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

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Jun 27 18:21:50 PDT 2006

I wrote:

> "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_.

However, I just noticed that our friends in the OpenBSD Project decided
they'd end this bull*BLEEP* the difficult but ultimately necessary way,
through reverse-engineering:


   Open Source HAL for Atheros 802.11a/b/g (ar5k)

   OpenBSD included an ath(4) driver using a free HAL based on the
   efforts of ar5k. It is licensed under a simple and free BSD-like
   license. The ar5k driver for Linux is obsolete.

The linked page on the "ath" driver notes that Reyk Floeter
<reyk at openbsd.org> ported Sam Leffler's Linux driver to OpenBSD, and 
(more important) created a free replacement for Atheros's binary-only HAL
(Hardware Abstraction Layer library).  That newer HAL is named "ar5k",
and can be found here (in the ar5xxx.* files):

Michael Renzmann's Madwifi Project pages (http://madwifi.org/) are
at best semi-honest about this situation, and that's being charitable.  
The front page claims -- quite dishonestly -- that Madwifi is an
open source project.  Speaking for myself, I have a problem with that.  

There's a subpage that discloses the HAL situation
(http://madwifi.org/wiki/HAL), but it's not linked directly:  You would
not easily find it without being tipped off by other means; it's a
subpage of the "ngFeatures" page.

The HAL subpage points to two _genuinely_ open source spinoff projects, 
plus the OpenBSD one:

   In terms of functionality there is not yet an equivalent alternative
   to the Atheros HAL. But at least two projects exist which aim at
   reverse-engineering the HAL in order to make a complete open source

    * http://ath-driver.org/ - a new linux driver with a
      reverse-engineered HAL, which uses the native linux ieee80211
    * the ath driver from http://openbsd.org/ with the infamous OpenHAL
    * the OpenHAL ported to MADWiFi at

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