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

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Jun 28 01:03:29 PDT 2006

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

> There is that, and there is also the sad state of affairs of the
> open-source drivers' support of the currently available hardware in that
> category, as touched upon in Tim's post.

I don't know if it's quite _that_ dire -- though, as a habitual coward
about hardware-related problems, I'm carefully sitting out the
situation, and relying on my good ol' Lucent 802.11b chipsets, instead.

(Let us not forget that None of the Above is another time-honoured
option.  See also "overdefining", below.)

> You also do not appear to make a distinction between a software limitation
> and a hardware limitation. It is reasonable to expect software to overcome
> a software limitation. It is not reasonable to expect software to overcome
> a hardware limitation. 

The relevance of this would be clearer if you'd stated where I indicated
any such expectation.

> A software licensing limitation is a software limitation. If the
> hardware may be used without the software, e.g.  using a NIC without
> the CD it came with, the licensing limitation of said software is
> thereby overcome. That is often not possible in the short term (stage
> 1), but possible in the long term (stage 2).

It may be simple fatigue speaking but I'm not sure (1) exactly where I
failed to make a distinction, or (2) what the relevance is to preceding

> The longer the term, the greater the percentage of hardware that has
> reached stage 2, at which point, the comparison becomes moot.

If you're just saying "When nearly all choices become open source, then 
open source ceases to be a comparative advantage", then it's obviously
true but doesn't seem exactly profound.

> > Speaking just for myself (and not, to acknowlege your intent, speaking
> > for the broader Linux market), I never "overlook" proprietary software's
> > short-term advantages.  I just note its long-term unacceptability (in my
> > view), especially where tolerable alternatives exist already.
> You define it as good in the short term and bad in the long term.

"Define" doesn't seem quite applicable in this context, but let's move
on.  Also, I'm not sure "good" is quite right, there, either, but perhaps 
"difficult to avoid" is closer.

> When the short term is stage 1 and the long term is stage 2, that
> comes across as rather sdrawkcab. It would be great if there were
> "tolerable alternatives" among 802.11g chipsets, but there are none at
> this time.

1.  My Lucent 802.11b cards do everything *I* need in a wireless chip.
Methinks you're overdefining "tolerable alternative" for polemical

2.  I haven't seen you explain why a Prism 802.11g based card shouldn't
be a reasonable choice.  (I don't know if they're made any more, but 
that really wouldn't matter to me, either.  My Lucents were out of
production when I bought them, too.  Es macht nicht.

> The proprietary HAL has a high degree of long-term unacceptability,
> which ironically the Atheros chipset consequently lacks.

Huh?  I'm afraid I don't follow.  The only thing that makes the
proprietary Atheros HAL not a problem in the long term is the recent
emergence of the reverse-engineered OpenBSD alternative.  I hope you're
not suggesting that Atheros Technology, with its deceptive press
releases and all, can claim any credit for that.  Even crediting the
almost equally misleading Madwifi Project is a bit of a stretch.

> Exactly. Advances tomorrow will change what is advantageous or acceptable
> tomorrow. However, what is advantageous or acceptable today depends both
> on what is available today and on what will be available tomorrow.

I hope you don't think this insight is new to me.  ;->  I've kind of
been at this hardware and Linux thing for a rather long time.  Please
don't mistake my sometimes not knowing much about the latest toys with 
ignorance of the industry:  It's just me being a tightwad.  


> Not quite sure I follow. Coders had an itch prior to six years ago.
> Suddenly, it didn't itch as much.

To explain:  The open source coders _never_ had much of an itch:  The
historical lack of an open-source Flash interpreter not only wasn't a
problem in the same league as lack of support for key hardware; in the
opinion of many including yr. humble correspondent, it was practically a
positive benefit!  Flash is mostly a blight on the Web, after all.

> My point here was that Atheros support isn't itching as much as it
> otherwise should.

Gods, I hope you're not _merely_ saying "Many people are OK with a
short-term-functional proprietary, binary-only hardware driver, the
existence of which will tend to reduce the urgency that will be
perceived in many quarters for coding of an open-source one."  If you
don't mind my saying so, that's bloody flippin' obvious -- and entirely
irrelevant to my point.  

To review:  You said slowness to develop good open-source Atheros
drivers is comparable to slowness to develop good open-source Flash
players after Macromedia's proprietary release for Linux.  In reply, I
said, no, not really -- because of the rather vital difference that
hardly anybody in open source gives a rat's ass about Flash regardless
of licensing, except to loathe it, whereas hardware support is quite
important to those same people.

Some effect from Atheros/Madwifi dropping their half-a-loaf on the Linux
open source coder community may or not have occurred (and I honestly
don't think they're quite that gullible), but you've completely missed
my point that you were drawing a parallel between something that
matters and something that doesn't.

> Note that FlashBlock doesn't get triggered without your say-so, either
> (i.e. your installation of it). 

Sorry, but your point completely eludes me.  Probably my fault,

> ATI has a history of contributing code to open-source drivers for hardware
> that their crappy proprietary drivers no longer support. The history of
> nVidia is one of zero open-source cooperation, coupled with relatively
> meticulous maintenance of their proprietary drivers. I see this as ATI
> doing more for the community than nVidia, but the prevailing
> interpretation is that this means nVidia does more for the Linux
> community. Clearly, ATI is the tolerable alternative here.

You are certainly correct that ATI has not been a total zero as a
company.  However, the tolerable alternatives are, in fact, Matrox and
Intel 945G (the latter if you give a rat's ass about 3D, which I do not).

> In the case of Celine Dion, preferred to what?

Blessed silence?  ;->

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