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i'd like to setup a wireless hotspot in ubuntu and would like to know what brands/models have master mode support.

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about hardware recommendation. – user68186 Dec 10 '14 at 17:07
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The TL-WN722N is one of the least expensive dongle wifi cards that support master mode.

I have purchased one online before and paid $13 USD, including shipping.

There is a resource here where a user describes being able to achieve master mode using hostapd. A step by step tutorial on creating a wifi hotspot can be found here.

The signal won't be as strong as a wifi router, but for the price it's not bad.

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