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Harald Welte Calls Out Netgear's Open Source Sham

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the they're-workin'-on-it dept.

GNU is Not Unix 199

Simon80 writes "Harald Welte, known for his involvement in various open source communities, has pointed out the shortcomings of Netgear's open source router hype. Netgear's own astroturfed community site reveals that the router requires the use of binary-only kernel modules for the wireless and ethernet hardware, which is supplied by Broadcom. Also worth noting are the missing features in third-party firmware versions supplied by Netgear."

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Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (0, Redundant)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684123)

I use Buffalo router with dd-wrt.
Solid for two years now!
Share connection with my neighbor, hee hee.

Re:Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (1)

ezelkow1 (693205) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684303)

Just a question for ya. I have a 54gs buffalo at home, was wondering if you used the same or similar. Ive thought about moving to ddwrt or tomato but was never sure if it was worth it so I wanted to see if you had more detail on your experiences with it.

Re:Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684505)

I am a chicken, so it took a while for me to do it. Yes, I have the 54 series.

Heres my experience. I use DSL and share it with my neighbor. Then to be cheap I got Vonage. Then I wanted to give audio priority so I tried tomato on both identical buffalo routers. Talking to others, they said dd-wrt gives more prioritizing options so I put dd-wrt on both of them in a sharing mode (I cant remember the exact name).

I enjoyed messing with options in dd-wrt and looking at the graphs, but never got the audio/vonage improved, so I ditched vonage. If you are considering Vonage I have a quote, "Men like VoIP, but Women don't" It cost me $150 to get out from under Vondage, but back to the phone company for me... (or cell).

I have had no problems with dd-wrt, I even upgraded it easily. Just don't turn off the power during the first install and there is no future chance of bricking it. I would do it again in a heartbeat and if I were buying a router again, I would get the same identical model...

Re:Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684819)

(I cant remember the exact name)

Repeater mode, probably?

Re:Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684731)

You mean specifically the WHR-G54S model?

I have that unit. EXTREMELY well supported by DD-WRT, and an excellent performer with DD-WRT.

I cannot speak as to how much better DD-WRT is than the stock firmware - I bought the Buffalo specifically because of good DD-WRT support and my first task upon unboxing was to flash it, so I have zero experience with stock firmware.

The WHR-G54S + DD-WRT + a 500 mW amp + 15 dBi sector antenna will outperform 75%+ of 802.11n routers at almost any range. (Anywhere beyond 20 foot range and the Buffalo outperforms my 5 GHz N unit, although the N unit has internal antennas, but the majority of 5 GHz N units do.)

Re:Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (1)

Killer Orca (1373645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684977)

The WHR-G54S + DD-WRT + a 500 mW amp + 15 dBi sector antenna will outperform 75%+ of 802.11n routers at almost any range.

Out of Curiosity you wouldn't happen to have a link to where to buy those parts and also instruct/inform if there are compatible parts for the Linksys WRT54G series of routers?

Re:Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (1)

Akatosh (80189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686041)

I've always been fond of HyperLink [hyperlinktech.com] stuff. I'm not affiliated with them. Linksys uses standard connectors, so any 2.4ghz antenna or amp with the correct connector will work ('N' type last I checked, been a while). Easy enough to google up pictures of different antenna connectors so you get the right one.

Re:Sounds like a bunch of buffalo (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685187)

After dealing with the flimsy crash prone ISP provided DSL modem/router I trashed it three years ago and setup a m0n0wall router in about 10 minutes using old spare PC parts. I have never looked back and highly recommend it. Sure if you use a standard PC your going to use quite a bit more power but I switched mine to a cheap $150 Atom setup with a dual LAN card in the PCI slot. Works like a charm. I even have my old Linksys WAP connected to the third port and isolated from my LAN, except for SSH.

Re: dd-wrt (ab)uses the binary blobs too, you know (4, Informative)

xiando (770382) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685883)

The very same Broadcom blobs are included in dd-wrt. It must also be noted that dd-wrt is supposedly GPL software, yet the evidence in SVN clearly shows that a large portion of the code is Copyright evil corporations such as Intel and Microsoft and that these corporations have NOT given permission to use the code under the GPL. It is in many cases not even clear if they give permission to distribute the code at all.

No usable encryption (5, Informative)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684149)

One of the open firmware shortcomings is "WPA and WPA2 are not working." That is a pretty big shortcoming.

Re:No usable encryption (5, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684247)

One of the open firmware shortcomings is "WPA and WPA2 are not working." That is a pretty big shortcoming.

Or as in this case, one of the open firmware shortcomings: not being open. Epic fail Netgear, epic fucking fail.

Re:No usable encryption (3, Interesting)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685311)

The funny part is that they tried astroturfing about open software, and have provided a very poor product to exactly the people that would notice. The general public wouldn't care about the quality of a router (and usually not even the features). The general public really doesn't care if a router is open (although the attitude is changing a bit). They targeted these deceptions toward exactly the audience that would find out about them. This sounds like some very poorly informed marketing people thought they could get away with it.

Re:No usable encryption (4, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684741)

No WPA(2) sounds very open to me.

Shortcomings from the site: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684183)

Shortcomings:
-------
* WPA and WPA2 are not working.

Well, yeah, that's a _minor_ one. Sigh.

I just ripped a broadcom out of a Dell Mini 9, bashed it with a hammer, and put in an Atheros. Maybe that is possible with this router?

Re:Shortcomings from the site: (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685457)

only minor. i'm one of those people who leaves their network open on purpose, i suspect a lot of people who care about open source routers will do the same.

besides, anyone who relies solely on these types of encryption to secure their networks shouldn't be running a network at all.

you'd need a pretty good antenna to get a signal off my AP from the road but i'd be a hypocrite to not leave it open. besides giving away the last bit of plausible denyability we have to stop a few losers getting another hit off Facebook or some other stupid shite hardly seems worth it

Still no n for me (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684229)

I guess I will chugging along on wrt54gl with Tomato.

Re:Still no n for me (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684861)

Me too. Rock solid for *lost count* years.

But I'd like to find a replacement already. E.g. Gigabit switch would be nice. But browsing through list of DD-Wrt compatible devices can't find a single also with functioning USB *and* available in Europe.

Re:Still no n for me (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685257)

That would be nice. I ended up just liking the router to a gigabit switch. I don't have any devices with n wireless at the moment, so overall it's not really an issue.

Current uptime, 192 days.

Alix board and pfSence (1)

mrops (927562) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685013)

I moved to alix 2d3 with pfSense.
http://www.pcengines.ch/alix2d3.htm [pcengines.ch] and http://www.pfsense.com/ [pfsense.com]

The thing can run circles around a wrt54g without sweating.

Yah 54g is great, I used it for a long long time, however 3 boxes I had always had some kind of issues with 3rd party firmwares dd-wrt, openwrt even tomato. From hanging to dropping WAN on DSL, I stayed frustrated. In due time, I figured my frustration had nothing to do with me living in my mom's basement.

pfSense + alix has been rock solid.

The best part about my alix board based router... its fully supported by lots of opensource initiatives (monowall, pfsense, zeroshell etc) and come time for N, I just replace the minipci card on it.

Re:Alix board and pfSence (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685149)

And if you want to save a bit of money, you can pick up the older WRAP boards quite cheaply now. I have one and it runs a stock OpenBSD install on a 512MB compact flash card. Everything works nicely, although I did compile a custom kernel to remove everything that's not needed. The ALIX seems to only have one miniPCI slot, which is a shame. The WRAP had two, so you could plug in an 802.11 card and a crypto coprocessor for offloading VPN calculations.

DD-WRT/OpenWRT is better anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684255)

I don't know many people who would care a lot about with what software a router comes. Anyone with basic knowledge about routers will put DD-WRT or OpenWRT on it anyway.

Re:DD-WRT/OpenWRT is better anyway (1)

herojig (1625143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684875)

Really? I thought there was a short list of routers that are open enough to run DD/Open-WRT. The last time I checked, none of routers were compatible. Would be nice however.

Re:DD-WRT/OpenWRT is better anyway (1)

Rotten (8785) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685307)

I think the openwrt wiki is a bit outdated...at least i own a unsupported/wip router running openwrt without problems. Unpacked, flashed, worked.

Old Argument (0, Troll)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684279)

This sounds like the same argument that's been going around within the Linux kernel comunity about the "Open-Sourceness" of all these drivers which use binary-blobs - in partuclar, a lot of wireless Ethernet drivers, and stuff like NDISwrapper. It's idealistic to want all software to be open - but for companies which pour a lot of intellectual property into their drivers and firmware, I find it understandable that they wouldn't want their work made available to competitors' products. If they're not using any open-source in their binaries themselves, it's no violation. My opinion is this - if you don't like it, don't use it.

Re:Old Argument (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684311)

*looks at his brand New Atheros 9k powered wifi card which requires no firmware.*

Yes, I have no plans to utilize any cards requiring a blob again. The bar has been raised.

Re:Old Argument (4, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684343)

Some problems:

1. They are proclaiming it to be open source, which is deceptive. It's "open source" except where it matters (device drivers/modules) from a maintainability perspective.

2. Their employees are astroturfing

3. Releasing open source drivers does not in any way reveal your chip mask and hardware architecture. Atheros' real competitors have access to electron microscopes and everything else it takes to buy a router off the shelf and copy chips exactly; simply keeping the drivers closed is not going to deter, say, realtek or broadcom in the slightest.

Besides, Buffalo is supporting open source through action (money) not just in press releases - beating Netgear to the punch by a couple of years. Netgear is just playing the "me too! Signed, metoo@aol.com" game.

Re:Old Argument (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684377)

Some problems:

1. They are proclaiming it to be open source, which is deceptive. It's "open source" except where it matters (device drivers/modules) from a maintainability perspective.

>

I'm seeing that more and more in marketing hype. "look we are opensource" but when you get there, its a scam. OSS must be teh buzzword of the year.

Re:Old Argument (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684903)

1. They are proclaiming it to be open source, which is deceptive. It's "open source" except where it matters (device drivers/modules) from a maintainability perspective.

Your statement is in fact deceptive and skewed. You are buying hardware with a lot of proprietary technology in it. I'm sure there are at least a hundred different proprietary components in the device. The device is not open source, it does however, run some open source software. It does not run OSS exclusively.

Their employees are astroturfing

No shit? There is no business anywhere on the planet that doesn't do this in one form of or another. Not that they aren't being deceptive bastards, but come on, if you don't expect this sort of thing on the companies own website, you're an idiot and deserve to get ripped off. You expect them to point out all the flaws of their products for you, tell you everything wrong with themselves? Do you do that when dating?

Releasing open source drivers does not in any way reveal your chip mask and hardware architecture. Atheros' real competitors have access to electron microscopes and everything else it takes to buy a router off the shelf and copy chips exactly; simply keeping the drivers closed is not going to deter, say, realtek or broadcom in the slightest.

Most of these things use rather common hardware from other vendors anyway, netgear doesn't really care if you sneak a peak at the broadcom chip or see the die of the ARM processor. The do care a little bit more about some custom tweaks they've found to make it all work together a little better than someone else. Its funny that you accept all of the rest of the device being massively proprietary, yet demand all of the source to the software.

