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GNU is Not Unix

3Com Releases GPL'd Drivers 184

A reader wrote with the news of GPL'd drivers for Linux. Looks like right now, they only have Red Hat in the list-but it's a great step, and I'm sure more support is on the way. That comes on the heels of their April announcement of supporting Linux. Due credit, of course, is given to Donald Becker, our demigod of networking.
disclaimer:Hemos owns shares in Red Hat
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3Com Releases GPL'd Drivers

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does it make sense to anyone here that the drivers are listed for "Red Hat 6.0" and "Red Hat 5.2" and not "Linux kernel versions 2.x.xx"?

    It was ridiculous when apps were announced for given distributions, but drivers? Come on.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Thats why it's GPL'd. It's not 3Coms job to do everything. They gave the source so people like you can port.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am opposed to all usage of the GPL because it destroys creativity and personal freedom (and is slighly more immoral than say, a Microsoft license, Microsoft would never try to claim ownership or rights to my work). But it is simpler to fight the GPL one instance at a time.

    What the hell is wrong with you? Doesn't the author of the code get to choose how he wants his/her code licenses? If he/she chooses to do it under the GPL, which prevents incorporation into proprietary projects, then that's his/her choice. If you don't like it, code your own! How can you criticize someone who labored for their own code, releases it to the public, and doesn't let you use it exclusively for your own stuff?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Targeting the drivers as "Red Hat 5.2" and "Red Hat 6.0" might lead to confusion for the 999999 new users flocking to linux each day and blindly installing RH.

    Suppose, for example, that newbie has installed RH 5.2 and, being new, newbie's friend has helped with the install and updated to kernel 2.2.x.

    Newbie might think along the lines of "Ummm, I have Linus 5.2 or something" and grab the patch for 2.0.x.
  • What happens when companies start to release GPL code for the kernel and it doesn't get included becuase its too weak on coding?

    Agreed its great to see any release like this under GPL and it shows a great deal of foresight on 3Coms part but some companies might feel a bit red-faced if they end up standing corrected in a big way.

    I'm in no way suggesting that this should stop anyone from speaking their views on any bit of code, just that I can see some companies turning shy of releasing source for this reason.

    BTW, I'm buying a laptop and this is going to ensure that it'll be using a 3com card. If only because I think this is a great step in the right direction and it gives me a lot more confidence in using 3com hardware in the future.

  • As somebody who works in 3Com (in the support dep.) I can tell you that there is more than just feature differences between them. As far as I know, the WOL is one of the only user noticable features, but the card is different in other ways (e.g. different chipset, causing different tollerances of noises on the cable etc.)
    Also, this driver is supported by 3Com (by email, but still...).

    Anyway I've wanted this for a while now, and an happy that I can stop telling people that we don't support Linux (and then try to help them anyway :) )

    "It's a good thing"

  • by Ryan Kirkpatrick ( 45 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @11:57PM (#1681510) Homepage
    Ok, I probably will get flamed for saying this...

    A company, a large and well known one at that, gets a clue, and releases "true" open source software using GPL. This is unlike Sun, or even Netscape, which comes up with thier own license that we debate back and forth if it really is open source / free software or not. But 3Com saves us that trouble, and uses what is well known as valid open source / free software license. And what do people do? They still attack them for not doing things such that BSD and other non-GPL OS can play!

    No wonder some companies are hesitant to get involved with open source, or worse come up with thier own license. No matter how hard they try, they still get attacked!

    These drivers are for Linux and only Linux. Not to menition they are derivates off of Donald Becker's drivers anyway, which are GPL to begin with. So, in other words, 3Com did a "good thing", so layoff!
    ----------------------------------------- -----------------------------------

  • You've just made me join the ranks of converts from Intel. I'm currently helping a friend of mine with a home network now that he has DSL. I had spec'd Intel, but I just fired off an e-mail telling him to buy the 3coms instead. Thank you for finally realizing that Open Source users are customers too!
  • Yeah, that was the first time I was ever happy to click on the `agree' button. Man, that felt good. Unfortunatly, I'd just ordered two CNet cards (they were less than half the price @ $37 + GST (12.5%)), so I won't be buying from 3com soon (for myself, anyway), but if any cards here at work go belly up, I know which cards I'll recommend (even though all the PC's here are 9x/NT (but I've got a sparc running Linux:)).
  • You said it! One of the reasons that a friend of mine was reluctant to utilize Linux was because it didn't (or so he asserted) have much vendor support; now that appears to be changing for the better. I would become a 3Com customer but for one thing... I'm already a 3Com customer! I will remain a 3Com customer because of their foresight in supporting a wonderful OS like Linux.
  • by Klaruz ( 734 )
    Nice to see more hardware vendors supporting linux with open source drivers.
  • no, he is arguing that the license stiffles innovation, and argued for one counterexample. (and now I will be marked flamebait, just like every single post he has made has been..)
  • Why not just ask why there is more software released for Windows if Microsoft does not limit creativity and freedom? I don't see how these things have any relavence.

    Err, they don't? Microsoft does not limit my creativity or freedom in any ways, unlike the GPL. Indeed, because of patent issues and intellectual property associated with the innovations I may have, being able to keep my source (or even just part of my source, I have released open source windows code) secure is the only thing that gets it released to a consumer market.

  • You will *ALWAYS* be able to wait a few months and get faster hardware than you could have before.. it is a matter of support- if a company is only partially serious about supporting linux, they can release a driver that doesn't work, keep it in beta, then eventually have it fade out to obsolecence because they don't keep it up-to-date with libc, linux kernel, etc. If you release the source (or documentation on the part, as Matrox did) then the users become maintainers, at least in the linux world where the users have good heads on their shoulders. Look at the SBLive!, the damn thing still won't work for me and they are on their third release. I paid $120 for it, and I am almost ready to buy a $12 sound card and scrap the thing, so that I can at least listen to CDs in Linux. That said, nVidia released rather undocumented, obfusciatory (thats the word of the day) source, and nobody is maintaining it because you can't really understand what it does. You can't add things to it, for instance DRI support or AGP support, because those features aren't in the original code, so there is no way to know what the setup registers are. I'd prefer to vote with my money NOW and get a G400 Max, and then if other vendors wise up (and make a significantly faster/better part) then buying that part later as an upgrade. G400 Max is blazingly fast in Linux with GLX, and has people actively handling bugs, not releasing source and dissappearing into the ether like nVidia did, or having one person who doesn't even work for them handle all bugs in their spare time like 3Dfx.
  • Oh come on! Is a newbie going to patch the kernel for a network card driver that already works? Especially since his "friend" upgraded the kernel for him? That is just plain dumb!
  • Is the purpose of a license to innovate? We are way off on a tangent here. This is worse than discussing politics or religion!
  • Doesn't a company have the right to choose which operating systems it releases drivers for? 3Com just added one more OS. If they choose not to support BSD by choosing the GPL, well, that's their choice to make.
  • Unfortunately I already got rid of my 3com card for an older, technically slower one which happens to transmit at about 50-100 times the rate I previously got using the Linux drivers. (don't ask)

    Oh well.

  • The 574 drivers in pcmcia-cs included with RedHat 6.0 is flaky, however updating to the latest version seem to fix the bugs.
  • I will probably be in the market for an Ethernet card since I need one to connect to an ADSL bridge that I will (finally!) be getting soon.

    3Com: GPLing your drivers makes it VERY likely that I'll buy one of yours. Way to go!

  • Well if you read the README file that comes with the drivers, it states that the tar ball comes with precompiled modules. A precompiled module may not work with other distributions and that is why they stated RH 5.2/6.0. (Notice 2 different tar balls)

    There is NOTHING stoping you from compiling the sources yourself for another distro.

  • I guess this means it's official: Linux is now a hardware platform that (most) vendors are expected to support.

    This is great news -- I remember, about five years ago, spending 2 days going through hardware compatibility lists to find hardware that was supported by Linux.

    What's especially good about this is that 3com is releasing the source code, unlike some other companies who only release a binary module. Let's encourage them by buying their cards!
  • I think it should work on any dist (haven't tested, since my Debian is at home).
    But they have only tested the drivers on RH, that's what they state in the README.
  • by scoof ( 2459 )
    Realtek haven't written their driver themselves, but afaik they've been helpful in the development process?

    Of course most of us need more high-end cards than the RTL8xxx's.
  • The 3COM driver supports the following. 3C900B, 3C905B, 3C905C, 3C980, 3C980B, 3C980C

    The part about dbecker's driver says:

    Note: The 3C59x, 3C900 and 3C905 series NICs are supported by Donald Becker's driver.

    This indicates to me, that Donald's supports a supergroup of the 3Com driver, and that they are different.

  • What I mean by this is: Other network companies have helped in providing the loads of NIC drivers for Linux
  • > Isn't that, what the GPL was ment for? To take an existing program (driver, script...), add your own extensions and changes and then give the results back to the community? I think so.

    Yes, I don't blame them, it was just to answer if they've been hacking at Becker's or writing their own from scratch.
  • > My question is "how did they come up with the drivers for Linux?" Did they just tweak Becker's drivers (pardon me if it was someone else), or write them from scratch, or port them from Unices, or what?

    If you read the .c file it says they have used Becker's skeleton for ethernet drivers, but everything else seems to be theirs (correct me if I'm wrong)
  • On that note, I just bought a Dell Inspiron 3500 which came with a 3c575 (actually a "3CCFE575BT-D") and I spent all day yesterday tracking down a very strange bug with it in Win98. If there's other activity on the LAN, then it works fine, but if the LAN is completely quiet (which isn't unheard of since I'm on an apartment LAN with only a few PC's), I can't ping or connect to anything.

    I'm tempted to just wipe 98 and install Linux, but I'd lose too many cool features, like the hot swappable device bay, the special Synaptics touchpad features, and most of all, the hardware DVD player. I know it's not a defective card because I tried my roommate's 3c575 (which works fine on his Dell Inspiron 3200) and I have the same problem. So either the recent drivers are buggy or they're not quite compatible with 98 "SE".

    I sent a tech support request to Dell, and I hear they have very good tech support on their laptops, so I hope I can get this resolved. But either way, I just wish I could bill Microsoft for the time I wasted on this stupid bug!

  • I am opposed to all usage of the GPL because it destroys creativity and personal freedom

    Ha ha ha ha ha. Go and get a clue. If GPL destroys creativity, why has so much usful, innovative software been released under the GPL? As for destroying personal freedom, that's just laughable. Personal freedom is the one thing it strives to protect. If you don't like the GPL, fine, don't use it on your software, but don't try and make it out to be something it isn't. I'll continue to use GPL for my software because it meets my requirements -- the BSD license doesn't, a point that was reinforced when a friend of mine released a BSD-licensed program that was later turned proprietary by it's subsequent maintainer.

  • I will really jump for joy when I see some drivers released for 3Com's PCMCIA NICs. Not that Card Services isn't great, but neither the 3c574 or the 3c589d drivers have worked for me.

    Huh? Why not? The 3c589d worked fine straight out of the box for me, and has done so for some time now. I've tried it with both 2.0.x and 2.2.x kernels without problems. The card services stuff shipped with Red Hat 5.2 was slightly too old, so I had to get a new one from the net, but the ones shipped with 6.0 are OK.

  • In the event of a legal challenge against the GPL, or a case seeking the enforcement of the GPL; does it help that a company like 3Com is using it, posting it on its site, etc? A company like 3Com is likely to be familiar to the people deciding a case as one that has a significant market share, etc.
  • I've used 3Coms in Linux boxes for years -- from terrible old 3c501s to 3c509s and now a 3c905. Don Becker's drivers have always worked perfectly for me.
  • Because 3Com is looking to benefit its customers, not its competitors.

    It's been said before that 3Com makes good ( great?) cards and comperable drivers for said cards ; so why would they want to give their competitors an insight into the drivers without asking something back?

    With the BSDL, their competitors could take the source, use the REALLY good bits for their own drivers, and release binary-only drivers of their own.

    With GPL however, anyone who uses this code has to re-release the altered code ... likewise benefiting the community and indirectly giving credit to 3Com ...

    As has been said, the GPL makes a great deal of sense for drivers!

  • Why, pray tell, does only Hemos own shares in Redhat? What happened, Rob?
  • Becker's 3Com drivers have worked flawlessly for as long as I can remember. I don't want to harp on 3Com for GLPing their driver - hell, it brightens my day, what with them being the one of the largest networking companies in the world - but the whole thing seems a little redundant.
  • Well, I work for 3Com now, but a couple of years ago, when I worked for Zenith, I asked 3Com for the specifications for a NIC so I could write a Linux driver for it. I didn't expect much. What I got amazed me. The Very Next Day, by express mail, I got several books on the NIC, and example driver code. Far more than enough. (Then, I discovered that Donald Becker had just added support for the NIC I was interested in, and I simply used his driver. Thanks, Don!)
  • While releasing them open source under the GPL will permit usage with Linux, 3COM could have also supported the *BSD (and any closed source project) using either a 2-clause Berkeley license or an XFree86/X Consortium license. This is what hardware vendors need to learn.
  • I have a clue. If the GPL does not limit creativity and freedom, why is there more software based on BSD and X out there then GPL'd software?

    It is simple, BSD and X licenses do nothing to restrict the freedom and creativity of users and developers. The GPL simply seeks to amalgamate and destroy competing products as well as entire industries.
  • Rereading this, name one innovative product that could only be released under the GPL. There must be no equivalent in either closed source or other markets.
  • How is this different than Microsoft claiming ownership and dictating how one of their templates is used? Or a program that links with their libraries?

    You'll also note, I never demanded exclusivity. I only asked for a level playing field.
  • Microsoft licenses do not limit creativity and freedom. That's why we cannot ask that.

    As for the GPL giving equal freedom, it would be better phrased as the GPL taking equal freedom from everyone.
  • Creativity is hampered ("destroyed") when one cannot be guarunteed that their work won't be misused (such as stolen for a proprietary product by, say, Microsoft). The GPL provides guaruntees for this, BSDL does not.

    How many different systems have incorporated X? Are you running Linux? Do you have an X with source? The GPL does not prevent code from being "stolen" any more than the BSD/X licenses do.

    The GPL protects my freedom to use my own, and
    other's code, and be assured that I'll have access to fixes and improvements as they are made.

    In other words, you are demanding rights to my hard work.

    Morality has nothing to do with either licensing scheme. Take your religion back to church.

    I keep hearing how various Evilsoft companies are immoral beasts. I just thought I'd point out that at least Evilsoft knows right from wrong.

    The GPL being very good at preventing code forking, as all changes are contributed back for (possible) inclusion in the main tree (for
    example, how many versions of BSD and on a similar note, proprietary X servers are there, vs. how many forks of the Linux kernel? Of KDE? Of gnome? Of gcc (there was egcs, but the two merged again despite some severe personality conflicts)?

    So the BSD/X licenses spurn choice? Whereas the GPL only leaves you with one choice. I keep hearing how choice is good from the GNU community, let's see it backed up.

  • It is simple, when I use a GPL'd product as my base, I lose my rights to my work. It is wrong for person X to assert any rights to use and distribution of my work. He can do it with his work all he wants, but not mine.
  • Did they include seperate specifications or merely an implementation? If only an implementation, then a freely redistributable clean room reimplementation would not be possible.
  • If I create a database based on Access orr if I use a template or theme to create my website, Microsoft makes no claim to my work.
  • Furthermore, do you recall the recent debacle with the so-called OSF and X?

    Yes, do you recall XFree86 announcing that they would continue to produce a version off the X11R3 sources? The code wasn't made non-free. X11R3 will be free in perpetuity. Nothing can change that.

    Implying that the Linux community does not. An ad Hominim attack, and a complete absurdity to boot.

    I know it is completely absurd, but it contains as much factual background and sanity as any pro-GPL argument.

    Implying that the Linux community does not. An ad Hominim attack, and a complete absurdity to boot.

    So instead (since GIMP was previously mentioned, I'll use it). Since GIMP is GPL'd, what are the odds of a competing free software image editor appearing? Since the GPL prevents code forks (how this works is beyond me, I've yet to see proof, past examples are invalid and not an indicator of future performance, a lot of past examples are bogus anyway since they have forked), nobody is likely to fork GIMP and create SuperFoo PixTool which is also open source but meets the needs of a different group of users.
  • But then again, I do not need to carry the gcc binary with me. Access requires me to carry the binary and run time libs. Same with VB. Using a theme requires I carry the theme with me.
  • Since I've been the one arguing about this on here, I must say, I never requested a port. I only asked for a license which permitted the port. I didn't ask for a free ride, just a smoother one.
  • I meant to get to that.

    If I use product X as my base, I loose all rights to my enhancements. Indeed, I may own the copyright in name, but in practice, the community controls the future direction of my work.
  • Those FSF folks are sure evil people, right?

    A standard compiler license.

    That's my point, you've written a program (Access macro+database) using somebody else's code as a base (Microsoft's). Microsoft isn't going to be as generous as the GPL here.

    They ar being more generous. They do not demand access to my database. They do not seek to control how I use my database and how it is distributed.
  • Yes, an example would be Linux. The original code is not GPLd. This example is bad anyway because the GPL prevents the inclusion of BSDL code.
  • by galore ( 6403 ) <ian@nOspaM.labfire.com> on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @01:06AM (#1681558)
    3Com's new drivers _do_ fix problems with some of their newer cards. for the last few weeks i have been wrestling with one of the newer 3c905xx cards, trying to force it to go half-duplex, to no avail. these new drivers work like they are supposed to for the newest nic's -- and GPL'd to boot. i say, way to go 3Com.

  • Did anyone else notice the bit at the end of the license, going on about Gnomovision, Yoyodyne, James Hacker and Ty Coon etc?

    At least I found this very amusing! :-) I mean, 3Com is a big company, and one would assume that someone from their legal department would at least read the license which they are using...

  • Heh.. I got my 3c905B for $40.00.

    Go e-bay!

  • I know what you mean... I felt the same when I downloaded cygwin32 and saw the GPL in the license box in InstallShield. It really feels great to see the GPL in a place where you are used to seeing the usual restrictive licenses.
  • by philg ( 8939 ) on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @12:15AM (#1681562)
    As welcome as this move is (3Com was about to lose me, too, until this), I have to say I will really jump for joy when I see some drivers released for 3Com's PCMCIA NICs. Not that Card Services isn't great, but neither the 3c574 or the 3c589d drivers have worked for me. (Admittedly, the fault may be mine with the 589, but I think the docs refer to the 574 driver as "flaky".)

    Incidentally, any driver guys want to comment on the relative ease of writing Linux NIC/PCMCIA drivers versus Windows drivers? It seems like writing for Linux would be easier, that the interface would be a bit higher-level. I don't know anything, but I'm curious.


  • Most (all?) 3com cards come with a limited lifetime warranty. Just send the card back, and they'll send you another. You have to pay for shipping of course.

  • And of course, if you wanted to develop a driver with a BSD license, being able to read the source for an existing one is an enormous help.

    Take me as an example, I've been working on some IR driver code for Windows NT (yes, I know, yuck). Being able to look at the IR drivers under Linux has made my job considerably easier. I certainly can't just copy the code (it's going into a propriatary product) but I'm glad for the existance of a free driver anyway, even if I can't use it directly (as I could with a BSD licensed module). I'm sure that the original writer of the driver won't mind if I learn the interface off his code, or use an algorithm or two.

    I try to give back to the community too. There's a little OSS code out there that I've written, and there'll be more in the future. Any kind of true OSS is cool.

  • a driver only interfaces to the kernel, and if it's a loadlable module, it only interfaces to some carefully chosen exposed symbols of the kernel. so I can't think of any reason why this would work on one distribution but not another; the RedHat-specific patches in RH's kernel certainly don't change the loadable driver interface. anyway if this is a GPL driver and it's good then it will most likely find its way in the official kernel soon enough.
  • BSD licensing is particularily good when you just want people to use your stuff. I"d use BSD if I was trying to make a protocol popular, to encourage non-free programs to be compatible with it. in nearly all the other cases, it's just a matter of priority: do you want people to be able to make proprietary versions of your code? if so, use BSD, if not use GPL. it's as simple as that. 3Com obviously doesn't want that, if they're using GPL. then again, if they based their driver on an existing one, maybe they didn't have a choice.
  • I hear ye, brother! I'm going to order a new Linux box (my first computer dedicated to Linux, yay me!) in a few hours and now I'm replace my Intel Etherexpress NIC with a card from 3Com.
  • How many different systems have incorporated X? Are you running Linux? Do you have an X with source? The GPL does not prevent code from being "stolen" any more than the BSD/X licenses do.

    The GPL does prevent an entity (I'll use Microsoft as an example, as they have a reputation far and wide for doing such things) from taking my code, embracing and extending it, and using it to deny everyone else access to a particular marketplace. This is IMHO theft, and the GPL does prevent it, at least on paper. You may need lawyers to get (MS) to adhere to the law, but the the BSDL you don't have any recourse, whatsover.

    Furthermore, do you recall the recent debacle with the so-called OSF and X? The BSD license didn't provide any protection for contributing authors, many of whom donated hundreds of hours to what they thought was a free project, only to have the OSF dump the BSD-style X license in favor of a much more restricted, non-free license. Later they backed down due to public pressure, but nothing in the X license required them to. This attempt is perhaps one of the most startling examples of the kind of theft that BSD-style licensing does not provide adequate protection against, and we can all count ourselves extremely fortunate that the OSF bowed to public pressure and backed down.

    In other words, you are demanding rights to my hard work.

    No. I'm allowing you to use MY hard work, at no cost, with a few very reasonable strings attached, such as "share and share alike." Nobody is holding a gun to your head insisting that you use GPLed software.

    I keep hearing how various Evilsoft companies are immoral beasts. I just thought I'd point out that at least Evilsoft knows right from wrong.

    Implying that the Linux community does not. An ad Hominim attack, and a complete absurdity to boot. Perhaps Evilsoft does know the differerence between right and wrong. If so, that makes their conscious choice to do wrong even more unconscionable.

    So the BSD/X licenses spurn choice? Whereas the GPL only leaves you with one choice. I keep hearing how choice is good from the GNU community, let's see it backed up.

    This entire thread is taking on the tone of flamebait. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your passion for your point of view is getting you carried away. With that in mind, how many examples of the GPL leading to a plethora of choices do you need?

    The GPL has done a very good job of allowing choice while maintaining the coherency of projects. Examples of this include (but certainly are not limited to) the various distributions of Linux, various ad-hoc patches and modifications to the kernel and OS utilities (the Linux Router Project, microlinux, and so on), various desktop and window managers (gnome, KDE, and so on). The beauty of it is, anyone can take pieces from any of those products and combine them to make a completely new product, creating yet more choice. The GPL assures everyone of that right, while preventing the kind of splintering that threatened to destroy UNIX not so long ago.

    Splintering of projects is not necessarilly the same as offering choice. Indeed, as the history of UNIX has shown, it can have the opposite effect, locking a business (or individual) into one vendor for hardware, OS, and software alike.

    Software licenses aren't about religion, they are about achieving one's goals and protecting one's rights. The GPL allows many of us to achieve our goals and provides us with protections we feel are important. It has proven itself with many successful projects and continues to prove itself. That the BSDL does the same for you is great. Just don't expect the rest of us to buy in to your personal vision.

  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @01:32AM (#1681570)
    "I am opposed to all usage of the BSD License because it destroys creativity and personal freedom (and is slightly more immoral than say, a Microsoft License, Microsoft would never try to claim ownership rights of my work). But it is simpler to fight the BSD License one instance at a time."

    It can be argued that:

    * Creativity is hampered ("destroyed") when one cannot be guarunteed that their work won't be misused (such as stolen for a proprietary product by, say, Microsoft). The GPL provides guaruntees for this, BSDL does not.
    * Personal freedom is completely eliminated when code is taken into a prorpeitary project, "embraced and extended" and never given back. You are no longer free to touch your own (modified) code, and have no legal recourse! The GPL protects my freedom to use my own, and other's code, and be assured that I'll have access to fixes and improvements as they are made.
    * Morality has nothing to do with either licensing scheme. Take your religion back to church.
    * This is an old philisophical debate. Your sour grapes because the GPL is proving (in the Free World of Free Software) to be more popular (some would say successful, but I disagree as both licenses serve their specific purposes well) than the BSDL is hardly constructive. Reasons for the GPLs success probably include

    - The GPL being very good at preventing code forking, as all changes are contributed back for (possible) inclusion in the main tree (for example, how many versions of BSD and on a similar note, proprietary X servers are there, vs. how many forks of the Linux kernel? Of KDE? Of gnome? Of gcc (there was egcs, but the two merged again despite some severe personality conflicts)?
    - Developers can be assured that their hard work will remain available for others to freely use and improve (as long as those others don't try to horde their changes or steal one's work altogether). Protection against theft from Joe Shmoe as well as Microsoft or Sun is very appealing to many, myself included. Did it occur to you that this very protection may be why a commercial enterprise such as 3com chose the GPL over BSDL?
    - The continuity of the project is supported and to a degree assured by the GPL, for reasons above, which makes using the product in a commercial as well as private setting much more appealing than, say, a propreitary product. BSDL is good for this as well, but GPL offers more assurances in this respect and is IMHO better.

    BSD is better if you don't mind the possibility of your code or project being used by Sun, Microsoft, and others for their own proprietary projects. Nothing wrong with this, if this is your intent, but those of us who use the GLP do not want this, and our license has and continues to serve us very well. Presumably the BSDL serves you well. Fine. But do not presume to think you are qualified to tell the rest of us how we should license the code we write.

    As for your comment about Microsoft not claiming rights to your work, you may be one of the lucky ones. :-) To read about those less fortunate, might I suggest back issues of The Wallstreet Journal, the New York Times, and numerous other news periodicals?
  • I do not read news. They are usually full of crap. There were some msgs on linux-kernel but nothing really problematic.

    I have used all sorts of vortex descendants for years and I am using them in mission critical equipment now. They have their problems (especially some batches) but they are hardly driver related. These are usually tranciever incompatibilities with some "new and hot" network equipment or unfortunately deffects (3com no longer has its quality of the 3c509 years when out of 10000 boards none gave a single fault for a year).
  • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @11:48PM (#1681572) Homepage
    Lots and lots of hype, but why?
    1. Almost all 3com cards run like a lightning with Donald Becker's drivers.
    2. The driver from first glimpse did not look 64 bit clean to me. There were some really wierd (in Sparc and Alpha context) defines related to IRQ's and stuff. I do not have a spare to try at the moment, but I have some doubts... Like the commented alpha defines in the include file.
    3. The source looks pretty clean, but still I will definitely give a triple read before even trying to use it.
    4. I would much rather prefer 3com to release specs/drivers for their modems then releasing a driver for something that is well supported already.
  • by mrsam ( 12205 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @11:36PM (#1681573) Homepage

    Well, I can finally say that I've seen at all. This is the first instance I can remember of going to download some stuff, and when it comes to the customary "click here to agree to the license agreement" part, I get to see the GPL.

    Well, no, on second thought, I haven't seen at all just yet. I will have seen at all when I see the GPL being presented in the license box for any Microsoft product.

  • Well, of course we point out that they're excluding the non-GPL'd OSes. You appear to think that they've gone part way, so we should just shut up and be happy with it. If that's the case, we should shut up and be happy with the Sun license, because it goes part-way, too. And the same for licenses that are even worse than Sun's. Or is part way only good enough if it lets the Linux community import the code?


  • Do you have some hard evidence of this? NetBSD's driver model, for example, is quite different (and far, far superior to) the one that Linux uses; moving a driver across is not just a matter of a few minor code changes. What changes was he requesting that would make it possible to easily port drivers?

    Also, keep in mind that a lot of people who are fairly good hackers otherwise tend to criticise systems they're not familiar with before finding out the (often good) reasons behind certain design decisions. An experienced FreeBSD hacker I quite respect was convinced that some of the things NetBSD was doing in terms of driver interface were a waste of time, until he had a closer look at them and eventually came around. Given that Linux has basically no orientation toward multiple-architecture device independence, I would not be surprised if many Linux developers don't understand why we would do things a certain way in NetBSD.

    Anyway, if you want to point out the specific things you or DB think should be changed in NetBSD, I'm happy to look at getting them implemented, or I'll give you a good technical argument why they shouldn't be. That should put an end to accusations of ego being the problem, at any rate.


  • A company certainly does have the right to chose which OSes they want to support and which they don't. What makes you believe that 3Com specifically decided to deny the use of their code to the BSD crowd, though? Often I find that companies and individuals chosing the GPL their code do so without the knowledge that they are cutting off part of the free software crowd by doing so.


  • Maybe they don't want Microsoft being able to steal the source code for their drivers. Maybe they want to ensure that all enhancements done to the drivers stay in the community. Maybe Linux and the GPL have so much hype that they decided this was the best move to make.
  • Some people prefer BSD, others prefer GPL, others still may prefer QPL, NPL. 3com went with GPL, that was their choice. It's pointless to argue over which license is the best, they all have their good and bad points and all of the arguements have been made a million times already. If product X is released under license Y and you don't like it, write your own version under license Z.
  • The 3c574-TX used to be bursty for me on my stock Mandrake 6.0 system. However an upgrade to pcmcia-cs-3.0.13 and I haven't seen any troubles since. My current kernel is 2.2.10

    The reason I got a 3com card in the first place was because the PCMCIA pages [stanford.edu] mentioned that 3Com was one of the vendors that assisted "in the development of the Linux PCMCIA driver package by contributing hardware and/or technical documentation". They didn't know it at the time, but that won them a customer.

  • Well, the "redhat only" in this case obviously only applies to the binary modules and patch (since the RH kernel is patched per default they might not apply cleanly to other drivers). However often when a company says "only for XXX" it means that they used that distribution to test their program and don't _guarantee_ that it works on another distribution. For example Acrobat Reader was for "Caldera Linux" (don't know if it still is) even though it worked on other Linux distributions.

    Basically, even though Linux is Linux, distributions differ. It is not always easy to develop generic Linux stuff that works on them all.

  • I've had my share or problems with those drivers, as has many others. However this is with new cards, ie 3c905C etc. The benefit of 3Com releasing drivers are of course that new cards will be supported faster. Their driver supports the 3C980 series for example - something Don's doesn't. They do acknowledge Don however and also have no intention, as far as I can tell, to support older cards like 3c509.
  • So don't use a GPL'd product as your base.
    Look at the code, see how it works, then develop something new using insights gained from looking at open source. I thought that was the whole point of it all. You can *see* the source, and because the original author wants the software to be *free* (as in non-proprietary) then it will stay that what no matter who picks up the product for maintenance after he is done working on it. His work isn't wasted feeding the greed of another individual. If you want to make $$$ off something like that, go start from scratch and code a competing product. Although I'd advise coming up with features that make your particular product worth the money people would spend on it.

    What 3Com is doing with their drivers is ensuring that no third party vendor will take their drivers and make a commercial version that has "new features" and "enhancements" and end up giving 3Com tech support grief, etc. I believe its the only way if you want to do an open-source release and still prevent that kind of thing...?
  • IMHO Enlightenment [enlightenment.org] is a fairly innovative product that I have not seen a full featured alternative in any shape or form. Their dedication to wiping the slate clean and rewriting their code for efficiency is amazing.

    But your argument does not shed any light on your theory that GPL stifles creativity. You're beginning to sound like Microsoft claiming that the DoJ is "restricting their freedom to innovate" by putting them on trial for monopoly-like business practices.

    I personally don't see how any particular license could stifle creativity and I'll point to commercial games as an example.

    /me goes back to playing Final Fantasy VIII and twiddling with E.
  • Agreed. I've been using Becker's 3c59x driver for a while now, no problems at all. Used the 3c509 before that.

    It does show that they have their heads in the right place, though...
  • 3com's pricing stopped me from buying one of their cards. Yes, their support is very good, but if the NIC I got breaks (which it hasn't yet), I can get another one and still be paying less than 1 3com card.

    Regardless, it's wonderful to see 3com doing this. Given how much corporate types LOVE 3com NICs, this should be helpful in getting Linux in more companies.
  • Well,

    PCT's winmodem (PCI bus) has been released for Linux too. At least OEM's can get them for now!

    So, there is no end to winmodems unless you mean that now it is winmodem/linuxmodem
  • The driver you can download is from 3COM. The one that is supplied with RedHat now is the one which Donald Becker wrote. My question is this. Do I have to add this driver when the 3C905B I have is already working with the 590x driver? My theory is if it ain't broke don't fix it. The only difference between the 905 and the 905B was only supposed to be WOL (wake-on-lan for the acronym challenged). Why would I have to update why system to use these 3COM drivers if it is working fine now? Hummm.
  • by rde ( 17364 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @11:30PM (#1681589)
    3com may not know it, but they've just stopped me from buying someone else's network card. I need a new one, and given the problems I've had with my old 3com I'd more or less decided on something else. Not any more.
    I don't think I'll be the only one, either.
  • This little bit from the end of the license amused a bit:

    Copyright (C) 19yy [name of author].

    The license is only good for a couple more months! ;-)
  • If it is open source why then you can modify the code, or someone else probably will for BSD. That is the whole beauty of open source, they don't have to release versions for everything, someone else will take care of it. The main reason why they probably don't release it for BSD is that they don't want to have to support it. If the code is out there and there is a will to use it on another system, someone will modify it.
  • At one point, i heard about a company doing just that. They had two teams of developers, a "dirty" team that looked at the sources and a "clean" team that had never seen them. Lawyers watched all interactions between the two to make sure the clean team didn't get dirty.

    i would think you could get the dirty team to look through the source, write up specs from it, and give those to the clean team to build the clean drivers. Of course, IANAL.


  • I think it's great that Nvidia is releasing open source drivers, and I see it as a long term advantage. That's one of the reasons I bought a TNT2 instead of a Voodoo3.

    That said, there's certainly no guarantee that the TNT2 is ever going to perform better than the Voodoo3 with Mesa. If 3dfx throws more resources at their drivers, they'll probably end up being faster (even if the hardware is somewhat slower).
  • 3com may not know it, but they've just stopped me from buying someone else's network card.
    Write, call, tell them somehow! And anyone else in the same position. Seriously, if people do this, 3Com will continue with the same strategy. Other companies might well find out about it as well, and do the same. But if people don't give positive feedback for a decision like this, well, who knows?
  • by absolut ( 20884 ) on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @12:42AM (#1681595) Homepage
    Note that 3com is releasing drivers that support more cards than the current ones released by Becker.
  • Actually, the source is included and in the source there are directions on how to compile the module for you kernel version. I currently have the driver in place on 3 debian (potato) boxes running 2.2.12 and 1 stormix box with 2.2.12 as well. Next is to put it on our turbo linux 3.6 and suse 6.2 boxes.
  • Generally when your talking about drivers, the source code is almost as good as the specs itself. As the source will generally include nearly all the protocols for properly interfacing with the hardware. It just has to be figured out.
  • by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <mindstalkerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @02:08AM (#1681598) Journal
    This is for all the people yelling about it only being for RedHat, and not being BSD'd
    It was released as GPL!!!! meaning they included the the specs. OTHER people can go back now and FIX the drivers, or create new ones using the specs. As long as the new drivers are GPL!!! This is a good thing. The community would be happy with just the specs. But they went one step farther and released and implimentation of those specs, helping out the community farther. So stop bitching everyone. And those specs can also be used in a cleanroom environment to create a BSD licensed version. So everyone can relax and be happy.
  • Why should 3COM be willing to write something, and then let a closed-source project use it?

    If they use the GPL, then they can see who uses their code (assuming the other companies aren't violating the license.) and if anyone writes something based on their code, it'll go back to the user community, who will think good things about 3COM instead of perhaps being used in a competitor's closed-source project.
  • Hey guys, these drivers are provided as source code (and GPLed oh dear !). It shouldn't bee too hard to have them work with vanilla Linux kernel (to which I think general purpose distro suppliers should stick - don't you think so ?).

    Will they eventually get their to the core linux kernel ?

    Have a nice day
  • by watanabe ( 27967 ) on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @12:42AM (#1681602)
    Why not mail 3com's linux drivers address, and thank them for all their hard work?

    Here, I'll make it easy for you all. linux_drivers@3com.com [mailto].. I've already sent them mail thanking them for releasing the source under the GPL, and affirmed that they'll be part of my next purchasing list because of it.

    This sort of positive advocacy is what Open Source really lacks; so, come on, click through and mail!

  • by Jburkholder ( 28127 ) on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @01:00AM (#1681603)
    Yes it makes sense to me.

    Others have already noted that the drivers appear to be distribution neutral with some redhat-specific patches. The patches appear to be targeted at kernel versions specific to 6.0 and 5.2.

    I would suspect that this is more about publicity than trying to lock anyone into a RedHat distribution. When the headline shows up on the technology news ticker at yahoo it will say "3Com supports RedHat Linux" rather than "3Com released distribution-neutral, GPLed network card driver sources for Linux - with RedHat-specific patches".

    So, it seems to me that they did the right thing (released driver source under the GPL) and tried to put an investor-friendly announcement out there to maximize the stock value. I'm sorry if I don't see all that much wrong here.
  • by mircea ( 28953 ) on Tuesday September 14, 1999 @11:38PM (#1681606)
    I just downloaded the package, and gave it a quick look. The only thing I see RH-specific is the patches (for those who want to build the driver into the kernel, statically); they're for kernels 2.2.5 and 2.0.36 only. If you build it as a module, it should run on any distribution, including my beloved Slack :)

    The installation instructions seem pretty good, too.

  • It sure does make 3com sound a little clueless about Linux distributions; probably 3com's programmers weren't given anything to work with other than RedHat (it sure does help being an IPO darling, don't it?).

    My question is "how did they come up with the drivers for Linux?" Did they just tweak Becker's drivers (pardon me if it was someone else), or write them from scratch, or port them from Unices, or what?

    BSD point: to those complaining about not directly supporting BSD -- hint, you have source code now (well, you had it before, but now you have it from the horse's programmers). The open-sourcing of drivers, etc. for Linux at least indirectly benefits BSD (or is this wrong? This is what seems to me to be the case, since I don't know enough of the technical details of the Linux vs. BSD kernels).

    Oh, and it doesn't hurt that this hurts MS a bit too =)

  • by FauxPasIII ( 75900 ) on Wednesday September 15, 1999 @12:10AM (#1681632)
    Sure, they worked well, but for some it's a political choice. As of right now, for instance, my nVidia Riva TNT2 Ultra isn't quite as fast for 3D as the 3Dfx Voodoo Banshee card I had before. (This is expected to change dramatically with XFree 4.0's DRI, but that's neither here nor there). However, nVidia has done the "Right Thing", releasing programming specs and driver source code, whereas 3Dfx staunchly refuses to give up their precious source, and releases binary-only drivers. This makes nVidia more valuable to me, both for supporting the OSS movement and because I know that even if nVidia ceases to exist tomorrow, it is possible for support for my card to evolve and improve through community effort. Well, if 3Com has done the "Right Thing", then it's worthwhile to support them, it would be worthwhile even if the drivers WEREN'T already of the high quality that they are, because they are showing that they care to expand their customers' freedom of choice.
  • A lot of folks are complaining that the 3Com drivers are labeled RedHat, and while I am a strong advocate of developing for Linux and not for a single distribution, I don't think 3Com is choosing to advocate one distribution. It would appear that the modules will work with multiple distributions, while the kernel patch will not. This is probably fine, as the modules should be much more widely used.

    I suspect 3Com developed on Redhat and didn't have the resources to test on a bunch of distributions, so they chose not to make claims they cannot support.

    Instead of indicating malevolence on 3Com's part, I think this is a harbinger of problems we will soon encounter, namely: can we really lobby for hardware vendors to not only support Linux, but also to ensure compatibly across distributions? Doing so in an honest manner requires testing on a number of distributions, which can increase the amount of effort to develop these drivers beyond what may be considered an acceptable threshold.

    Instead of coming down on 3Com, we should be reminding the RedHat, Debian, etc. that they need to create distributions that are universally Linux compatible. This may be a concept antithetical to their business instincts, but it is necessary to maintain the support and loyalty of the Linux community.
  • Does anyone know what the performance of the 3Com driver is compared with Donald Becker's driver? I've got a lot of 3Com 3C905B cards (supported by both drivers), and I'm wondering if it'd be worth sticking with Donald's driver, or moving to the 3Com one.

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.