Saturday, 20 March 2010

NetworkManager vs wicd vs wpa_gui

Due to some idle time* a couple of weeks ago, here's a quick comparison between a few network control tools for Linux.

These tools all give you some sort of network control from the Desktop - a service traditionally provided by daemons and initialisation scripts.  The problem with that is roaming - it's much more common nowadays to have a laptop travel between multiple access points (Ethernet, 802.11, wireless broadband...) and many of the tasks can be automated.  So what better way to use a point-and-click approach.

The three competitors, and here's how they compare by features:

Tool 802.11 (wireless) control ethernet control mobile broadband control VPN controldbus notification
NetworkManager yes yes yes yes yes
wicd yes yes no planned for 2.0 no
wpa_gui yes no no no no

Personally I use NetworkManager.  I use all types of network control, and the dbus notification tells my mail client to go offline as soon as the network in not available.  (Previously I would have to wait for my mail client to time out).

This is not saying that you should use NetworkManager too - find the list of features you require and use the appropriate tool.

Be warned: NetworkManager, while feature rich, is polarising the community - either it works and you love it, or it doesn't work and you hate it.  There is a common wireless connect-disconnect issue which seems to be caused by various different problems.  I see it at work but not at home.  According to one dev, it's buggy kernel drivers, but that doesn't explain why it works for me in some places but not others on the same laptop.  YMMV!

*My development laptop provided by customer A is locked out of their domain - stupid windows!  My employer only has the this job for me right now, so I have to wait until they resolve the problem...


Anonymous said...

I also use NetworkManager because it makes it easy to create VPN connections. Do other tools have this functionality?

Iain said...

Good point, I added VPN support, which I'm gathering from their wiki. Thanks.

Jim said...

+1 for the 'NetworkManager is fantastic' crowd. (#gentoo seems to hate it though)

It really comes down to 'It just works' for me (and nothing else has ever managed to provide the same flexibility and ease-of-use while roaming).

Here's hoping that someone takes up the Summer-of-Code project to improve NM integration in gentoo ;)

Fitzcarraldo said...

I use NetworkManager with Sabayon Linux, which is customised Gentoo, and it works perfectly for me with Ethernet (both static and dynamic IP addressing), WiFi and Mobile Broadband (two different USB sticks). I have not tried it with a VPN. I have to say that I really like it.

Detox said...

Can network manager (or any of the other transmit user/password for PPPoE connections?
I'm using WICD and unfortunately it can't. Otherwise it has been pretty stable for me.
Funny and sad - my dad has had so many problems with the Dell connection manager on windows - 3 different icons in the taskbar, he absolutely hates it. From a windows user perspective he was quite interested in simplicity of the one window WICD approach which would have everything at least he needs.

Iain said...

@Detox Technically it should be capable, as PPPoE is just a special case of PPPoDialup!

I've only ever used PPPoE direct to a network port on my laptop once, and that was a couple of years before I knew about NetworkManager.

A quick Google search shows a blog post that may be interesting to you.

Let me know of your success, especially if you use Gentoo!

Anonymous said...

Guess I'm the odd man out because NetworkManager always fails me in wifi WPA. In Wicd, it locks on and authenticates each an every time.

Ashiire said...

Well, I use Wicd, since I find some of the NetworkManager's wireless behaviour absolutely intolerable. Funny it comes down to something so simple, even though NetworkManager *does* have more features :D

Anonymous said...

NetworkManager works for me at the coffeehouses where I use free wifi; wicd doesn't connect at all. wicd works for me at home with WPA2; NetworkManager constantly disconnects and reconnects. I have both packages on my Debian laptop and am constantly uninstalling and reinstalling them depending on where I am. The situation sucks horribly.

Iain said...

Anon, I feel your pain! How about using ndiswrapper and editing the config files manually? A bit of tweaking and hacking but no need to keep installing and reinstalling. (You would have to disable wicd/nm while running ndiswrapper, but you shouldn't need to uninstall).


Anonymous said...

I run a Kubuntu 11.04 on my eeepc 1015pem. Network Manager was the default manager for connections. It worked just fine from the first boot after installation (the netbook comes with W7 so I had to obliterate the bastard first). Regretfully i had to uninstall it for Wicd because of the pain in the ass related to its dependency to Kwallet always requesting a further password to access. Silly I know but I couldn't find a way to get read of Kwallet and have NM work, nor I could find my way through the settings of Kwallet so I working my connections with Wicd now. Initially great but after an update (where I got all the software I had removed back the way they were.. I know sounds like Winblows Microsuck was back in my machine as well!) I had to remove again NM that reinstalled all by itself.
Now I notice that the wifi connection at a distance and with the plug off works alternatively. A very stressful experience till now.
Does anyone know how to set Network Manager without the Kwallet? I'd like to switch back.

Anonymous said...

I checked the wicd FAQ. PPPoE and mobile broadband support is also planned for 2.0. Once all those new features are stable, we might actually have some competition on our hands. One advantage wicd has, though, is that it has a textmode interface: wicd-curses. I can't use NetworkManager without a ton of GNOME and/or KDE dependencies, which is pretty crappy on a Pentium 3.

Iain said...

thanks for the update - interesting to know over a year later and 2.0 is still "in the future".

Also interesting to note that wicd apparently doesn't handle multiple interfaces well, a must for roaming laptop users.

When it is released, perhaps I should do another comparison and update the features (including the CLI).

us vpn said...

I also use a VPN it keeps my connection secure.

Anonymous said...

I am also experiencing the rapid connect/disconnect problem.

This is with either wicd or NetworkManager.

It never used to be the case; it just started happening one day.

For a while, suspending (not killing - it would just restart) zabbix and / or avahi prevented the see-sawing.

But then one day, even that stopped working.

I subsequently found I was able to prevent the disconnecting by booting from kernel But the problem recurred when rebooting because (duh!) I forgot to change the default kernel. After adding GRUB_DEFAULT="Previous Linux versions>Ubuntu, with Linux 3.0.0-14-generic" to /etc/default/grub and updating grub.cfg via grub-mkconfig, everyting has been hunky-dory regardless of which network manager is in use.

Anyone know what got "fixed" in 3.0.0-15 and later to make regression to be a fix for this particular problem?

Unknown said...

That table is missing the following columns:

Auto-reconnection: wicd reconnects while networkmanager does not.

Auto connect to selected networks: in wicd you can enable or disable automatic connection to some networks, while in NM the only way is to delete those networks that you want to avoid momentarily.

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