That seems rather silly to me. I guess you don't care because you couldn't do anything yourself with the hardware designs? Otherwise pretty much every argument you have for why it should be open source is the exact same for the hardware.

Re:Old Argument (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684955)

> It does not run OSS exclusively.

Well then that's kind of the heart of the matter.

Exactly what kind of sales pitch are they trying to use?

Re:Old Argument (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685077)

Your statement is in fact deceptive and skewed. You are buying hardware with a lot of proprietary technology in it. I'm sure there are at least a hundred different proprietary components in the device. The device is not open source, it does however, run some open source software. It does not run OSS exclusively.

Netgear's site claims:

Open-source Wireless-N router with Gigabit wired ports for Linux developers and open-source enthusiasts.

Now we can quibble over the definition of an Open-source router, but I'd say that this device is open source in the same way that Hershey bars are nutritious.

Re:Old Argument (1)

Artraze (600366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685303)

> They are proclaiming it to be open source, which is deceptive. It's "open source" except
> where it matters (device drivers/modules) from a maintainability perspective.

Open source drivers do not add much maintainability on an embedded system such as this. What does the openness get you other then, perhaps, the ability to correct for incompatible changes in the kernel? It's not like the hardware is going to get swapped out or updated, and realistically there isn't likely a whole lot of new functionality to unlock as network drivers are, at this point, quite mature.

Sure, it would have been nice for them to be open, but this is a decent start to getting open source, (legitimately) hackable devices. This concept of all or nothing with regards to openness of source is a losing strategy. Honestly, (it's sad to say) we should really be glad whenever someone makes a device that doesn't cryptographically sign all their firmwares.

P.S. The reason for keeping drivers closed isn't about revealing inner workings of your chip. With devices established as they are, it tends to be _far_ more work to reverse engineer someone else's new features and try to work them into your (sometimes drastically) different chip than it is to just do a clean room implementation. The primary reason tends to be preventing Chinese knockoffs by carefully controlling minor defects in the hardware, which are then checked/used by the drivers. Less commonly, you can have cases where the hardware in two models differs only by a pull-up resistor which is checked by the driver to enable certain advanced functionality (e.g. ATI's $100 Radeon vs. $1000 FireGL). So there are reasons beyond simple paranoia...

Re:Old Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685829)

> What does the openness get you other then, perhaps, the ability to correct for incompatible changes in the kernel?

All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what have the Romans done for us?

Re:Old Argument (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686095)

Having open drivers allows you to upgrade the kernel, which as you pointed out might be subject to incompatible changes..
It also allows you to change the kernel, what if someone wanted to put OpenBSD or something else on this device?
A device which is restricted to running a small subset of available linux versions is hardly open...

Also, hardware where the only difference between a $100 card and a $1000 card are the drivers is a total scam... Having bought a piece of hardware, people should have the right to use it for anything they choose, and reprogram it however they see fit to get the most performance out of it (who remembers the C64 and Amiga systems, where creative coding got them doing all kinds of things never intended by commodore)...

If i pay an extra $900 for a high end card, i would expect to receive an item of considerably higher quality, at the very least for very little effort ATI could have included more memory on the board and increased the clockrate (like they do with cpus, they test each cpu and the top few percent get clocked higher)...
If anything, the cheaper card actually cost them more to produce because they went to additional effort to cripple it.

Trying to scam extra money out of people in this way is not good for the buyer, and not a practice anyone would want to support.

Re:Old Argument (1)

Artraze (600366) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686403)

> Having open drivers allows you to upgrade the kernel, which as you pointed out might be subject to incompatible changes..

Well, perhaps I should have clarified:

In an embedded device, the hardware is what it is. Nothing get added, nothing gets removed, and there is only one configuration. Because of this, you don't even need a driver model; you can just hard code everything into whatever layer the driver would plug into. Ergo, whatever incompatible changes may come about in the kernel can simply be hacked out/around to make the drivers work. That is to say, instead of modifying the drivers you can modify the kernel. Not, perhaps, as elegant or easy, but not any huge deal either.

> It also allows you to change the kernel, what if someone wanted to put OpenBSD or something else on this device?

Fair enough, however, a rather minor problem in the grand scheme of things. Anyways, if you're doing all that work porting over BSD, would it really be so much harder to change it's driver model to linux's than change the driver's linux interface to a BSD one? (honest, if retorical, question; I've never hacked BSD)

> Also, hardware where the only difference between a $100 card and a $1000 card are the drivers is a total scam...
> [snip]
> Trying to scam extra money out of people in this way is not good for the buyer, and not a practice anyone would want to support.

Well, this point is actually arguable. First of all, a large part of these workstation cards _is_ the drivers (in so far as what they're optimized for). Second, the large profit from the workstation card supplements the income from the gamer card, thereby allowing the latter to sell for a lower price while the former is sold to people who actually willingly pay the high price (as it helps their productivity). So, maybe it's a little sleazy, but really, it benefits the average consumer.

Re:Old Argument (3, Informative)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685379)

But the Buffalo and Linksys routers that are supported by DD/Hyper/OpenWRT and Tomato, as far as I know, contain Broadcom radios and require the Broadcom binaries.

I'm no expert, but I did make a few modifications to HyperWRT Thibor. After loading up Busybox to do the compile on my Linux box, I found out that the source package included Broadcom binaries to support the radio. Most of my changes were UI-related so I didn't delve too deeply into the actual radio API, but the Broadcom binary was compiled into the eventual package.

Maybe Jon rewrote the driver for the Broadcom radio in Tomato, but (genius that he is) I sincerely doubt that. That's a massive undertaking, and since Broadcom has a stable and well-established binary for their "G" radios, there's little point in trying to rewrite it. Hopefully their binarly (or Netgear's implementation of it, more likely) will improve.

