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OpenBSD Ahead of Linux for Wi-Fi Drivers 256

algae writes "It looks like some kernel developers have noticed that the OpenBSD project is including reverse-engineered drivers for wireless ethernet cards while Linux is still using binary blobs. A large part of the issue is that much OpenBSD development takes place abroad, where having to do clean-room reverse-engineering isn't as important." From the article: "Christoph Hellwig took another stance, 'please don't let this reverse engineering idiocy hinder wireless driver adoption, we're already falling far behind openbsd who are very successfully reverse engineering lots of wireless chipsets.'"
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OpenBSD Ahead of Linux for Wi-Fi Drivers

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  • Ha, wireless BSD (Score:5, Informative)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@jawth e s> on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:13PM (#15519242) Homepage Journal

    I just started using FreeBSD 6.1 recently and I was surpised about the ease of setting it up. (Still not for the faint of heart, but Windows isn't either. If you want a nice custom setup that does what you want, you need a lot of time in Windows). My primary laptop is a P-III 600MHz with 512Meg RAM. An old fucker I bought for peanuts. It didn't have a network interface, so I added a Sweex wireless adapter []. It shows up in both FreeBSD as Windows under RaLink 2500. (Note that Sweex is a cheapass brand, but for another product I had *excellent* support by email with them)

    Linux.... Nothing... No out of the box recognition.

    OpenBSD also recognised it but doesn't support WPA-PSK which I do require. FreeBSD supports WPA-PSK. I've been an OpenBSD fanboy for a long time, but I like FreeBSD equally now. Linux... well, somehow I have problems with most distributions. Either philosophical problems or technical problems :-) With *BSD, I have neither.

  • by Homology ( 639438 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:16PM (#15519258)
    can be found by reading the man pages []
  • Re:Ha, wireless BSD (Score:2, Informative)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@jawth e s> on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:38PM (#15519418) Homepage Journal

    It does make it a PITA if you want to use a network you have no control over, but the OpenBSD crowd are like that sometimes.

    Yes, it does... but it still won't keep me from financing them. They have an excellent server platform and I just delegate the wireless functions to embedded devices. It just keeps me from becoming a desktop/laptop OpenBSD user, but I don't think that it's their target.

  • Re:Ha, wireless BSD (Score:3, Informative)

    by bersl2 ( 689221 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:45PM (#15519476) Journal
    rt2x00 is on the way to future kernel inclusion. In the meantime, the drivers derived from Ralink's code, which is in turn derived from their NDIS sources, are more than usable.
  • Re:Ha, wireless BSD (Score:3, Informative)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@jawth e s> on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:46PM (#15519483) Homepage Journal
    I know you mean this as a joke, but no.... it isn't. I have a 80 square metre apartment made of concrete and the signal of my Linksys WPA is weak 5 metres away in the living room. The sweex adapter gets high noise and low signal.... Both in Windows XP and FreeBSD.

    This is not the fault of the operating systems, it's the concrete.... One doesn't have to be a genius to figure that out.

    My parents have a wooden house and the same Linksys WPA. With my network adapter I can go anywhere and have a perfect connection.

  • Re:Blob is bad! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:48PM (#15519498)
    Openbsd is going to maintain the anti-blob. I was down a wireless security with openbsd talk in Calgary after the hackathon last week which Theo attended and you can be sure OpenBSD will maintain the anti-blob. The discussion about blobs centred around what has been said before on OpenBSD is first and foremost about security in its default state. You can't include arbitrary code that you don't compile yourself in such a system, you can't verify that's it doing what it says its doing. Further more Asian developers are more then happy to hand over all the required spec documents to get wider support for their wireless chipset. American companies however are going the otherway and would rather build drivers for each system the feel is important enough to warrent them.

    I'm sure they have their reasons but at the end of the day their way attempt at full circle development control will probably back fire. In an attempt to maintain a clean intellectual property enviroment where every participant is governed by NDA's and priorities are set by Mama corporate they have traded in creditabilty and grass root adoption. Whether this will ultimately cause them bottom line trama will be determined later in life. But one must only look at the economic trend in america as a whole to take a guess as to where this is going.

