First, thanks very much birdman for your reply and all of the work that you do on this forum.
Second, I got impatient (sorry) and installed Debian on a sd card thinking that might solve my problem. Still no wlan of any variety. Here's what I get:
[46849.871389] usb 1-1: new high speed USB device using orion-ehci and address 4
[46850.023184] usb 1-1: New USB device found, idVendor=7392, idProduct=7811
[46850.029918] usb 1-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[46850.037104] usb 1-1: Product: 802.11n WLAN Adapter
[46850.041934] usb 1-1: Manufacturer: Realtek
[46850.046049] usb 1-1: SerialNumber: 00e04c000001
[46850.053289] usb 1-1: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 7392:7811 Edimax Technology Co., Ltd EW-7811Un 802.11n Wireless Adapter [Realtek RTL8188CUS]
Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
I was able to install wireless-tools and firmware-realtek, but still no wlan of any flavor.
root@sheeva-dos:/# ls /lib/firmware/rtlwifi* -l
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 122328 Sep 18 2011 rtl8712u.bin
I've tested the usb dongle on windows (and a PC-Linux machine) and know that it works.
Not sure what to try next?