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Intel Accused of Being an "Open Source Fraud" 153

Binary-Blob writes "Kernal Trap has an article up in which some key OpenBSD developers accuse Intel of being an open source fraud. The issue stems from the prevalence of firmware 'blobs' in open source projects, and OpenBSD's reluctance to use them unless they are distributed freely and without restrictions. Leading project creator Theo de Raadt offers that Intel should follow the example of other companies in the market: 'Intel must do this firmware grant in the same way that Adaptec, Atmel, Broadcom, Cirrus Logic, Cyclades, QLogic, Ralink, and LSI and lots of other companies have granted distribution firmware to be used by others.' He concluded by requesting that the open source community contact Intel to help get them to change their policies"
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Intel Accused of Being an "Open Source Fraud"

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  • by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @05:28AM (#16289191) Homepage
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @05:29AM (#16289201)
    While it may seem backwards that Intel, a hardware company, would be loath to release the specs of their hardware so that third parties could develop drivers for it (essentially for free), you have to also assume that the specification itself provides significant insight into some "whiz-bang" hardware implementation that Intel doesn't want to be common knowledge. What seems strange is that de Raadt is calling for BSD-licensed "binary blobs". I can't imagine why he would want that in favor of BSD-licensed code, or better the hardware interface specs.

    It's a little bit frustrating that Intel, the de facto standard when it comes to PC hardware, would let its products flounder on certain platforms. Not that there's this huge market for OpenBSD users (it's dying, of course), but the effort involved in keeping the driver off the platform seems to be no greater than allowing the OpenBSD developers to have a crack at it.

    If I weren't a Windows user whose hardware is fully supported, I'd be right there with those guys. There's really no excuse for this sort of behavior.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @05:46AM (#16289267)

    This is especially true since --correct me if I'm wrong-- these cards already work in Linux.

    Why is it that this is one of the most popular arguments against Theo? I mean, sure it works under Linux, but Theo develops OpenBSD.

    Next time I hear some Linux user going off about how some device isn't supported I'll just argue that "--correct me if I'm wrong-- this device already works in Windows."
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @05:49AM (#16289279)
    That doesn't make sense, as he specifically states that when the hardware doesn't work that the project is already in a "lose" state. From there, there is nothing more to lose. The only way to go is up, i.e. from hardware not working to hardware working.

    If that is his stance, then there doesn't seem to be any reason why he should settle from the outset for anything less than what his stated goals are. You can't negotiate upwards when you're losing.

    Strategically I see what you are saying, but ideologically and according to de Raadt's own email, that doesn't seem to be what is actually going on.
  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @05:52AM (#16289305) Journal
    OK, so although the GPL means BSD can't lift code directly from the Linux base (and there's no reason why that should work anyway), surely it has to be easier developing a driver by studying this code rather than reverse-engineering Windows binaries?
  • by anpe ( 217106 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @06:24AM (#16289451)
    Looking at GPL code is legal, but the virality of the GPL taints anyone who does so.

    Clean room design can help you circumvent this: []
  • by Burz ( 138833 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @06:32AM (#16289491) Homepage Journal
    From 1998, this article describes how Intel was eager to have Linux support UDI, the Uniform Driver Interface.

    A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, but UDI seemed to get submerged.
  • by gwk ( 1004182 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @06:34AM (#16289499)
    Sigh the driver does work in OpenBSD but not well. Damien who works on the IPW driver in OpenBSD but which IIRC is also used by Net, Free and OpenSolaris! has been trying to get documentation so he can write a proper OPEN SOURCE driver
    From: []
    "I've started to work on a driver for Intel® PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network adapters, as found in recent Centrino(TM) laptops. Needless to say, this driver won't require any binary-only user-space daemon to operate, contrary to the Linux driver provided by Intel®. Such daemons that must execute as root and have complete access to the hardware are unacceptable for this project."

    They are also asking people who use ANY OPEN SOURCE OPERATING SYSTEM to complain so perhaps intel will change their policy regarding firmware licensing, right now a few of the sell out commercial linux distros can distribute the firmware because they have signed restricitve agreements, however the terms are completly unacceptable to many.
  • by QuadPro ( 16532 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @06:36AM (#16289509) Homepage
    This is especially true since --correct me if I'm wrong-- these cards already work in Linux.

    The cards won't run without the firmware, not in Linux, not in BSD, not anywhere. Intel forbids distributing the firmware without agreeing to
    a restrictive contract. Some Linux distributions happily agree to that contract, and restrict their users by doing this. OpenBSD does not
    want to restrict their users, so they don't agree to the Intel contract. They want Intel to give permission to freely distribute the firmware files.

  • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @07:10AM (#16289659) Journal
    I think that would legally be called a "derovative product". Clean rooming is making something new that works like something old. Using the existing code to make code that works on a different platform is not the same. Since one runs on Linux and the new would run on BSD, you would have to change a chunk of the code anyway. The only way you can make a "similar" program/driver legally is that whoever is doing the coding is ignorant of the contents of the original piece.

    If Microsoft took Apache, then viewed the source and then rewrote it to replace IIS without a clean room method and used their own license, the open source community would go nuts. This is no different. Just because you LIKE the people who are writting the code, that doesn't make it legal or right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @07:49AM (#16289787)
    OpenBSD want to distribute firmware along with the OS under an acceptable license. They are not asking for the source
    code of the firmware. Intel are instractible here, so owners of Intel wireless devices needs to personally accept a license
    before downloading the firmware. As an example: []

    As for open source drivers: OpenBSD wants hardware documentation, not a Linux driver, so that they can write their own drivers.
    Intel claims that they are open source friendly and gives out documentation, but the last is clearly a lie since OpenBSD had to reverse
    engineer several Intel wireless chipsets.

    Giving the appearance of beeing friendly to open source, while not beeing so, is the latest fad in business. Intel is an example
    of this fad.
  • defeatist attitude (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:57PM (#16294581)
    What OpenBSD is doing has worked with other companies. Until someone has hundreds of millions to put into your open source hardware, the OpenBSD's approach has much more likelihood for success useful to other people.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents