Setting up USB WiFi on BeagleBone Black running Ubuntu-16.04

This post explains how to configure a Panda USB Wireless adapter (PAU05) on BeagleBone Black rev-C board running Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

This article assumes that you have a terminal to work with. The terminal could either be a serial session debug interface on or an ssh session over wired Ethernet connection.

Once WiFi is setup, adapter is part of your ‘home’ local network. A terminal session on wireless network can be created and neither debug interface nor wired connection are required.

Warning: Any WiFi adapter draws significant current from power supply. A 5 V / 2 A power supply is strongly recommended.

WiFi Adapter State

I used Panda USB Wireless adapter model PAU05. It is an inexpensive wireless-N adapter that works with many operating systems, including Ubuntu, on 2.4 GHz wireless band.

On Ubuntu desktop, PAU05 works plug-and-play. However, with Ubuntu running on an embedded board like BeagleBone Black, it has to be configured manually.

Power off BBB, insert WiFi adapter into the USB slot and power on.

On ssh terminal, check adapter configuration with below command:

Note that the wireless interface logical name ‘wlan0’ could be different on your board. In that case, replace ‘wlan0’ with that name in all subsequent commands.

Configure Wireless Interface

Clearly, the adapter is powered off by default (link=no).

To turn it on and connect to your home network, add below lines to file /etc/network/interfaces and save it (open with sudo).

Needless to say, replace wpa-ssid & wpa-psk values with your home network name and password respectively.

Manually Check Wireless Connection

Back on the terminal, manually bring up the wireless interface to obtain a dynamic IP address.

Note down that IP address. Usually, the same IP address is assigned every time.

Remove wired Ethernet cable. SSH to BBB using the wireless adapter IP address noted above:

Upon login, ping any website to verify the connection is working.

Reboot BBB

Connect serial debug cable, setup serial session & reboot BeagleBone Black with WiFi adapter still inserted in USB slot.

Optionally, on Serial session, look for boot messages confirming wireless connection:

The updates done to file /etc/network/interfaces will ensure automatic connection to wireless network.

Final Remarks

Above procedure should work for any other make of wireless adapter that supports Ubuntu.

Before trying the adapter on BBB, I suggest you make sure it works on some other desktop operating system.

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