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Intel Accused of Being an "Open Source Fraud"

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the you-bought-it-now-you-can't-use-it dept.

153

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

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153 comments

BSD confirms it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289165)

Intel is lying...

News at 6 !!! Film at 11 !!! (-1, Troll)

hummassa (157160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289533)

Theo is being an ass again !!!

Re:News at 6 !!! Film at 11 !!! (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289569)

Disagree. TdR is acting as prosecutor in the court of public opinion.
Conviction at the cash register could positively affect other notorious outfits like ATI and nVidia.
I rather prefer TdR's "don't be a jerk" campaign to RMS's "your thinking is false: I shake my fist at you and call you 'unethical'" approach.
Possibly more a stylistic difference than anything else, but technical folks seem to make screechy evangelists, and do better to cleave to the pragmatic angle.

Re:News at 6 !!! Film at 11 !!! (3, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291495)

For Theo de Raat to have a "don't be a jerk" campaign is like RMS having a "shave every day" campaign.

Parent severely underrated at +3 (1)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291993)

POTD IMO

Dupe (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289177)

Intel -- Only "Open" For Business [slashdot.org]

Comment from previous story suggesting the kerneltrap article:
Better article on the story [slashdot.org]

help intel? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289187)

He concluded by requesting that the open source community contact Intel to help get them to change their policies

Yeah, Intel will just love that.

Nothing we haven't seen before... (1)

Vexler (127353) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289189)

If you look at the supported hardware list, there are similar comments in there about Adaptec RAID controllers. Theo is definitely not one to be timid, and it shows even in innocuous places. That said, if a little boat-rocking can get Intel to listen to the OOPs, so much the better (contrast Intel's behavior with that of, say, IBM, or even SCO).

Any relation to this article? (2, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289191)

Re:Any relation to this article? (4, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289575)

Apparently, they've gone from being "not really open source" to being "an open source fraud". This can be viewed as a progress of sorts and therefore qualifies as news. Hence the new posting.

At least that's my take on it. We"d have to consult with the /. staff shrink to know exactly what the real reasoning was.

Re:Any relation to this article? (1)

sunwukong (412560) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291445)

Why so cynical? Slashdot is a paragon of the Open Source community.

It's only reasonable and expected that they would (under appropriate license) distribute the original and the improvements together so everyone can benefit.

Re:Any relation to this article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16291789)

Why? Did Intel stop advertising on slashdot?

Of course not. (0, Redundant)

Morrigu (29432) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289797)

If it was, it'd be a DUPE.

And we all know there are no dupes on Slashdot. :)

Dupe (-1, Redundant)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289197)

It's deja vu all over again. Original story: Intel Only Open For Business [slashdot.org]

The interface is the product (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289201)

While it may seem backwards that Intel, a hardware company, would be loath to release the specs of their hardware so that third parties could develop drivers for it (essentially for free), you have to also assume that the specification itself provides significant insight into some "whiz-bang" hardware implementation that Intel doesn't want to be common knowledge. What seems strange is that de Raadt is calling for BSD-licensed "binary blobs". I can't imagine why he would want that in favor of BSD-licensed code, or better the hardware interface specs.

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

If I weren't a Windows user whose hardware is fully supported, I'd be right there with those guys. There's really no excuse for this sort of behavior.

Where do you draw the line?? (5, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289243)

I'm not an Intel fanboy by any measure, but I wonder where you draw the line as to where you just accept specs and where you start demanding more detail.

"Just download this firmware blob" is one level, then "just load this microcode". If you're using a Xilinx FPGA running a downloadable CPU core, should that be treated as yet another CPU (ie a sealed blob) or should the downloadable core be considered firmware/microcode? As we get more and more interesting hardware, the boundaries are only going to get more blurred.

Even regular CPUs have an interface (the instruction set etc) and their inner workings are sealed from the software developers.

Re:Where do you draw the line?? (1)

wild_berry (448019) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290629)

Is Java bytecode interpreter or JIT compiler a binary blob?

Re:Where do you draw the line?? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290835)

Your analogy doesn't work...A Java interpreter is equivalent to the FPGA, not the program loaded on it.

Re:Where do you draw the line?? (1)

asuffield (111848) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291953)

Even regular CPUs have an interface (the instruction set etc) and their inner workings are sealed from the software developers.


