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Broadcom Releases Open Drivers For Linux

It seems like the WiFi-related woes of most Linux users have finally been
addressed with Broadcom’s latest move. Apparently, the company has announced
in a mailing list that an open-source driver will be provided to support some of its WiFi chipsets found in many OEM PCs and notebooks.

Read on to find out more.

When it comes to Linux migration, one of the biggest problems most users
generally run into at some point in time is usually related to WiFi, especially
Broadcom-related WiFi issues. However, it seems that the situation is about to
change, because Broadcom has finally made the decision to open up its driver
for contribution to the upstream Linux kernel tree.

For the unfamiliar, Broadcom’s WiFi chipsets have usually been nothing short of
problematic when it comes to Linux support. This is due to the fact that its
chipsets required the use of proprietary firmware, which could not be
redistributed. Thus, Linux users usually had to rely
on tools to extract the firmware from the Windows driver before it could be used with the reverse-engineered Linux drivers to activate the hardware.

To resolve the problem, Broadcom opted to release proprietary drivers which
supported a wide range of its hardware across various kernel versions. While the proprietary drivers generally work well, its proprietary nature means that they
could not be merged with the Linux kernel, thus a true out-of-the-box experience could not be achieved. And that is the issue Broadcom is trying to
resolve with its new open drivers.

“Broadcom would like to announce the initial release of a fully-open
Linux driver for it’s latest generation of 11n chipsets,” wrote Broadcom’s Henry
Ptasinski in the Linuxwireless mailing list. “The driver,
while still a work in progress, is released as full source and uses the
native mac80211 stack. It supports multiple current chips (BCM4313,
BCM43224, BCM43225) as well as providing a framework for supporting
additional chips in the future, including mac80211-aware embedded chips.”

As the drivers are still work-in-progress, they have yet to be merged into the
mainline kernel, but the potential results are clear. If Broadcom does produce a decent driver which gains acceptance into the upstream kernel, it will allow for
out-of-the-box Linux support of Broadcom’s most recent wireless-N chipsets.
However, there was no mention about support for older Broadcom chipsets,
which suggests that users with such hardware may have to make do with the
proprietary drivers.

Source: Ars Technica

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