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Monday, March 10, 2014

Private Wi-Fi Networks, Raspberry Pi and Mac OS X Mavericks

I ran into two problems connecting to my Wi-Fi network recently - both turned out to be the result of the network being private and not broadcasting its SSID (Service Set Identifier) - the 'name' of the network.

My network runs on an Apple Time Capsule using WPA2 encryption. It has worked fine with other machines - MacBook, Win PC, Chromebook, iPhones...

#1 Getting W-Fi running on a Raspberry Pi

I was not able to get Wi-Fi running on a Raspberry Pi linux machine, despite trying a range of configurations that I found on the web.

When I changed the network to make its SSID public then it connected just fine with the basic configuration.

#2 Setting up a new MacBook Pro

When you start up a brand new Mac it walks you through several setup steps, including connecting to a network. The new MacBook Pro only has Wi-Fi so connecting to the network is essential. But in my case it did not see the private network and so I was unable to get through the regular setup.

The work around was to skip those steps until I got to the regular desktop. Then going into Preferences and Network and configuring the network manually I was able to get in.

I think that if the SSID were broadcast then I would not have had any problems.

The reason to keep an SSID private is to make it more difficult for someone to break into your network. If they don't know the network exists then they won't try and break in. In reality, however, it not that simple. A serious hacker will still be able to detect packets on all networks in the area including the 'hidden' ones and then attempt to break in. So a private network is a good idea but it does not offer great protection.

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