The inner workings are usually published in great detail, because they are critical to writing efficient code and compilers for the processor. Once you know the full details of how to optimise code for a CPU, you know more or less what it's operational schematic is. Any academic researcher in chip design could sketch out the architecture of the Athlon64 based on the manuals provided by AMD. Nobody considers that information to be secret.

What you don't know is the actual layout of the circuitry on the chip, which is what you'd need in order to manufacture more chips. You probably don't care much, either. In the case of Athlon/Pentium processors, you're not going to care, because unless you are a chip-making giant you do not own a fabrication plant capable of building those processors and aren't ever going to own one (they cost billions) - and if you are a chip-making giant, you own a collection of analysis equipment which includes a scanning electron microscope, and have already scanned the chips of all your competitors to see how they are put together. It really makes no odds whether they publish that data or not; the only people who could use it have no need for it.

Re:The interface is the product (4, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289247)

What seems strange is that de Raadt is calling for BSD-licensed "binary blobs". I can't imagine why he would want that in favor of BSD-licensed code

Because the source code for firmware is completely useless to all but 5 people on the planet. The firmware isn't the driver, the firmware is just a binary chunk that "SHOULD" be burned into eprom on the hardware.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289441)

Why ? This makes the cards 2 or 3 times more expensive.

Why not leave this on the legal fringes ?

Re:The interface is the product (3, Informative)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290931)

No it doesn't...ATI's firmware is useless to NVidia, because their hardware is completely incompatible; NVidia can't make heads or tails of ATI's firmware. Thus, no secrets are lost, and no expense incurred.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291013)

He's asking for the source, isn't he ?

Re:The interface is the product (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291239)

No, he's asking for permission to redistribute binary firmware under the BSD license.

Re:The interface is the product (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289517)

The firmware could be useful to many people, we just have no idea what they could do with it because we're not given enough documentation for the device. There's either two possibilities, the firmware contains code, can contain bugs and can therefore be hacked to make the device work better or it is "just data" and is therefore not a "creative work" protected by copyright. If anyone had any balls these days we'd know which it was because they'd just distribute the damn binary blob anyway they liked and when Intel decided to sue they'd have to disclose what is in these binary blobs when they present their case in court. If it was just unimportant data the courts would throw it out. If it was code or otherwise "creative" data then their disclosure would be a good starting point for reverse engineering the blob, in which case we'd likely be free to create a clean room implementation of the blob and distribute that.

Re:The interface is the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289729)

Interesting idea, but it's more a case of needing time / effort / money that isn't really justified to take it to court as opposed to "balls". Things could get much worse if they pressed for damages instead of just C+D. Granted, they probably wouldn't be that stupid, but ...

Re:The interface is the product (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289957)

The other alternative is to just reverse engineer the blobs, it really aint that hard.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

gurumeditationerror (631201) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290387)

The other alternative is to just reverse engineer the blobs, it really aint that hard.

Thanks for volunteering.

Re:The interface is the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16291547)

The loadable microcode updates for Intel's CPUs may also contain bugs. I'm not sure what's the situation with those - there's a linux kernel API to installa them but does any Linux distribution supply any of those updates?

Re:The interface is the product (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#16292019)

In US courts, Intel would present sealed evidence so there would be no public disclosure of what's in the blobs. Anyway, I can tell you. The blob contains code which runs on the internal processor core in the chip. Incorporated in there is not just the chip interface, but also licensed IP, bug workarounds and hacks for slightly better performance. Some of the source they can't make public, or don't want to. Their choice.

Not clear to me why they care about distribution of the binary. Maybe they just don't want the support calls.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290171)

Except it's cheaper to allow softcode firmware updates than continually reflash the hardware for every pointcode revision.

SRAM vs. flash memory (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290455)

Except it's cheaper to allow softcode firmware updates than continually reflash the hardware for every pointcode revision.

Is SRAM to hold the microcode really that much cheaper than flash memory to hold the microcode, even when you figure in lost sales and tarnishment of the brand to users of alternative operating systems?

Re:SRAM vs. flash memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16291721)

The firmware has to be loaded into SRAM anyway to speed up its execution. Flash to store it on the card would only add to the cost, without any benefit (for the hardware manufacturer at least).

