FreeBSD 6.0 will target wireless devices

Developers hope to make FreeBSD the operating system of choice for wireless device manufacturers

FreeBSD is hoping to move beyond the server and desktop market by tackling wireless devices.

FreeBSD developer Scott Long said on Thursday that the next version of the open source BSD-based operating system, planned for release in September, includes support for "a lot more" wireless cards and for wireless security standards such as the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).

"One of primary reasons for improving wireless support is to give companies the tools to put FreeBSD into their wireless devices — the guy at FreeBSD who is adding wireless support is under contract from wireless companies to do the work," said Long.

Wireless device manufacturers may prefer to use FreeBSD rather than the rival open source operating system, Linux, because of features such as its support for fine-grained access controls and security policies, according to Long.

Although version 6.0 will include additional wireless functionality that is useful for manufacturers, there are still a few features missing. For example, mesh network functionality is still under testing and development. "We don't feel it's solid enough to be put in 6.0," said Long.

The improved wireless support will also be useful for people that want to use FreeBSD on their desktop or laptop.

FreeBSD 6.0 also include an improvement to the file system. "We have done a lot of performance work on the file system so storage applications and databases should work faster," said Long.

Developers were initially hoping to release FreeBSD 6.0 by the end of August, but it has been delayed another month to ensure that the final release is as stable as possible, according to Long. The first beta of 6.0 was released on 15 July, which was followed by a second beta on 5 August. Long said another beta will be released next week, with the final version planned for "mid to late" September.

The project will also launch a redesigned Web site in conjunction with its 6.0 release.

Over the summer FreeBSD has benefited from Google's Summer Code programme, which sponsors students to work with open source organisations. 18 students are working on various FreeBSD projects, which include improvements to the file system and work on a new installer. "Our current installer is practically as old as FreeBSD itself and it shows," said Long.