How to Monitor a Wireless Network in Linux

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In Linux, each enabled physical network interface adapter corresponds to at least a network interface at the operating system level. In particular, a wireless adapter corresponds to a network interface typically called "wlan0" or "wlan1," depending on the system's configuration. You can monitor the current state of your computer's connection to a wireless network by querying the status of the wireless network interface; you can do this with utilities built into every Linux distribution.

  • Log into your Linux computer.

  • Launch a command shell, either by logging into text mode or by launching a "Terminal" application from the graphical desktop.

  • Type the following command into the shell:

    iwconfig

    Press "Enter." Linux will display the legend "no wireless extensions" for all network interfaces that do not correspond to a wireless adapter. Find the adapter connected to the wireless network you want to monitor by searching for the network's name after the "ESSID:" heading. The output of "iwconfig" will give you some parameters about that connection: the frequency, the address of the access point, the bandwidth of the connection -- "Bit Rate" -- the strength of the signal being received from the access point and the current quality of the wireless link, degraded by factors such as distance to the access point and radio interference.

  • Obtain additional information about the current state of the wireless connection by typing:

    ifconfig wlan0

    Replace "wlan0" by the name of the network interface identified in the previous step. Press "Enter." Linux will display additional information about the wireless connection, such as the number of packets sent and received, and the number of payload bytes sent and received in those packets.

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