[CLUG-chat] linux wifi hardware

A.J. Venter aj at getopenlab.com
Mon May 22 12:01:41 SAST 2006

> Well, I'm not sure about "huge amounts" - the madwifi drivers still need
> a binary blob to work (the Atheros HAL) and certainly aren't open by any
> stretch of the imagination. The only open source driver that supports
> Atheros based cards is the OpenBSD ath(4) driver, which doesn't need the
> blob.
> Like Colin, when I was still trying to use my D-Link Atheros-based card
> (DWL-650 I think - don't have it with me right now) with madwifi, I had
> nothing but trouble, including kernel panics.

I think there is a measure of misunderstanding here. I am NOT talking about 
the madwifi drivers - I am specifically talking about the madwifi-ng drivers.
Not entirely the same thing:
And while like everyone else I prefer 100% open drivers, I also realize that 
companies sometimes CANNOT do this. 
NVidia has taken huge flack for their closed linux drivers but the truth is 
that they have no choice in the matter. If you want to blame somebody - blame 
the company they outsourced the hardware communications layer to. Said 
company licensed the code back to them (and this was several years ago).
NVidia cannot make their driver free because most of that driver they do not 
own the copyright to - and the company behind the scenes are happy to not do 
anything because all the flack is going to their customer !

So back on topic, it's a pity Atheros did not open up the binary part but on 
the other hand they did go to great lengths to make sure the driver-wrapper 
for linux does work well (and these days it works wonderfully - your 
experiences with pre-ng versions are not a good measurement). Considdering 
that Atheros is in a similar boat to Nvidia - both companies have done what 
they can.
I may be greatly saddened by the negative impact of these companies' past 
mistakes but they were mistakes made by the legal teams who negotiated 
outsourcing contracts - I won't blame some incredibly dedicated and smart 
engineers for dumb corporate lawyers.


"80% Of a hardware engineer's job is application of the uncertainty principle.
80% of a software engineer's job is pretending this isn't so."
A.J. Venter
Chief Software Architect
OpenLab International
http://www.getopenlab.com       | +27 82 726 5103 (South Africa)
http://www.silentcoder.co.za    | +55 118 162 2079 (Brazil)

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