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Configuring laptop interfaces The Debian Way?

I'm trying to set up a laptop with both wired and wireless interfaces. Apart from difficulties in getting the wireless to work I'm a bit surprised by the way even the wired setup works. If I boot up the laptop when the wired ethernet is disconnected it spends quite a long time looking for a DHCP server! Surely this can't be correct behaviour?

I'd expect default bootup behaviour to be
	IF 	wired ethernet link == up
	ELSE	try wireless ...

Am I missing something?

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