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Mesh Networking (or 802.11s) comes to Linux

September 4, 2008 Leave a comment

Since kernel 2.6.22 there has been a huge drive to rework and update the entire wireless networking stack in Linux. Back in July, 2.6.26 was released with over 600 wifi specific changes including :

  • mac80211 now supports draft mesh networking (802.11s; thanks to the open80211s project
  • mac80211 now supports more optional HT (802.11n) features
  • mac80211’s monitor interfaces can now be configured more precisely, “cooked” monitors were added
  • mac80211’s IBSS implementation now supports IBSS merging and received various bugfixes
  • mac80211 now has an in-kernel documentation book, help welcome!
  • b43 now has support for PCMCIA devices and QoS/WME

The following have been removed.

  • the bcm43xx driver
  • the old ieee80211softmac code

A while ago I discussed the deprecation of the bcm43xx driver so I welcome its official removal from the kernel as this means less time wasted disabling this legacy kernel module prior to installing / activating b43 on every new install. The mesh networking (draft specification designated 802.11s) support is largly thanks to the open80211s project however it is only in the fairly early stages. Support is not consistent across all the Linux wifi drivers but full support is progressing. I do wonder whether mesh networking will take off, it is however, an exciting concept. Imagine the following scenarios:

1. A dense build up urban area, where multiple nodes (flats / homes etc) could connect via one or two Internet connected nodes.

2. A neighbourhood which contained a lot of like minded PC users each connecting as a node in a local mesh network to create an ‘instant’ LAN/WAN or gaming network. Imagine being about to connect Xbox 360s / PS3 / PSP or even PC gamers wirelessly to your neighbours without using the Internet services.

3. A sparse, less developed environment where multiple nodes are greatly spread out and Internet access is rare.

The possibilities are endless, however with all such technologies, a lot of people need to jump on the bandwagon, particularly with ad-hoc technologies such as these.

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