Re:The interface is the product (2, Informative)

HornyBastard (666805) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289257)

"What seems strange is that de Raadt is calling for BSD-licensed "binary blobs". I can't imagine why he would want that in favor of BSD-licensed code, or better the hardware interface specs."

In a case like this, it is the smart thing to do. Any company is more likely to give "binary blobs" instead of source code. de Raadt has more chance of getting what he asks for this way.

Re:The interface is the product (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289279)

That doesn't make sense, as he specifically states that when the hardware doesn't work that the project is already in a "lose" state. From there, there is nothing more to lose. The only way to go is up, i.e. from hardware not working to hardware working.

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

Strategically I see what you are saying, but ideologically and according to de Raadt's own email, that doesn't seem to be what is actually going on.

Re:The interface is the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16291127)

Firmware blobs aren't a big security threat. They only interact with the hardware. They don't have access to the rest of the OpenBSD kernal. Drivers are a different story. Closed binary driver blobs present a real serious security risk. That's why OpenBSD is opposed to binary blob drivers, but not so much to closed firmware. They just want the right to freely redistribute the firmware.

Re:The interface is the product (4, Informative)

IcePic (23761) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289307)

I think you're mixing stuff up.
The "blob" part is like the Nvidia binary drivers for X11.
What Theo is asking for is to be allowed to re-distribute the firmwares
for the chips, so that you can use the network card for installs, for instance.
If you are required to go through a webpage and click Yes before you can use
your network card, then it's pretty much useless for installs unless you already
had another network card in there already.

Then, on top of this, he seems to want the specs for the API used to talk to
this firmware-driven hardware, so that they can write a driver of their own.
Big difference there.
* Firmware - please allow us to redistribute verbatim copies of it.
* API - docs in order to write free drivers.

These are two things needed in order to get those intel cards going.
Since the firmware in one way or another already is available on the
net or on the CD in windows-format, there really shouldn't have to be
such a problem to allow redistribution of it. For the API's, everyones
guess as to why you'd need to keep them secret is as good as theirs.

As he states somewhere, not getting these two parts makes the card
unusable anyhow, so there's nothing to lose really.

And from the tin-foil-hat dept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16290663)

Downloading is dangerous to Man-in-the-Middle and Firefox-exploit attacks. That means that by downloading each time, it is easier to get malware firmware, depending on who you are according to google's database. And rumors have it that those cards have an entire CPU and their firmware can act as a computer inside the computer, steal data, etc.

Linux should stand by this.

Re:The interface is the product (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289379)

The "binary blob" in this case will not be executed on the PC side. It is firmware for the processor inside the device. This sort of firmware is traditionally closed-source - do you have the source code for your PC's BIOS, or the microcontroller in your keyboard? Theo just wants to be able to distribute device firmware with BSD. He doesn't care about the source code of the firmware.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

grahamm (8844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291939)

Do not forget that IBM published the source code for the BIOS in the orginal IBM PC technical manual.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289523)

Indeed.

So where is Linux's ABI for driver-writers?

Seems like Intel isn't the only one who is unwilling to make a committment here.

Re:The interface is the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289647)

Want to write a new driver for Linux? Download everything you need, free, from http://www.kernel.org./ [www.kernel.org] The "driver development kit", or "kernel" as it is more usually known, includes working source code for thousands of other drivers, which you can modify to make your new driver.

Re:The interface is the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289869)

OP's (possibly troll) point is that the Linux ABI is *not* stable, therefore binary drivers require a kernel interface layer be recompiled whenever the kernel changes. This is DELIBERATE and done as an incentive to release open drivers, or at least docs for others to make them, which can be incorporated into the kernel thus avoiding this hassle. Also IIRC a stable ABI would force various kernel structures to be set in stone, reducing flexibilty / preventing later improvements. Possibly even compatibility problems if kernel internals HAD to be changed e.g. due to a vulnerability and the manufacturer didn't release a new driver.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289933)

Bear in mind what kind of "blobs" we're talking about. The blobs Theo is talking about aren't operating system drivers, it's not code that will be running under the computer's main CPU, these are firmware binaries for highly specific and specialized pieces of hardware.

There's very little value in having the source code for that. The number of people who would even understand how the code would work would be small. Given the amount of stuff Intel feels needs to be put into "computerspace" (kernel + userland) in recent drivers such as that for the ipw3945 wireless cards, one can get a pretty good idea of how low level the firmware is. To put it bluntly: if you're expecting it to be as high level as 8080 assembler, you're probably expecting too much. The hardware that interprets the blob may not even be Turing complete.

