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FreeBSD 6.0 to target wireless devices

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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 August 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.

By Ingrid Marson

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