August 19, 2005 7:33 AM PDT

FreeBSD 6.0 to target wireless devices

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 the 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, which allows data to reconfigure around blocked paths by "hopping" from node to node until a connection can be established, 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 who want to use FreeBSD on their desktop or laptop.

FreeBSD 6.0 also includes 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 July 15, and a second beta was release on Aug. 5. 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 program, which sponsors students who work with open-source organizations. Eighteen 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.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

4 comments

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installer
could someone tell me what the freeBSD installer is like? i've never had experience with BSD but if i hear good things about it i may be convinced to try it. i'd like a friendly installer ;)
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
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It's old, but it works
Speaking from experience, the FreeBSD installer, /stand/sysinstall, is old but it works. It works quite well too. You pretty much only use it to install the system, or to install additional disk devices and that's it. It's text only menu driven and there is online help through a text-mode web browser (links I beleive).
Posted by Maelstorm (130 comments )
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Big boon to wireless router manufacturers
If the FreeBSD camp can pull this off, this would be a big boon to companies like Linksys/Cisco, Netgear and others who make wireless routers (as well as chip makers like Broadcom, who make the reference designs).

"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." While this does sound interesting, I do suspect that they'd migrate to FreeBSD not because of those features, but for the main feature - the BSD license. Building their routers on BSD licensed software means that they don't have to hand out any source code to anybody. There would be no repeat of the Linksys open-source firmware for their routers.

Not that I'm necessarily saying that this is a bad thing. I figure that if companies want to use GPL licensed code in their products, then they must obey the terms of the license. The BSD license is much more liberal in terms of what you can do with the code (basically, you can do anything you want with it, except say that you wrote it).

Only time will tell if FreeBSD could take over the marketshare that Linux has.

-- Joe
Posted by Joe Votour (8 comments )
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