NOTE: Publish Date = 2008. I think this is included with the Ubuntu Linux installation now as long as you check the "Include extra software" box, for access to non-free Windows drivers.
Summary: Support for wireless networking is rapidly improving for all linux distributions. This is a description of how you may be able to activate an internal wireless card, a PCMCIA wireless card, or a USB wireless card using a simple, graphical interface called ndisgtk and a Windows driver. Windows drivers are usually supplied with hardware or available from the manufacturer's website.
Install the linux software: True, if all you have is wireless access, this is not going to be very helpful. On the bright side, most laptops come with NIC cards that have no problems under linux, and most wireless routers have a couple of ethernet outlets for you to plug into. Here is how to install the software required using a wired network. In a terminal window (Ubuntu: Apps... Accessories... Terminal), type the stuff after the "$" sign:
me@myhost$ sudo apt-get install ndisgtk
You will need to enter a password for a superuser (if you are the only user, you qualify). You will be told you are getting some other needed software. Accept the choices.
Get the Windows driver: Case 1: You have the CD that came with the hardware. Make a note of where you can find a *.inf file. That is all you will need, so put it in your CD drive and go to the next step. Case 2: You don't have the CD. You need to find out the make and model of your wi-fi card and get a Windows driver from the manufacturer. There may be several choices. I have had luck with the Windows XP version of the *.inf file for the drivers I have used.
Start the ndisgtk program: In a terminal window, type the command below and you should see the program window shown below the command (it kind of pops up out of nowhere):
me@myhost$ sudo ndisgtk
Install the Windows Driver: Looks like it didn't work, right? Don't worry, this is a program to let you install drivers. It doesn't do a hardware scan until you tell it what to look for. Click on the "Install New Driver" button and browse to your *.inf file from Step 2 and select (add) the file. If your hardware is found, like shown in the photo below, there is a very good chance you will be good to go the next time you start your networking service.
Restart Networking: With the command below, or you can reboot your computer.
me@myhost$ sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart
Hardware: I have most recently used this method with a Compaq V6000 laptop and an Encore ENUWI-G2 802.11g Wireless USB Adapter.
Note: The "Configure Network" button is simply a shortcut to your existing System... Administration... Network program. It will not help you get the driver installed or make your system "see" the card if it doesn't already.