My laptop runs Debian Linux. This is where the trouble started. I checked the compatibility list before I bought the hardware and the card was listed so I was happy. Of course it was listed, they're all listed. The only problem is that most of them have a blank space in the table where the driver name should be. Oops and arrrrgh. At this point I was worried but a little frantic googling yielded ndiswrapper.
My normal process for setting up new software that I don't fully understand is to find as many different sets of instructions as I can and try to follow them all simultaneously. This approach usually doesn't work too well but this time it was a success. Thank-you ndiswrapper!
The other computer runs win98
The installation seemed to be going well until the configuration utility crashed. The configuration utility would only run once; after a new installation and would always crash right after I entered the passphrase. So I couldn't get it out of infrastructure mode (static IP). Reluctantly I reverted to the classic uninstall, reinstall cycle. The first uninstall deleted the windows dhcp libraries. After a number of failed installations and some failed un-installations, I found the correct steps to make it work:
Uninstall the drivers and config utility, be thorough. Re-install the drivers causing the dhcp libraries to be re-installed (from my dusty old win98 CD). Reboot and quit the config utility before it has chance to crash. Change the advanced settings for the card in the windows network dialog to Ad Hoc mode and reboot again. The config utility will run again. Let it pick up the network, enter the passphrase. Hit OK, get a success message and quit as quickly as possible.
It worked and I have subsequenly enabled the security settings and it all still works.