I don’t make much note of my network connections on my hardware page, and that’s usually because it changes fairly frequently. Depending on its guts, its proclivities and even its location in the house, a computer can get a whole different network attachment at the spur of a moment.
I do have a couple of suggestions for die-hard, tried-and-true network connections for older machines, for the people who ask. The first two are wired, and the last is a wireless card.
What’s important isn’t really the name or the brand. It’s the chipset — the innards of the thing — that determines how useful or friendly it is with your computer. For example, I keep an IODATA-branded PCET100-CL as a dongleless network card for this Pentium.
It uses the pcnet-cs module, so its compatibility with Linux is practically guaranteed. But even better than that, it predates the shift to CardBus technology, which means machines even older than this one can probably get it going. It’s an issue of compatibility again really: An old, old card like this will work in newer PCMCIA ports and older PCMCIA ports, so that’s the one I keep. Simple as that.
If you prefer a dongle (I can’t imagine why), I also have a Planex ENW-3503-T that uses the ne2000 module — and again has support in the kernel and predates CardBus changes. So yes, it’s at least a decade old, but it requires no effort whatsoever in configuration.
Network speeds on both cards are satisfactory, with neither being a speed demon. They will both break 500kbps from a fast host, but to be honest, I don’t recall either one of them peaking much beyond that. I think they will, but I just don’t ever remember seeing it. Maybe I should try. …
For wireless, I rely on a trustworthy family heirloom — a Linksys WPC11 Wireless-B card that dates back almost to 2000. Again, it works fine in old, old machines, has kernel-complete driver support with the orinoco-cs module, and while it’s not the fastest card out there (I know for a fact it will break 1Mbps … sometimes), it does the job plenty fast and doesn’t complain.
In fact, one of the nicest things about that card is its ability to function on an open (meaning keyless) network without the omnipresent wireless-tools package. It is normally assigned as an ethX connection, and simply charging at it with dhcpcd usually works fine. Usually.
But other than that I have no real recommendations. I strongly discourage anything axnet-based because, as I mentioned even just a few days ago, I have yet to see an axnet-driven card that didn’t sputter and pop when put to work. For onboard connections, I say go with Intel; I have very good experiences with the PRO/100 cards and they too are very easy to configure.
Of course, it’s completely random and totally unpredictable that you’d be able to get your hands on any one of these cards, and then once you had it, it’s likewise a possibility that it wouldn’t satisfy you. Be that as it may, if you want a name and want my meager seal of approval, those are the ones that get it.