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

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Jun 27 18:54:22 PDT 2006

Quoting Daniel Gimpelevich (daniel at gimpelevich.san-francisco.ca.us):

> Other Linuxers would gladly exchange Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 for Atheros
> because the Intel chipset cannot act as an access point. Madwifi is not
> just a wrapper; it is the bulk of the driver. AIUI, the proprietary HAL
> primarily serves to load a proprietary firmware onto the card.

And yet, it's OS-specific.  So, sorry, there is key functionality hidden
in there, way above and beyond what is in a standard firmware BLOB, and
this "bulk of the driver" thing doesn't fly, and misses my point.

The obvious comparison is to Prism cards and their Intersil firmware


Any generic BLOB-loader software on any OS can fling that into the card
to initialise it -- because it's functionally identical to the ROM-based
firmware in my old Lucent Orinoco Gold card.  Which means that the
functionality in it remains permanently available, regardless of changes
in hardware (as long as the applicable bus is supported) and operating 

The point is that the same is not at all true of the Atheros "HAL" code.

[snip mentions of stuff I posted about separately]

> Don't blame the hardware for the license under which software to drive
> it is released.


1.  I actually was mostly blaming both Atheros and the Madwifi people 
    for _dishonesty_.  I believe I was quite clear about that.
2.  But why not, by the way?  Atheros's absence of cooperation
    with the open source community has made necessary a lengthy 
    reverse-engineering process, and its probably consciously
    dishonest public statements on the subject have probably confused the 
    situation and delayed a proper remedy.

> Until very recently, the Intel chipset you're so hot on worked only
> with the aid of ndiswrapper and the like.

And your point is?  It was the development of open source drivers that
made that difference.

> BTW, I have never heard of a miniPCI Atheros card. I was assuming the
> "SuperG" in question was either CardBus or PCI.

I'm pretty sure either Mike or the product page for his laptop mentioned
miniPCI form factor for his wireless thing.

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