    America is becoming a service industry economy and losing its development and manufacturing roots, those jobs are being shipped oversea to asian companies that care more about making product then protecting copy rights. The cards that history played out however means that America still has trillions in wealth and the world's economies will continue to market heavily to americans to buy their products. Until that money dries up and their attention turns elsewhere. Once that occurs you won't see Toyota putting plants in Indiana to demonstrate how many local jobs it produces. It will put them in South America where the labour is half the price.

    As I see this is just another example of how American values of fairness, quality, openess and honesty have been lost in the boardroom and consequently the world is turning elsewhere.

    Hillbilly1980(damnit what's my password)

  • Re:Bootable Distro? (Score:3, Informative)

    by freshman_a ( 136603 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:49PM (#15519504) Homepage Journal
    The only one I'm aware of is OliveBSD. []

    Haven't used it myself, however.
  • by SigILL ( 6475 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @04:57PM (#15519576) Homepage
    We need an Open Source gate-array to facilitate Open Source hardware. Initial full-custom full-wafer mass fabrication cost is about $1 Million.

    Please don't forget the software, as most intelligence for programmable logic is contained there. Developing a wafer for an FPGA is easy compared to writing synthesis/P&R software for it. Automatic place and route is a really hard problem [].

    I figure this is at least $2 Million to get done.

    I'd double that, and allocate most of it to synthesis/P&R software. Although such software obviously needs to be free (libre), I think you really want to pay people to write it or it'll never become useable.

    I don't have the hardware expertise to lead this, or I'd already be started. Any volunteers? I'm quite serious.

    Apart from the sheer amount of work, I have to admit it does sound like fun. Although I only have experience in targetting FPGA's (I've written a couple of microprocessor cores as well as some I/O devices), not developing them myself.
  • Re:Open Secrets (Score:3, Informative)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @05:01PM (#15519603) Journal
    Shouldn't the lead be very short-lived?

    No. Finding someone "with the chops" and interest simply isn't easy. There are simply tons of projects in the open source world that would be done very quickly if someone with the skills would do it. Instead, you have to wait around for someone with skill to get that particular itch.
  • Re:Bootable Distro? (Score:2, Informative)

    by GunJah ( 264670 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @05:03PM (#15519618)
    I believe Open BSD has a live monowall distro, and Free BSD has one here [].

    I'm sure there are others.
  • Re:This seems bogus (Score:3, Informative)

    by convolvatron ( 176505 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @05:05PM (#15519636)
    i've taken a large linux driver and gotten it running in free with no
    source changes by defining the linux interfaces as macros and
    inlines. i think the only thing that didn't just fall out was
    the bit-sense of PAGE_MASK.

    i don't see any reason why you couldn't do the same thing in the
    other direction.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday June 12, 2006 @05:05PM (#15519639) Homepage Journal
    I remember being copied on some of the discussion between Theo de Raadt and Richard Stallman. I think what happened is that Theo started out to get BSD-licensed BLOBs from manufacturers. And then, perhaps even through discussion with Richard, Theo was convinced that BLOBs were bad even if they were BSD-licensed. There was also some discussion from Theo about the fact that FSF and Richard hadn't ever supported Theo's work. And at some point they must have worked all of this out.

    But FSF aren't the Linux developers. If you ask them, they will be very adamant about that.