So, by that definition, I'm not sure if you can honestly consider any current consumer-grade router to be "Open Source" (from a purist perspective). The most popular "modder routers" are all Broadcom units, and all require the same binary to access the radio. All of them appear to contain restricted drivers.

Re:Old Argument (3, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686133)

Many of these routers use Atheros chipsets, which do have completely open drivers available...
There are also other chipsets which have fully open drivers available, tho some drivers have proprietary firmware blobs these execute on the device itself and are thus os independent... I have a device running OpenWRT which uses an Atheros chipset....
I tend to avoid anything made by Broadcom...

Interestingly, Broadcom also make wired ethernet cards and have released open drivers for these, my last experience with broadcom wired ethernet (i believe a 100mbit chipset 440 or something) was terrible, it was incompatible with some types of switches (major packetloss and abysmal performance, other brands of nic talked to the switches fine) and it would drop link when you flooded it with traffic.

Re:Old Argument (1)

trigeek (662294) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684347)

I think one of the reasons wireless vendors in particular use blobs is because of the FCC compliance requirements. Can you really release an open-source programmable radio? Does the FCC even allow that? How can the FCC certify that it doesn't interfere with licensed spectrum, if the software can be changed, therefore changing the characteristics of the radio?

Re:Old Argument (5, Insightful)

cream wobbly (1102689) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684401)

The FCC will consider what is submitted for certification, and that is what manufacturers are allowed to sell under the certification. The FCC certification process doesn't control modifications by the end user.

I mean, you could modify a wireless router by stuffing a huge RF amp on the output, and that wouldn't pass FCC certification; but you're just an end user, so they don't care about breaking certification. They'll deal with you when the complaints from others start rolling in.

Re:Old Argument (1)

ba_hiker (590565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685087)

The FCC does care what modifications are performed by end users on licensed devices. these devices are licensed, by the FCC as 'part 15' devices which allow NO modifications of the RADIO by end users (not even extended antennas). they must be used exactly as licensed. modifications of the non-radio portions are not a problem. broadcom and other provide 'blobs', in part, to comply with this. If you modify the radio, by putting on a big transmitter say, if the FCC catches you(big if) you will be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. Based on research i did to repurpose one of these i suspect the following:

broadcom radios and ethernet are weird, and so the drive has no access to the hardware per se, or even to a hardware interface as we expect it. rather the 'blob' represents the executable code for several processors (perhaps 4 or more) on the interface card. it is downloaded to the interface at initialization time. the interface cpus talk to hardware at a very low level/hardware specific manner and timing is important, foul up the timing and you can be transmitting on a different band or with unacceptable distortion. I believe there are several older mips cpus controlling various bits of the radio and directly generating various waveforms needed in the radio. the kernel drivers essentially IPC to one of the cpus on the interface, and it talks to the others, or modifies the control structures they use directly.

even users with special FCC licenses that allow development of devices for other uses under other parts of the FCC regulations (re-purposing 'commercial off the shelf' equipment) can not get the code, i have been told its really a mess and not easily modified, small local changes can changed timings and effect other things. Ubiquity provides better support. Atheros provides some support, and a more reasonable hardware interface.

They won't bust buffalo for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685241)

YOU aren't allowed to make modifications.

If you do and break the regs, you are breaking the law.

They don't put Buffalo in jail for it.

So why would they put you in jail for having the specs to write the driver in such a way as to make it break the spec?

Re:Old Argument (3, Informative)

coolgeek (140561) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684467)

I put dd-wrt on a Linksys box. Not sure about the chipset or the driver's blobular status, but the dd-wrt ui allowed me to increase the power of the transmitter above 1/4 watt, which is not FCC compliant.

Re:Old Argument (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684573)

But that's not their problem.

It's yours. If you cause interference because you modified the firmware to get more than 1/4 wat, and you wind up interfering with licensed spectrum, Linksys isn't going to be on the hook. You are.

There is no law against modifying electronics.

Even if you didn't modify the router, if it was interfering with licensed spectrum, it's your repsonsibility to shut it off.

The responsibility does not lie with the manufacturer. It lies with the operator.

--
BMO

Re:Old Argument (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686193)

Laws governing permissible transmit power and frequencies vary around the world... Most of the official firmwares on these devices can be configured to know your location and will adjust the available options according to local laws... Sometimes the options are hard set in the firmware distributed in each region. They are almost always set in software because that's much cheaper than producing different hardware revisions for each country.

You can break FCC with closed kit now (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684919)

If you're in the US, go to the japanese website, download the HK blob.

Hey presto, your FCC compliany and completely binary-blobbed obfuscated wireless card now breaks the FCC regulations.

And this isn't some third party (Linux developers) doing this: it's the very manufacturers themselves.

Yet for some reason, despite this overt and explicit method of breaking FCC regulations by what the owner of said kit does by the aid and abetment of Broadcom, Broadcom remains free from jail.

Now please explain why this doesn't make your argument a mockery.

Re:You can break FCC with closed kit now (1)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686173)

It's not Craftsman's (or whatever) fault when you break into a building with their crowbar.

It's not Glock's fault when you use one of their guns to shoot someone.

Etc.

Re:You can break FCC with closed kit now (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686283)

Now please explain why this doesn't make your argument a mockery.

Mebbe because *you* are installing drivers for a jurisdiction that may or may not comply with the spectrum regulations where *you* live. You are going out of your way to do so. You also lost credibility when you tried to blame Broadcom for your actions.

