Wireless Wings For Linux Kernel

Linux kernel 2.6.14 is out, the fourth major kernel version of 2005, and chock full of improvements, including driver updates, new virtual filesystems and wireless connectivity improvements.

The 2.6.14 kernel comes just two months after the 2.6.13 kernel was released at the end of August. This release also marks the beginning of a new development process for kernel development.

“As per the new merge policies that were discussed during LKS {Linux Kernel Summitt} in Ottawa earlier during the summer,” Linus Torvalds wrote in a mailing list posting. “I’m going to accept new stuff for 2.6.14 only during the first two weeks after 2.6.13 was released.”

Wireless connectivity gets a boost in the 2.6.14 kernel, thanks to version 19 of the Wireless Extensions API , which has been merged into the kernel.

The Linux Wireless Extension and the Wireless Tools are an HP-sponsored open source project that has been in existence since 1996. HP said the Wireless Extension is a generic API allowing a driver to expose to the user space configuration and statistics specific to common Wireless LANs.

However, despite the version upgrade, HP’s Linux Wireless Extension and the Wireless Tools project leader Jean Tourrilhes said he thinks most Linux users won’t directly benefit from the new version of Wireless Extensions.

“This was a minor version, with mostly small changes behind the scenes,” Tourrilhes told internetnews.com. “The most visible change is some clarification of the Wireless statistics API.”

Tourrilhes said Wireless Extensions are only part of the overall Linux Wireless infrastructure and that bigger news is coming out of kernel 2.6.14.

Take the new 802.11 kernel stack, he said. This 802.11 stack is still under heavy development, but in the long term will help make simpler and better wireless drivers. Tourrilhes said, “Kernel 2.6.14 is also the first kernel to include the HostAP and IPW (Centrino) drivers. Those drivers are very widely used in the Linux community.”

Tourrilhes warned, however not to expect all of the new wireless code to be immediately usable.

“For example, WPA support (WE-18) was added in kernel 2.6.13, and only now drivers are starting to work with it,” Tourrilhes said.

The 2.6.14 kernel also includes two new virtual filesystems. One of the newly merged virtual filesystems, relayfs, enables high-speed data transfer between the user space and kernel.

Securityfs is the other newly merged virtual filesystem and is targeted for use by security modules which might have otherwise created their own filesystems.

Also of note in the new kernel are patches and drivers for Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) storage, including a new LSI Logic MegaRAID SAS RAID driver.

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