Iwicon: A Handy Wireless Signal Strength Gauge for Linux Desktops

Iwicon displayed in a GNOME tool bar.
Iwicon displayed in a GNOME tool bar.
Iwicon on a Motif desktop monitoring the strength of a wireless connection.
Iwicon on a Motif desktop monitoring the strength of a wireless connection.

The program, "iwicon," which you can download from the link below, is one of the tools that can help make wireless life with Linux easier. The Linux driver is flexible and can work with nearly any wireless network available. But learning your way around Linux's wireless tools takes some documentation reading. And, of course, writing networking programs for any system requires reading of the source code.

However, "iwicon," like most of the utilities presented here, is as self contained as possible. It uses several basic system calls to communicate with the wireless device driver, and it does not require superuser privileges to use. To install and use it, unpack the archive, and install it with the following commands.

$ make
$ su  <Enter the superuser password.>
# make install

Internally, "iwicon," like many programs that communicate with hardware devices, uses ioctl () system calls to determine whether your machine's network interfaces are capable of wireless communication, the ESSID of a wireless network, and connection statistics for the network's range and the current signal strength.

The wireless driver has many more capabilities than this, of course. A good starting place is the wireless manual page (type, "man wireless"). The programming interface with the kernel driver uses both ioctl() calls and a netlink interface, and it is well documented in the source code, both for the driver interface in the wireless extensions utilities, like, "iwconfig," "iwlist," and, "iwevent."

You can download the source code for the latest version of the wireless driver here.

The wireless driver does not log into the network or handle the chores of authentication. We've already discussed configuring a network that uses WEP authentication here. But there are many other documents like the manual pages, "wpa_background," and, "interfaces," which discusses how to define a machine's network interfaces.

Currently, the easiest way to figure out how to configure a wireless connection is to look at the configuration after using a utility like GNOME's network configuration tool. You can also find information from the programmers at http://www.linux-wireless.org, and other sites.

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