Re:Old Argument (3, Insightful)

TheMMaster (527904) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684409)

It's idealistic to want all software to be open - but for companies which pour a lot of intellectual property into their drivers and firmware, I find it understandable that they wouldn't want their work made available to competitors' products.

No, they might not want to show people just how technically bad their products are though. There is no 'intellectual property' in drivers, you cannot copy a chip's design by looking at it's drivers. MANY people in the chip design field have stated this already, in fact it has been mentioned so often by now that I'm surprised you didn't know this.

And even then, you should demand freedom from the companies you buy products of, you need this freedom to protect your rights as a consumer. Finding apologies for and sympathizing with the company that is trying to take away your freedom is much like saying "Yes Bob beat all the teeth out of my mouth, but I understand he had a bad day at work."

And if you feel that the freedom to do as you please with the devices you own is not important to you, then why did you post this? You talk about "Idealogical" and yes it is, partially. But the ideology is not that all software should be free because all software should be free. All software should be free so that writers of software do not have the power to abuse users of the software. Or in this case sell buggy hardware without any way for the consumer to find this out until it is too late.

OR being able to apply security updates
OR being sure that your router doesn't inject advertisements into your webpages
etc. etc. etc.

If they're not using any open-source in their binaries themselves, it's no violation

Yes it is, it says so in the license of the software we're talking about (Linux) This is not open for interpretation.

My opinion is this - if you don't like it, don't use it.

Indeed if Netgear doesn't want to play by the rules of the GPL, then they don't have to use GPL code. But they do want to use GPLd code because it saves them an asston of licensing on VXWorks or other router operating systems. They want to use Linux, so they have to play by the rules of Linux which are : If you link code to Linux code code, your code needs to be free.

The broadcom drivers link against Linux code and thus it needs to be free. If they don't want to do that, they can NOT USE LINUX, it's their choice. They can't have it both, they chose to use Linux themselves because they apparently found it beneficial to them, now they need to play by the rules. Or do you think that the authors of VMWorks wouldn't mind if Linksys decides to not play by their rules and just not pay?

Re:Old Argument (3, Insightful)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685075)

"Indeed if Netgear doesn't want to play by the rules of the GPL"

Ah, but the rules of the GPL are not clear. Some claim that any LKM is a derivative work of the kernel, however from a legal perspective that is not at all clear.

It is ENTIRELY clear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685607)

If copyright says that it is a derived work from the GPL work, it needs to be licensed appropriate for the GPL work.

If there is any confusion about whether this work is a derived one or not, this is the fault of your copyright laws, not the GPL.

It's Clear as Mud (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685659)

LOL!

Show me ONE jurisdiction that has clearly defined "derivative work".

Vote with your dollars (1, Insightful)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684365)

Are there any routers available that do have completely open firmware/whatever else?

If so, buy those, the end. Activism means nothing, hate sites filled with spam like the FSF produce mean nothing. Businesses don't care about those, because they don't have to.

As the saying goes, money talks, and bullshit walks. Give yours to companies who produce the types of products that you want to buy.

No flaming, no flaps, no noise, no controversy. It's simple, it's quiet, and it can be effective.

Re:Vote with your dollars (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684405)

Ok, so which 3D gfx card should I buy for use under linux with decent performance?
Your idea completely fails if it isn't already on the market.

Re:Vote with your dollars (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684995)

Try reading the post again...he already said himself that the idea only applies if there are open source ones out there already. Way to be redundant.

Re:Vote with your dollars (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685789)

An ATI x1600-x1950 if you want it out of the box now. Otherwise, wait about 6 months and pretty much any ATI card should be supported through OpenGL 1.4. Or were you trying to make a point?

Re:Vote with your dollars (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685375)

Activism helps spread the word to others so that their dollars can vote too. It also more aggressively lets companies know that they've done something wrong ... sometimes they really don't know unless you tell them.

Finally these jerks get some attention! (1)

LS (57954) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684451)

I made the mistake of buying their KWGR614 "open source" router a couple years ago, and boy did it suck. The firmware delivered with it basically did not work. It would drop connections after 15 minutes of being on and then stop working. Everyone else who purchased one of these lumps of shit corroborated this behavior. Their employees denied it on the message boards, and in the end said "it's open source, fix it". Which is weak, because I bought the thing hoping to play with it when I got a chance, not in order to use it at all. Anyway I found a french language site that described how to build the this device's firmware, then I replaced it's broken DHCP and DNS capability with dnsmasq and was able to get it to work to some degree, though it had to be rebooted once or twice to be (more) stable. It still needed a reboot here an there.

I think Netgear just called this an "open source" router because they didn't want to fix the junk themselves. I decided never to buy Netgear products again after that.

LS

Re:Finally these jerks get some attention! (2, Informative)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684851)

Netgear and D-Link have been on my verboten list since I can remember having one. Neither have ever been reliable other than being reliably broken.

I'm sorry, did I miss something? (-1, Troll)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684453)

Did Netgear claim it was an _only_ open source router, meaning everything in it is open source? I don't recall them claiming such a thing.

So...strawman.

And way for the Open Source community to encourage vendors to use OS. Shrill complaints are always helpful.

Re:I'm sorry, did I miss something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684823)

They claimed support for OpenWRT, witch is entirely opensource.

It turns out the "patch" they distribute contains some binary only kernel drivers. That's GPL infringement.

Re:I'm sorry, did I miss something? (2, Funny)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685325)

Lets just hope our municipalities don't use your logic when they say the water out of our taps is 'potable'. I would hate to think that after people start dying around town that the water authority doesn't make the statement of "We didn't say that it was _only_ potable water that we were pumping through your pipes."

Le'ts try this (0, Troll)

djupedal (584558) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684501)

Everyone that has converted a router to OSS, raise their hand....

