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Thread: Broadcom Announces Open-Source 802.11n Driver!

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaaantoine View Post
    Are we suure that Broadcom is including the firmware in their driver?
    Depends entirely on how they've organized their cards architecture wise. If they load firmware into their cards on boot, it's a bit tricky as I believe it's a legal nightmare to archive. You see, the FCC don't like people being able to freely control a radio device (it has something to do with the fact that most frequencies are commercial or military etc. and also regulations regarding power). Now the FCC has in-fact said that open source in itself isn't the problem, but it still have to be certified somehow, and a part of that is showing it's not trivial to tamper with the firmware or in any other way having unauthorized changes to the frequency, power or similar parameters making the card illegal (i.e. transmitting to much power and/or at an frequency you aren't allow to transmit on).

    Now the really easy way to avoid this is to have to firmware always loaded into the card, i.e. no need to load any firmware on boot. Also I would guess physically locking the card to the specific frequency band and power-levels allowed by the FCC and similar organizations, would be sufficient, but I am by no means any expert on this, so it's mostly speculations on my part.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AHSauge View Post
    Depends entirely on how they've organized their cards architecture wise. If they load firmware into their cards on boot, it's a bit tricky as I believe it's a legal nightmare to archive. You see, the FCC don't like people being able to freely control a radio device (it has something to do with the fact that most frequencies are commercial or military etc. and also regulations regarding power). Now the FCC has in-fact said that open source in itself isn't the problem, but it still have to be certified somehow, and a part of that is showing it's not trivial to tamper with the firmware or in any other way having unauthorized changes to the frequency, power or similar parameters making the card illegal (i.e. transmitting to much power and/or at an frequency you aren't allow to transmit on).

    Now the really easy way to avoid this is to have to firmware always loaded into the card, i.e. no need to load any firmware on boot. Also I would guess physically locking the card to the specific frequency band and power-levels allowed by the FCC and similar organizations, would be sufficient, but I am by no means any expert on this, so it's mostly speculations on my part.
    It would indeed be better that way from a driver developer's point of view as they would not have to write code to load and initialize the firmware. All that the driver should do ideally is pass initialization parameters to the card to set it up.

  3. #13
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    Another company acknowledges the relevance of Linux. I don't care that they're ridiculously late to the game; the mere fact that they're doing this just adds fuel to the open source movement.

    Today has been a good day.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeepDayze View Post
    It would indeed be better that way from a driver developer's point of view as they would not have to write code to load and initialize the firmware. All that the driver should do ideally is pass initialization parameters to the card to set it up.
    Absolutely! Unfortunately there seems to be few companies doing it that way, creating a bit of a legal hassle in terms of distributing open source firmware for WLAN-chipsets. I know Atheros seems to be doing it (always having firmware on the card), and Intersil did it for the Prism-chipsets, but that division was sold to Conexant. Other than that, I don't know of anyone else. I know for sure Intel isn't, they even site the FCC as for why the don't have open source firmware, and Broadcom definitely didn't do it in the older BCM43xx-chips. Also there seems to be some chipsets from Texas Instruments that require firmware on boot. What the rest does, I don't know.

  5. #15
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    It doesn't matter if it requires firmware or not... just that the firmware is licensed in a way that allows it to be freely distributed.

  6. #16
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    Just about every card with a "smart" dma engine requires firmware as the dma engine is basically a little on-board cpu that provides the driver API. Depending on the chip it may be loaded by the driver or burned into rom. Just about every wireless card uses firmware and lots of others thing do as well.

  7. #17
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    Call me a cynic, but... Is someone about to attempt to launch a linux laptop and leant on Broadcom?

    From a commercial perspective, you have to justify changing a seemingly successful formula for Broadcom so far. Not providing FOSS drivers doesn't seem to have hurt their sales that much given the number of Dell and HP systems using them.

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobbieAB View Post
    Call me a cynic, but... Is someone about to attempt to launch a linux laptop and leant on Broadcom?

    From a commercial perspective, you have to justify changing a seemingly successful formula for Broadcom so far. Not providing FOSS drivers doesn't seem to have hurt their sales that much given the number of Dell and HP systems using them.
    Apparently the posters on the LWN.net page disagree

    Late or not, and whatever the behind-the-scene reasons, I am glad Broadcom took the decision.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by droidhacker View Post
    It doesn't matter if it requires firmware or not... just that the firmware is licensed in a way that allows it to be freely distributed.
    Allow redistribution unmodified and not tampered with that is. That should keep the FCC happy.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeepDayze View Post
    Allow redistribution unmodified and not tampered with that is. That should keep the FCC happy.
    The FCC can suck it. They can only complain if someone actually uses devices in a "bad way", but come the hell on, this is 2010, radio interference being an issue was long put to rest by the use of digital signals so that even overlapping broadcasts are easily discernible. The FCC needs to dismantle all of those rules. I think the real reason they haven't done is because a) governments hate shrinking and b) the wireless companies want to keep the general public less capable so they can provide those services instead after being given an FCC stamp of approval, and c) the government and corporations all want you listening to only "mainstream media" so they can control you, not amateur independent sources. The time to free the airwaves is long, long overdue. Pirate radio ho, mateies!

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