  • Re:Ha, wireless BSD (Score:3, Informative)

    by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @05:24PM (#15519766) Homepage Journal
    I've used an rt2500 based WLAN-card on Linux, several months (a year?) ago. It worked well, but the driver was based on vendor supplied code that didn't integrate well with the rest of the kernel (duplication of effort, etc). That's why it isn't included in Linus's tree. But in the case of Ralink wireless chipsets, you actually get some vendor support for Linux, with actual working GPL code. I'm pretty sure the driver is included in Ubuntu 6.06.
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @05:32PM (#15519824)
    OpenCores isn't the only open hardware group. Check out, particularly the OGD1 section. Real hardware engineers are making real hardware, and they're making it OPEN (and libre).
  • Re:Ha, wireless BSD (Score:3, Informative)

    by BTG9999 ( 847188 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @05:34PM (#15519837)
    If you use the rt2500 cvs driver it works great even on smp systems for Linux. I was using the rt2x00 becuase until late May the rt2500 driver would lockup SMP systems and Fedora only has SMP kernels for the x86_64 systems now. I don't use the rt2x00 driver anymore because it has some problems. However, I have not lookedinto it for about a month. Just go to loads [] and grap the latest rt2500 nightly tarball. Also if you don't want it to mess up the fglrx driver from livna you need to change the install directory in the makefile otherwise it will remove the directory the fglrx kernel mod is in. After that you can use all the standard tools to configure the wireless card. However it is the rt2x00 driver that appears to be destined for the kernel since it is built from the ground up to be used in SMP systems.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Monday June 12, 2006 @06:46PM (#15520261) Homepage Journal
    I have looked at the FCC rule-making and do not see that it prevents Open Source drivers, regardless of the hardware. Those drivers should enforce operation within the part 15 regulations, unless they are being operated by a licensed Radio Amateur. We do have open drivers for a number of cards, and FCC has never made an issue of it.


  • by aztracker1 ( 702135 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @07:27PM (#15520462) Homepage
  • Re:This seems bogus (Score:2, Informative)

    by herodiade42 ( 974875 ) on Monday June 12, 2006 @07:31PM (#15520493)
    Indeed having it GPL counts a lot.

    But still, if the driver was developed under NDA and is bloated of "magic numbers" (as often in drivers under NDA, the implementation can't contain too much comment/infos), practicaly, we're near to loose one of the fundamentals rights supposedly granted by the GPL: the right to modify and re-use it. Well, you have this right, but you can hardly use it.

    In practice, source code designed to hide IP secrets is in-between normal source code and binary exec. That's why, by the way, OpenBSD devs never accept and never signs NDA, as stated there [] for instance.
  • Re:Ha, wireless BSD (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 12, 2006 @07:50PM (#15520592)
    The intro to this article is utter crap. OpenBSD does meticulous clean-room reverse engineering -- usually using two people (one to document function, the other to write the driver). They are, as always, completely anally retentive about license and legal issues. The submitter apparently didn't read the article - it is Linux, not OpenBSD, that may have issues about where it gets driver info -- the Slashdot submission has this completely wrong and should be corrected (just read the article!). The articles says *nothing* about where OpenBSD development takes place or its reverse enginnering process. This statement is an assertion of the article submitter, and very misleading.
  • Re:Bootable Distro? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 12, 2006 @09:25PM (#15521055)
    I've recently been downloading a bunch of LiveCD's just so I can play around with things.

    I found [] to be of particular usefulness when looking for various flavors of them.
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @04:15AM (#15522442) Homepage Journal
    You sure are. You're not allowed to remove their copyright or their list of conditions, but there's nothing in the license that says you can't add more, even ones that negate theirs.

    Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

            * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
            * Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
            * Neither the name of the nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.
            * And you have to give me $400,000 per copy and say "Linux rules" 100 times.

    Perfectly legal.

  • Re:Ha, wireless BSD (Score:3, Informative)

    by Metaphorically ( 841874 ) * on Tuesday June 13, 2006 @09:43AM (#15523490) Homepage
    Well I don't know if it's a load of crap. A quick search turns up a couple cases: Blizzard v. BNETD [] and Mattel sued the makers of cphack [] (over some kind of censorship software).

    This how-to [] implies that reverse engineering "for purposes of interoperability" is legal in many places, but that's just one reason people reverse engineer stuff. With legal limits on what and when you can reverse engineer products, it's definitely possible to be sued for it. And successfully sued if you're violating the law (whether or not you agree with the law).

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken