To manage both wired and wireless networks, nothing matches NetworkManager easiness and versatility.
The following tutorial will help you install it on Debian (Etch or Sid) and Ubuntu (Dapper or Edgy).Keep in mind that I use sudo to get root privileges.

  • Prerequisites

First, make sure your network devices are properly configured, as NetworkManager won’t help you with that part. So once you have the necessary drivers for your network devices installed (chances are these drivers are included in the Linux kernel already), you can go on with the tutorial.

  • Installation

The installation part is quite simple.

GNOME and XFCE users need to install network-manager-gnome :

sudo apt-get install network-manager-gnome
KDE fans will need network-manager-kde (which is called knetworkmanager in Ubuntu/Kubuntu) :
sudo apt-get install network-manager-kde
  • Configuration

Once you have it installed, a few steps are needed to render it fully functional. First, both Debian and Ubuntu users will need to modify the file /etc/network/interfaces and comment everything except the loopback interface. So only those lines should be included :

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

While the previously mentioned step is not mandatory, it does speed up the network interfaces detection process at startup, as NetworkManager has its own method for automatically bringing up interfaces (and simply doesn't use /etc/network/interfaces).

Debian users have an additional step to perform. For NetworkManager to work, permissions have to be set rightly, so make your user part of the group netdev :

sudo adduser your_username netdev

Of course you need to replace your_username with your actual username.

Once all those steps are performed, simply reboot your machine to set things right.