A Canadian software company has produced a driver that will let Linux users make the most of Intel's Centrino wireless chipset.

Linuxant released DriverLoader 1.6 last week and is hoping to capitalise on a market that Intel itself has indentified, promising in January that it will soon make a Linux driver available for Centrino.

"People were deploying Linux on their Centrino notebooks and then they would notice their wireless LAN would not work. DriverLoader 1.6 allows them to activate the WLAN interface on their notebook," said Marc Boucher, president and founder of Linuxant.

Driver Loader 1.6 supports Intel's PRO/Wireless 2200BG card with 54Mbps 802.11g technology and the Wi-Fi Protected Access security protocol, Linuxant said. It allows the standard Windows' Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS) be used as-is on Linux x86 systems.

"Not all hardware vendors have been providing adequate Linux drivers, so what we've done is implement interfaces that are used under Windows drivers in DriverLoader and we convert between the two worlds," Boucher said.

Although many of today's laptops are Centrino-based - largely thanks to a massive advertising campaign by the chip giant - Intel has been slow to release a driver that allows Linux to run on Centrino because it doesn't want to, inadvertently, give away its intellectual property to the open source community.

General manager of software and solutions at Intel, Will Swope, recently said a Centrino-Linux driver was coming first in a proprietary format and then open source, once it's found out how to hide the workings of its wireless technology. He refused, however, to give any dates.

Centrino currently supports only Windows XP Professional, Home, Tablet and Windows 2000. However, whether DriverLoader 1.6 will be a big hit with enterprise users remains to be seen. If it does take off, it could certainly speed up the release of Intel's promised drivers.

DriverLoader 1.6 also supports most other drivers for network cards and WLAN cards from companies that don't have Linux drivers available, Boucher said. These vendors include Broadcom, Intersil's Prism GT/Duette/Indigo, Cisco, Integrated Programmable Communications, Realtek, Texas Instruments and Atheros.

To deploy DriverLoader 1.6, a user needs to first install any major Linux distribution based on the 2.4 or 2.6 Linux kernel, then DriverLoader 1.6, followed by a Windows NDIS driver, provided by their hardware vendor.

Linuxant offers a 30-day free trial of DriverLoader 1.6 and its licenses cost (Canadian)$19.95 (£7.94) per user.