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Broadcom releases open source Linux 802.11n drivers

Sep 10, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 16 views

Wireless semiconductor vendor Broadcom announced yesterday that it has released an open source Linux driver for its latest 802.11n chipsets. The “still in progress” driver supports Broadcom BCM4313, BCM43224, BCM43225 Wi-Fi chipsets, enabling Linux distributions to include native support for these popular chips, says Broadcom.

The driver announcement was made on the newsgroup by Broadcom Scientist Henry Ptasinkski. According to Ptasinkski, the driver has been released as fully open source code, and uses the native mac80211 stack.

In addition to supporting current 802.11n chipsets BCM4313, BCM43224, and BCM43225, the driver provides "a framework for supporting additional chips in the future, including mac80211-aware embedded chips," he adds.

As noted in a report on the release by Betanews, the Broadcom release helps address "one of the most problematic peripherals in the entire Linux ecosystem," namely Wi-Fi set-up. Linux distros often require users to replace Broadcom's proprietary firmware with custom firmware to get many Broadcom-based wireless devices to work, and other Broadcom chips have been completely unsupported, says the story.

OMGUbuntu goes further, noting that Broadcom was one of the most "notorious" companies in its policy of ignoring Linux users. The story goes on to suggest that this "amazing" development could help to overcome one of the major obstacles to embracing desktop Linux.

Slowly, but surely, companies are coming around to releasing open source drivers for Linux, or else improving previous, hastily developed drivers. Some fairly recent examples include Via Technologies (graphics chipsets) and Bluecherry (MPEG 4 compression).

Even Microsoft released some open source Linux drivers last year for its Hyper-V virtual machine. Don't expect the company to make a habit of it, however.


The pre-release version of the Broadcom 802.11n driver can be downloaded from the staging-next git tree in the drivers/staging/brcm80211 directory, available here. The announcement of the driver may be found here, and more information on Broadcom's Wi-Fi products may be found here.

The Betanews story should be here, and the OMGUbuntu story should be here.

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