For the past week or so I have been using OpenELEC as the software on my Raspberry Pi. Not really any reason, just was testing it out and had everything configured so I just let it be. Didn’t feel like reinstalling all my addons and entering passwords. It runs quite well and I didn’t have any real complaints.
I came home from work to find the USB WiFi adapter I purchased had arrived in the mail. Just so happens that earlier in the day I had done some research into using OpenElec with a WiFi adapter. I came up with mixed results. I was disappointed at the lack of information I could find regarding OpenELEC and the Realtek 8188CU chipset that my adapter would be using. However I was happy to find that the search terms “openelec wifi 8188cu” gave me 4 links to this very blog! Two are direct links to the blog (One at the Tumblr location and the other at my personal domain where the blog is powered using the Tumblr API). The other two are Tumblr search pages for tags of Raspberry Pi.
Anyways, back to the matter at hand. I found a few forums where people had problems with their adapters and fairly inconclusive solutions. I let it go and figured I would try for myself to see the results. After plugging in the adapter and going into the OpenELEC OS Settings, that comes pre installed with OpenELEC (under programs), I enterted the necessary information for my home network and rebooted the Pi. No internet. Verified everything was entered correctly and I didn’t fat-finger my password, rebooted again and still no internet access. I didn’t particularly feel like jumping through all kinds of hoops to get the adapter working so I decided to try with Raspbmc.
Raspbmc explicitly states that the Realtek 8188CU chipset has “support out of the box”. I had to wipe my SD card, run the Raspbmc installer, boot the Pi and let it do its thing. Once completed (and still using the wired connection) I installed the Network Manager addon, unplugged the ethernet cable and plugged in the WiFi adapter. Rebooted once more and navigated to the Network Manager addon and it auto scans for available Wifi networks. Success! It found my home connection and asked for the password and it is now saved and running smoothly.
I had to once again download my various addons and enter all passwords and OAuth keys but this time once everything was set I made a backup of my SD card using Win32DiskImager so that if my card corrupts or I decide to try OpenELEC or XBian, I could reinstall my custom image of Raspbmc and be up and running in under 10 minutes with all my preferences saved.
Note: I have noticed that Raspbmc locks up and essentially the Pi is frozen and needs a reboot. This happened a few times before I switched to OpenELEC and has happened once since reinstalling Raspbmc but never with OpenELEC. I will have to keep an eye out for this to see if I can isolate when it happens and if it will be a problem.