Devicescape Software, a company with a history of developing Wi-Fi software for embedded devices, has released its Linux wireless LAN driver software to open-source developers. The move may ultimately see native Wi-Fi capabilities integrated into the Linux kernel for the first time.

Currently, Linux's Wi-Fi support is patchy at best, depending on the goodwill of hardware makers such as Intel to release drivers for their own Wi-Fi chipsets. Devicescape hopes the release of its Advanced Datapath Driver under the GNU Public License will make it far easier for Linux to be used as the core of wireless electronics, since it should allow developers to immediately adopt the latest Wi-Fi hardware.

The software could also give the Linux kernel the ability to identify and handle different media streams, such as voice and video, according to Devicescape. The driver includes an 802.11 stack with software MAC (media access controller), and QoS (quality of service), important for IP telephony. It also supports such standards as WEP, WPA and WME.

The driver was previously available only under a proprietary licence. It will not automatically be accepted into the Linux kernel, but so far kernel developers have looked on it favourably, according to a report from industry journal Linux Weekly News (LWN). A version of the driver has already been merged into an experimental edition of the kernel, according to LWN.

Devicescape promises the driver will bring with it Atheros chipset support, something that kernel developers have not yet been able to achieve. Separate efforts are expected to deliver Broadcom support soon, according to LWN.

The company provided a Web link to the open-source driver for developers here.