Everyone else....leave the room.

Re:Le'ts try this (1)

cybrthng (22291) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684649)

Running DD-WRT for years :)

Re:Le'ts try this (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685113)

It probably uses a binary driver for the wireless, if not for the switching. I think that was the grandparent's point.

What the grandparent fails to realize is that Netgear is marketing the device as open-source, when it contains significant closed-source components. If you say something is open-source, that's an all-or-nothing. What Netgear should have said was that their router "uses open-source software."

Re:Le'ts try this (1)

duanes1967 (1539465) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685079)

+1 for dd-wrt. I've been running on Linksys wrtg5 (ver 2) for at least five years and LOVE IT. It never locks up or has any problem what so ever plus tons of features.

Re:Le'ts try this (1)

popeye44 (929152) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685373)

Ran a Wrt54g with ddwrt and now on buffalo.. second buffalo through my own idiocy but they have both been extremely stable. "generally a reboot required because I mess up something doing remote SSH" never rebooted otherwise. My Linksys was getting long in the tooth and would randomly lock up. "I mounted a 80mm fan on top and had boosted signal and added antenna" The strain was more than it could bear. Still it lasted around 3 years.

Re:Le'ts try this (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685567)

Everyone that has converted a router to OSS, raise their hand ... Everyone else leave the room.

Why? I build my own using Soekris [soekris.com] hardware and call it a day. That's not to say I'm not interested in what other folks are doing, or perhaps more accurately, what they're trying to do and what they're up against.

Re:Le'ts try this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685763)

RAISES HAND. WRT54GL with open-source b43 driver for WiFi on OpenWRT.
However it SUCKS because a bunch of volunteers reverse-engineering the
WiFi driver in their spare time is much slower and a big waste of time.

Silly netgear (-1, Flamebait)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684515)

Ha! Oh netgear, you just don't market to freetards. They'll aggressively attack any company that attempts to cater to them or their platform. They will not be happy until you have given everything away and are completely unprofitable, like Sun. So Broadcom won't let you gpl their drivers? That's too bad, now the FSF is going to hang you from the highest tree and make an example out of you for making those drivers available to be used by the community. Instead of reaching a difficult to market to segment, you're instead going to be attacked by the very people you sought to please.

You just don't cater to people who are looking to undermine and exploit your product, it's not worth it. Save yourself some development time and just give them an unsupported breadboard with no firmware on any chips, some rough documentation, and tell them to have fun "hacking".

What a hilarious waste of marketing money. Selling to an anti-commercial market segment...

Re:Silly netgear (3, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684891)

They will not be happy until you have given everything away and are completely unprofitable, like Sun.

And unlike Redhat?

Blaming management mistakes on the market is businessman blunder #1. There are counter examples where management got it right and continues to do so.

Re:Silly netgear (-1, Troll)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684949)

Red Hat markets to enterprises, not freetards. Freetards do not purchase RHEL.

Re:Silly netgear (2, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685631)

Red Hat markets to enterprises, not freetards. Freetards do not purchase RHEL.

And how is that different from Sun?

Re:Silly netgear (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685699)

Sun blew their load and open sourced everything, even valuable things. They left almost no value in their platform. Red Hat made sure there was no supported free version of RHEL- CentOS being outside of their organization. Sun even started to give away Solaris 10. I believe their documentation was openly available, also. Red Hat makes sure to keep their documentation only usable by subscribers.

Red Hat simply has a better monetized business model. Sun died the death of a company that "truly believed" in open source while Red Hat kept it real.

Re:Silly netgear (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685967)

Sun blew their load and open sourced everything, even valuable things. They left almost no value in their platform. Red Hat made sure there was no supported free version of RHEL- CentOS being outside of their organization.

And how is that significantly different from Sun? The only way to get support on Solaris to purchase a support contract. And no "freetard" is going to be running other products like Oracle with a support contract on a box without an OS support contract either.

I believe their documentation was openly available, also. Red Hat makes sure to keep their documentation only usable by subscribers.

Nope. http://www.redhat.com/docs/manuals/enterprise/ [redhat.com]

Red Hat simply has a better monetized business model. Sun died the death of a company that "truly believed" in open source while Red Hat kept it real.

That's funny. The real problem with sun is that they did not 'believe' - upper management's philosophy did not trickle down fast enough to the trenches, Sun was schizo instead of fully committed and thus had a lot of difficulty convincing customers that they were honest about their intentions. Red hat "keeps it real" by being fully open - the only thing they keep locked up is their trademarks.

Re:Silly netgear (1)

malevolentjelly (1057140) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686137)

That's funny. The real problem with sun is that they did not 'believe' - upper management's philosophy did not trickle down fast enough to the trenches, Sun was schizo instead of fully committed and thus had a lot of difficulty convincing customers that they were honest about their intentions. Red hat "keeps it real" by being fully open - the only thing they keep locked up is their trademarks.

Red Hat has value in their commercialized platform. They have things like RHN. Besides this, they're specifically an open source consulting firm. They don't make money by giving things away. Also, they're focused on the parts of their platform that make money... while Sun wasted money on things like OpenOffice, which is basically a scourge to any organization that wastes cash on it.

What other organization has managed to squeeze money out of the free software specific community? The most profitable linux-oriented ventures are not presenting it as an open platform, but as an embedded system well hidden from the user.

Red Hat is just a completely inapplicable example of this. Their marketing is just not freetard centric like anything GNU or the FSF puts their name on. Red Hat is a company that offers enterprise services.

This netgear product is a freetard-centric router. It's marketed specifically towards people who buy things because they're "open". Red Hat's platform has value outside of being open. Netgear's product does not.

