The final version of the latest Linux kernel, 2.6.17, was released to the public over the weekend.
The kernel, dubbed the "crazed Snow-Weasel," includes a range of new features. They include support for Sun Microsystems' Niagara chip architecture and for Broadcom's 43xx-based wireless card family, as well as several performance improvements.
Broadcom's wireless technology is used in many commercial wireless data cards. According to an article on Linux-Watch, this wireless driver support relies on a new software MAC layer that has been added to the kernel's wireless stack and works with Linux's built-in 802.11 layer.
Support has also been added for Cisco Systems' Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol (LEAP), which provides username/password-based authentication between a wireless client and network.
Both developments could make Linux more usable on a laptop and boost its popularity with mobile workers and IT managers.
Other improvements to the kernel include a new I/O mechanism called splice, which uses a "random kernel buffer" to speed up memory calls.