to bed in order to get my perscribed 6 hours of sleep.

The package in is Debian and Ubuntu at the very least, and the manual is straightforward.

How to make a totally up to date bootable USB version of Ubuntu

I’ve written these instructions (371.6 KB PDF) for work, but think they might be useful in all sorts of other situations.

Basically it boils down to:

  1. Use Ubuntu Customization Kit to update all the packages in Ubuntu and add/remove packages as required.
  2. Use the USB creating tool in Ubuntu 8.10 to transfer your newly created iso to USB.

On my USB I’ve also added several portable apps, so as to ensure I’ve got everything I need for remote support of misbehaving Windows PCs.

Of course, you could just make the USB version first and then customise it using the free space on the USB, but this method allows you to remove software before transfering it to USB, which makes it useful for smaller devices (and for the sort of customised image you might want to install to a netbook).


I’ve now (finally) got two-way OpenID support built into this installation of wordpress. What this means is:

  • I can log into sites like Livejournal using my account from Not that useful, but fairly impressive.
  • Anyone who has an account with Livejournal, or a Gmail account, or one of a number of other things can leave comments on this blog.

Of course, I didn’t fix this today, I’m just catching up on writing documentation and blog posts while I’m off sick with face-ache.