Coming soon: Native Wi-Fi support for Linux

Wi-Fi software provider Devicescape releases driver that will soon be incorporated into the Linux kernel, to provide wireless support.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor on

Software developers who build products for the Linux platform will no longer have to worry about embedding drivers to offer wireless support.

Devicescape, which makes Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) embedded devices software, last month released Advanced Datapath Driver for the Linux 2.6 kernel. Previously available only under proprietary terms, the driver will now be covered under the General Public License (GPL).

With the new driver, open-source developers now have the option to offer native Wi-Fi support within the Linux kernel. This means that notebook and desktop PC owners running Linux operating systems will be able to choose from a wider range of Wi-Fi adapter cards that work on their machines.

While major Linux software distributions today support Wi-Fi chipsets from Intel and Lucent, hardware support is still dependent on the goodwill of chipmakers to release Linux drivers.

Glenn Flinchbaugh, vice president of marketing at Devicescape Software, told ZDNet Asia: "Linux support for Wi-Fi generally takes a backseat to Windows support. Chipset and adapter manufacturers [typically] build Windows drivers first and then may, or may not, write Linux drivers."

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"Often, the open-source community has to undertake the tedious process of porting or writing Linux drivers themselves," he said. "This makes Linux support for Wi-Fi spotty and slow to become available."

According to Flinchbaugh, the driver is currently being integrated into the Linux 2.6 kernel. He hopes that work on this will be completed by year-end, but noted that the process may be delayed if developers find problems during code-testing.

He explained that Devicescape had initially developed the driver to provide advanced features, such as better and more secured voice and multimedia support over Wi-Fi networks.

"We offered it only as a commercial software license for a period of time, and then later decided to make it available under an open-source license," he said, adding that this was done to broaden the range of Linux-compatible Wi-Fi chipsets and product designs.

"This benefits the whole ecosystem of industry players, and it will also benefit our own business," he said.

Harish Pillay, president of Linux Users Group Singapore, welcomed the move by Devicescape. "It's good to see more people releasing drivers that are not proprietary," he said.

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