Re:Silly netgear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685071)

They will not be happy until you have given everything away and are completely unprofitable

How exactly does keeping drivers closed-source protect profits?

Re:Silly netgear (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685143)

Honestly, I am more than open to buying hardware. I'll even buy software. In this case I specifically buy hardware that has a hacker/modding community around it, because I want to be able to extend basic functionality. Not having WPA/WPA2 support is pretty inexcusable in terms of routing hardware sold under the guise of supporting "Open Source".

I'm currently using WRT54GLs along with a gigabit hub and stand alone wireless-N AP in my apartment and in my home... I was actually looking at the WNR3500L, despite being burned on netgear routers in the past. I simply don't understand the point of restricting hardware like this. I'm happy to buy hardware from vendors that support my ability as a consumer, to do whatever I like with property I buy.

"Selling to an anti-commercial market segment" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685199)

Who have lots of spare cash (not having bought all the non-FOSS stuff) are geeks and therefore love their toys.

Yeah, imagine the idiocy of a tech market seller ignoring the "wealthy geek" segment for selling their technological toys...

Doesn't android have the same problems? (1)

cybrthng (22291) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684605)

Didn't we just witness android os having the same issues? Many important aspects being proprietary (proprietary google apps) as well as the fact that the OS can't boot without the proprietary binary drivers from each handset device?

Re:Doesn't android have the same problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29684931)

Android is open source. Apps for Android are not, necessarily. This line was never blurred. The user distributing apps that he had no license to do so was doing so knowingly, but was hoping Google wouldn't care. Not having the apps does not make Android non-functional. The apps just add usefulness. You are not bound to them to have the same functionality. In any case, nice apples and oranges comparison.

Re:Doesn't android have the same problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685363)

Android is just as open as this router is; both have binary only drivers to access the hardware and both have limitations do to binary only software as well.

Maemo (1)

Mi1ez (769713) | more than 4 years ago | (#29684963)

I've been ranting about precisely the same things with what's touted as the first Internet Tablets based on OPEN SOURCE with the Nokia tablets. There's a LOT LOT LOT of closed source modules and even applications that you can't uninstall on them despite the Linux kernel and generally Debian flavor of the OS. Meanwhile everyone using the pre-(not even yet released)-N900 tablets are stuck with an aged 2.6.21 kernel because many drivers are closed and Nokia would rather make a new tablet than properly open up the tablet architecture even though they like to go on and on about what an erection they get when they think about open source. I'm becoming less and less convinced that the driver modules that Nokia proudly takes credit for opening up are even BECAUSE of Nokia so much as that chip manufactures are opening it up on their own because of the positively evolving effects and opinions around open-sourcing hardware drivers. What Netgear did here seems to feel almost IDENTICAL to what Nokia has been doing for a few years now--talking up open source to get the attention of the geeks and developers and put up an open facade. It's still a walled garden despite the open facade.

Harold Welte should stick to his knitting. (2, Informative)

tordon (176098) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685059)

He works for VIA, and they do the same thing...

To be fair on him he has tried to make progress, but after a few years of big talk there is still no open source way to use the full features of VIA hardware.

So don't buy VIA because of the fancy features in the silicon - cos there is a good chance that you won't be able to use them.

Re:Harold Welte should stick to his knitting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29686079)

I wouldn't buy any VIA hardware unless it was a gift for my worst enemy, it is better to not have some feature rather than a horrifically buggy VIA chip.

My free stuff doesn't work like the pay stuff!!!! (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685141)

Also worth noting are the missing features in third-party firmware versions supplied by Netgear.

So Netgear is responsible for the fact that a third party distribution is lacking?

I suppose I'm to blame because you are a moron?

Re:My free stuff doesn't work like the pay stuff!! (3, Informative)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686425)

Yes, Netgear is to blame as that very same third-party firmware supports WPA and WPA2 on all other supported routers but not on Netgear's. But of course the GP is a moron because he expected Netgear to be able to ship a firmware with the functionality it normally comes with.

If they provide the source, what's wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685291)

As long as they provide the source code to these binary modules, then it's open-source. But you have to remember that open-source doesn't mean you can modify the sources and replace the original binaries. If you want that, you need free-as-in-freedom. But people arguing for that are just nut-jobs with their silly ideals, and open-source is fine for us practical types, right?

Great idea! (1, Interesting)

glassware (195317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685309)

Surely it's a good idea to harangue a company for not being "sufficiently" open source. What a great way to gently remind them to have a positive attitude towards open source!

A professional might "appease" them by congratulating them on a first step and encouraging them to open up further. Hah! We ideologues know that only 100% compliance to our definition of open source can ever be correct. Anything else should be ridiculed openly.

After all, we would prefer a company be completely 100% closed source rather than have some features be open. Death to all infidels!

Re:Great idea! (3, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685797)

By the looks of this they are 100% completely closed source. The only thing that is open source is stuff that can be obtained elsewhere.

They have only done the legally acceptable but frowned upon practice of taking open source software, writing closed source drivers and then touting their use of open source as some kind of gift to the community.

Re:Great idea! (5, Insightful)

glassware (195317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685939)

In all fairness, Harald's original blog post isn't that rude to them; the Slashdot summary, I believe, is condescending and wrong.

However, I and many other folks are not as concerned about binary modules as Harald is. I view a binary module as a good first step - once a company gets comfortable with part of the code being open source, they'll gradually be receptive to open sourcing other modules. In many cases, yes, this takes a long time; and in some cases it causes companies to get scared and backtrack on open source commitments.

But still I view open source with some binaries as better than no commitments. I encourage people who view themselves as open source advocates to maintain a professional and respectful attitude towards companies who haven't opened up completely.

