[conspire] "madwifi" is proprietary sludge (was: driver)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Jun 27 17:41:33 PDT 2006

Passing this along, since Mike Williams is not on "conspire".

"madwifi" is a open source wrapper around a proprietary, binary-only 
proprietary "HAL" core library.  Thus, it's a proprietary driver often
mistakenly claimed to be open source (not by you, Daniel).  Atheros
itself has made that claim, and I think it fair to say they don't have
the excuse of ignorance, and are, to be blunt, _lying_.


   SUNNYVALE, Calif., July 23, 2003Atheros Communications, the leading
   developer and market share leader in advanced wireless LAN (WLAN)
   chipsets, today announced that the first open source Linux and FreeBSD
   software drivers for 802.11b/g and universal 802.11a/b/g products are
   now available as a free download from the Internet.

   Created by Open Source developer Sam Leffler, the 802.11a/b/g Linux
   driver is intended to be used as a building block for creating fully
   featured Linux-based 802.11b/g and 802.11a/b/g products such as network
   adapters, access points, and home gateways. 
   To download a copy of the new Linux device driver please go to:

The named SourceForge project page is equally dishonest, and VA
$WHATEVER should be ashamed of themselves.  (I actually brought to the
SourceForge.net managers' attention in 2001 the fact that many existing 
projects falsely claim to be open source.  They replied they didn't have
time and staff to police the matter.)  Quoting the project page:

   License: BSD License, GNU General Public License (GPL)

It is in fact proprietary.  I object even more to the dishonesty than to
the licensing, actually.

Jean Tourrilhes's page
repeats an often-repeated assertion from madwifi programmer Sam Leffler:

   Sam, with the help of Atheros, had created a BSD driver for those
   cards some time ago. Unfortunately, he was unable to release it because
   of the FCC regulations. The Atheros hardware is basic and doesn't
   enforce that valid operating parameters are set (such as frequency and
   power level), however the FCC mandate that end user should not be able
   to set invalid operating parameters. Eventually, Atheros managed to find
   a solution that was acceptable : they create a HAL, a binary layer that
   would sit between the hardware and the driver and enforce that FCC
   regulations are respected. The downside is that the HAL is available
   only for selected architectures (i386, PPC, Arm, Mips, SH4, Alpha and

I have no doubt that Leffler believes that -- and probably that Atheros
Communications does, too.  However, I spent a fair amount of time
attempting to find any "FCC regulations" to that effect.  I have found
absolutely none.  Accordingly, I have tentatively concluded that this
assertion is a corporate-nonsense justification for perpetuating an
existing secrecy policy.  ("FCC _might_ have a regulation against it, so
we'll keep our code proprietary just to be safe, and merely claim to 
the open source people that we have to.  They'll never bother to

I personally would go far out of my way to avoid the need for
proprietary drivers, including buying replacement hardware.  And so, I
would not buy _any_ Atheros WiFi hardware; if it came with my laptop,
I'd regard it as effectively non-existent and use something else (same
as with winmodems).  

If I were in specifically Mike's shoes, I'd shitcan the Atheros miniPCI
card, and replace it with one based on an Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 chip.

----- Forwarded message from Daniel Gimpelevich <daniel at gimpelevich.san-francisco.ca.us> -----

From: Daniel Gimpelevich <daniel at gimpelevich.san-francisco.ca.us>
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2006 16:53:43 -0700
To: conspire at linuxmafia.com
Subject: Re: [conspire] (forw) Re: driver

On Mon, 26 Jun 2006 13:05:06 -0700, Rick Moen wrote:

> Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 11:15:49 -0700
> From: "Williams, Mike" <MWILLIAMS at probusiness.com>
> To: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
> Subject: driver
> Hey Rick, 
> The driver I was referring to was a cheaply built 802.11 superG. The disk didnt have a Lindriver I'll look for the name as I dont have my lap w / me

"SuperG" is a trademark of Atheros and is universally supported using the
madwifi driver. Newer cards require newer versions of the driver. The
older the distro, the less likely it is to work. Forget the ancient ones
you had your heart set on, and install something recently released. Unlike
Windows, it'll "just work."
conspire mailing list
conspire at linuxmafia.com

----- End forwarded message -----

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