Using NetworkManager in opensuse-12.2 – a tutorial

In an earlier post, I reviewed NetworkManager.  In this post, I shall describe the options available for configuring a network.

Connecting

The starting point with either KDE or Gnome, is to click on the NetworkManager applet in the system tray.  That should show a list of available networks.  Then click on the network to which you want to connect.

If the network requires a key, then a popup window will request that key.  Enter the key, and you should be done.  NetworkManager should now connect to that network.  If your network is hidden, then click on “hidden network” which should show in the list of available networks.  You will be asked for the network name.  Type in the SSID, and continue as before.

Configuring in Gnome

If you have followed the above steps, you have configured a network with the default settings.  You can now change those settings if you wish.  The steps for LXDE and XFCE are the same as those for Gnome.

Right click on the NetworkManager icon in the tray.  Select “Edit Connections”.  A window should now open.  Click on the Wireless tab.  That will show you the list of already configured connections, including the one that you have just setup.  Select the connection whose configuration you wish to change, and then click “Edit”.  Another window should open, with options.

In this new window, there will be several tabs.  You probably won’t want to change anything other than in the first tab (the “Wireless” tab), though you might want to look to see what could be changed.

In the Wireless tab, there is a box “Connect automatically”.  That will be already set with the default settings.  In most cases, you will want to leave it that way.  There is a box at the top, labelled “Connection name”.  That is just the name by which you know the connection, the name that will appear in your list of defined connections.  You can change it if you wish.

At the bottom of the page, there is a box where you can check “Available to all users”.  If you set that box, then you will be asked for the root password.  And, thereafter, you will need the root password to modify the configuration of this connection.  I shall refer to this as setting it to be a system connection.

The main benefit of a system connection, is that NetworkManager will connect on boot (if set to connect automatically), and not wait for a user to login.  Moreover, if you logout then login again, you will remain connected.  Or if you logout then open a virtual terminal to work at the command line, you will remain connected.  And any user who logs into the computer will similarly be connected.  It is up to you to decide whether this offers any benefits to you.

Another box is labeled “Mode”.  It is probably set to “infrastructure”, and you normally should leave that unchanged.  You could also use this to setup an ad hoc network.  But it that case, you would have to get into these configuration settings before connecting.

There are several other boxes that you normally would not change.  You can use “Device MAC address” if you have two or more WiFi cards on your computer and you want to specify a particular one to use for this connection.

Configuration in KDE

Again, I’ll assume that you started by connecting.

Click (left click or normal mouse click) in the NetworkManager icon in the tray, and select “manage connections”.  There should be a wireless tab, which is probably showing.

Select the network name, and click “edit”.  That takes you to a screen where you can configure the connection.

“Connect automatically” is probably preselected.  With this option, you should be connected as soon as you login, though you might first have to answer a query for the kde-wallet password.

“System connection” is probably not preselected.  If you select this, then all users of the computer will be able to use this connection.  Setting this will require the root password, and thereafter any configuration changes for this connection will also require the root password.

“Advanced Permissions” appears on a button.  If you have set this to be a system connection, then those settings will be grayed out.  If you have not set this to be a system connection, then you can click on “Advanced Permissions”.  There you will be able to set a list of users who can access this network.  I have not had any need for this, but some people might find it useful for parental controls.  If you do set a list of users, include yourself on the list (though that might be automatic).  Setting these advanced permissions will also require the root password (not tested).

There is also a box where you can set the user friendly name for the network, though most people won’t change this from the default.

Other options allow you to set the mode for ad hoc or infrastructure.  Don’t change this for an existing network unless you know what you are doing.  And you can set which WiFi device to use for connecting (if you have more than one).  The remaining options are sufficiently self-explanatory, that I won’t comment.

Avoiding kde-wallet

Some people (self included) find it annoying to be asked for the kde-wallet password for any network connection.  So here are some ways to avoid it.

  1. Setup your connection in Gnome (or LXDE or XFCE) if you have those installed.  In that case, the network key is kept by the NetworkManager daemon, and is not in your wallet.
  2. Set the connection to be a system connection.  You might be asked for the wallet password while making this setting, but thereafter you will be able to connect without using kde-wallet.
  3. (Easiest) Click (left or normal mouse click) on the NetworkManager icon in the KDE tray.  Select “manage connections”.  Now look in the left column for a menu item “other”.  Click on that.  In the resulting window, there is a choice for where to store connection secrets.  The choices are “Do not store (always prompt)”, “in file (unencrypted)” and “in secure storage (encrypted)”.  Choose “in file” to avoid kde-wallet prompts.

You might be asked for the kde-wallet password when making the settings to avoid it.  But, thereafter, you should be able to connect without the wallet password.

Personal choices

Here’s what seems best for me.  At home, I make my main home WiFi network a system connection, and I set to connect automatically.  For places that I visit occasionally, it seems simpler to not make them system connections.  While visiting a relative, I’ll want that connects set to connect automatically, but I might turn that setting off when I get back home.

 

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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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