Oh, is THAT what "proffessional" is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685971)

Because it seems like 180 degrees different from what a professional like CEO should do: whatever is possible to make the most money for the shareholders, whether ethical or not.

So why the difference?

"After all, we would prefer a company be completely 100% closed source rather than have some features be open."

No, we'd prefer to have a company 100% closed source rather than closed source and lying about it.

Re:Great idea! (3, Insightful)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685977)

The problem isn't that they aren't "sufficiently" open, it's that they aren't open at all and are pretending to be. Binary modules and broken independent firmware's aren't open. Harold is right to call them out for false advertising. Astro-Turfing is a real problem, it's basically false advertising and the FTC is allowing it to happen.

Re:Great idea! (4, Insightful)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685989)

What a great way to gently remind them to have a positive attitude towards open source!

So you say we should e.g. congratulate Nvidia for supplying an obfuscated 2D-only piece of shit driver to "encourage" them to open the 3D driver as well? No, positive motivation does not work with corporations. Nothing gets done until lts of people complain. Providing half-assed open source support is actually more harmful that not providing any support at all, because it takes away the manpower needed to implement proper support. If 90% of users are satisfied with the limited functionality, it usually means you have 10x less developers working on proper support.

Re:Great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29685997)

'First step'? It's actually their third attempt, making the same mistake over and over again. If they had ever *attempted* to contact OpenWrt or any other serious third party firmware project, they'd have gotten all the info they need to produce a device that can be used with entirely free software.
Linksys did exactly that (there was a meeting between Linksys/Cisco representatives and members of various communities) and they produced the WRT160NL based on the feedback they got. While large parts of the original firmware for this device are closed as well, they did make this device with components for which free software was either available or easy to produce (it's Atheros AR91xx based, and ath9k does work on it).
As a result of that, we (OpenWrt developers) added full support for this device and you can now run it with 100% free software.
It's not about being 100% open with the sources, but you should at least pick something that doesn't involve having to run binary-only kernel drivers.

- nbd

Re:Great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29686289)

Death to professionalism and all other species of guile.

so it sounds like (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685441)

some manufacturing managers got together over tea and decided what to do with extra chassis/components for 1q2010 that weren't going to sell anyhow. Netgear is attempting to create a market the same way any other company creates a market, but is being shut down quickly in this case because the community is well informed and the technology is distinctly fraudulent by our definition of the "open source" term they have decided to embrace.

Open source will prove an uncomfortable venture for netgear however one that marketing has identified as "worth a stab" in terms of revenue.

whats worse is anyone interested in this product to begin with will likely agree the entire thing can be accomplished with a craigslisted wireless router, an old desktop, and a few ethernet nics. Better crypto, functional WPA, and i didnt have to buy anything new. Sure its larger, but what netgear fails to realize is my rights matter more than the size of an appliance that doesnt work.

Good router for custom software (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685549)

Currently we have an old white box server with FreeBSD set up as a gateway/proxy. It's about 5 years old and we've not done anything to it in 3 years, but it's cheap commodity hardware and it has a 600W powersupply that sucks down a lot of juice. We wrote our own software that gives people wireless access for 3 hours when they buy a drink (coffee shop). We're talking a 400Mhz AMD K6-2 with 256mb of Ram.

We'd like to put that software onto a router and have been looking at Single Board Computers, but have yet to find anything that we like. All it has to run is Linux/BSD with an AMP stack.

Anyone have a recommendation that would be low power. I've looked at beagleboard and wall wart, but really we need 3 Ethernet ports and a wireless card.

Re:Good router for custom software (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 4 years ago | (#29685915)

Does it have to support your custom code? is it sufficient to gate access fo three hours? I think there might be hotspot packages that run under OpenWRT which might do the trick for you. (Captive HTTP splash/registration page, captive DNS until registered, etc.)

If OpenWRT would work, look at a Linksys WRT54GL. About as cheap as it gets.

You get three four ethernet LAN ports, wireless, and WAN port.

You'd think the four LAN ports would be bridged, and you'd be right, but the unit and OpenWRT support VLAN tagging to keep them on separate nets if you want.

Re:Good router for custom software (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686361)

It would have to run our software because everything is run off of in house gift/loyality cards and we wrote this application to bridge the POS and gateway, along with a custom splash screen, etc. This way, when the customer gets their card swiped at the registered it automatically logs in their system after they've registered.

No, thanks. I'll keep my "54" (4, Interesting)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 4 years ago | (#29686013)

My WRT54GS has been stable for fucking years, absolutely years, rock solid for yonks, working its buns off moving packets. A couple months ago, I decided I was going to look for a new router that could do everything my old 54 can do plus wireless-n at 5.8ghz (maintaining g at 2.4ghz) and gigabit ethernet. I had to look at the $250+ range and I'm not even sure if those units would do it because I didn't bother scrutinizing the specs at that price. It may have been necessary to move into commercial grade equipment to get everything I wanted. Screw that. I can just hang a 5.8ghz 'n' WAP off a gigabit switch and plug that into my old 54 for a lot less money and not have to worry about unknown bugs, stability, etc.

In fact, I'm about to pick up a 54GL for my grandfather. I made the mistake of thinking a $20 TrendNet would be fine for him since he doesn't need traffic shaping or anything beyond a basic wireless router. Wrong. Damn thing quits every 5 or 6 days like clockwork. He has to unplug/replug it to get it going again. A 54 is worth the extra money because it just frickin' works. Linksys really hit the nail on the head with that line. As long as consumer broadband is in the 10-20mbit range, I'm not going to waste my time trying other routers.

Who.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29686345)

....cares? This is all theoretical bullshit, guys. Move on.

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