If you use Wi-Fi on your laptop, there's an excellent chance you're using Atheros chipsets for your wireless networking. Atheros' silicon is in gear from Linksys, D-Link and Netgear to name but a few vendors. However, although Atheros has been popular, they haven't always been friendly to open-source and Linux developers. That has been changing over the years and now, thanks to Sam Leffler, noted open-source developer, the HAL (hardware abstraction layer) for Atheros' ath5k and ath9k chip families.
This is another major step in opening up hardware for Linux, Free BSD, and the other open-source operating systems. Earlier this year, Atheros released an open-source driver for its latest 802.11n chipsets.
While Atheros had long offered some support for Linux, it has always insisted on keeping its HAL code proprietary. Last year, an open-source alternative, OpenHAL, became available, but it wasn't completely compatible with the newer chipsets.
Now, Leffler's efforts has lead to an open HAL. Looking ahead, Leffler wrote, "This means that in the future all fixes, updates for new chips, etc. will need to be a community effort." According to Leffler, Atheros also stated, "the Linux platform will be the reference public code base so folks wanting to add support for other platforms will have to scrape the information from there."
What it all boils down to for desktop Linux users is that you can look forward to being able to wirelessly network any Linux on any laptop or desktop without a second thought. It's another great day for Linux users.