I'm not suggesting it wouldn't be good to have the source code, or even that Intel doesn't have a moral obligation - according to the morality of the Free Software philosophy - to provide it, but in real, practical, terms the source code is almost useless. What's more important is that the blob itself is available so that all operating systems, regardless of their licensing, can include the blob with their (fully Free Software) drivers.

Getting Intel to release the source to the blob would be an uphill struggle for very little reward even if successful. Getting Intel to release the blob itself is much easier, and in practice is "good enough" to ensure Free Software can fully and freely interoperate with Intel hardware.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291049)

He's not asking for source to the blob.
He's asking for the right to freely
distribute the blob instead of requiring
the user to click through a license
agreement to download the blob.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291623)

Er, yeah, that's what I just said.

Re:The interface is the product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16290543)

you have to also assume that the specification itself provides significant insight into some "whiz-bang" hardware implementation that Intel doesn't want to be common knowledge.


What "whiz-bang" could there possibly be? It's a bloody radio! We're not talking about some super-new technology here, we're talking about a publicly available industry standard, that uses well-know techniques, that anyone can implement.

There's no valid reason not to allow distribution of the binary blob. The OpenBSD crew are not even asking to open source the blob: they just want to be able to put it in their CVS and have it distributable on CDs, FTP, etc.

If anything this would help Intel make more money as people would buy the hardware knowing that they could run open source hardware on it. I do not understand by what logic Intel is holding this back.

Re:The interface is the product (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#16292023)

you have to also assume that the specification itself provides significant insight into some "whiz-bang" hardware implementation that Intel doesn't want to be common knowledge

Shouldn't a patent be enough to cover this?

I can't see this working (0, Flamebait)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289217)

Seriously, look at who we're talking about. "Shaming" Intel into doing anything is about on a par with "shaming" MS into doing anything. Simply because the numbers don't add up. This is how I see this going:

The OpenBSD Userbase: Give us the hardware specifications or we'll take our business elsewhere!
Intel: There's two hundred of you, tops. Fuck off.

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

Of course, it's also obvious that Theo's "unique" brand of diplomacy does nothing to advance his case.

He has no real leverage to speak of (not when it comes to anything the siez of Intel, at least!); I realistically think he has a chance of pulling this off.

Re:I can't see this working (1)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289227)

,s/I realistically think/I don't realistically think/g

Re:I can't see this working (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289267)


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

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

Next time I hear some Linux user going off about how some device isn't supported I'll just argue that "--correct me if I'm wrong-- this device already works in Windows."

Re:I can't see this working (2, Insightful)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289305)

OK, so although the GPL means BSD can't lift code directly from the Linux base (and there's no reason why that should work anyway), surely it has to be easier developing a driver by studying this code rather than reverse-engineering Windows binaries?

Re:I can't see this working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289359)

Reverse engineering is ok per DMCA. Looking at GPL code is legal, but the virality of the GPL taints anyone who does so.

Re:I can't see this working (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289443)

But surely the GPL only covers the code itself, not what it does or how it does it?

Re:I can't see this working (2, Insightful)

anpe (217106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289451)

Looking at GPL code is legal, but the virality of the GPL taints anyone who does so.

Clean room design can help you circumvent this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_room_design [wikipedia.org]

Re:I can't see this working (2, Interesting)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289557)

Technically-speaking, do you even need need clean room reverse engineering? As long as you don't copy code (i.e. you don't do anything that's prohibited by copyright statute), I would think you're legally in the clear. In that case, the benefit to doing it clean-room-style is that if the code you wrote happened to be very similar to the code you took apart, you would have documentation that shows that you couldn't have lifted code verbatim, because the person who wrote the code never saw the original.

As far as I know, no such "tainting" exists in law, but your boss's lawyer will advise him to have you do things clean-room anyway, so that your laziness doesn't end up adversely affecting the organization.

Re:I can't see this working (3, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289659)

I think that would legally be called a "derovative product". Clean rooming is making something new that works like something old. Using the existing code to make code that works on a different platform is not the same. Since one runs on Linux and the new would run on BSD, you would have to change a chunk of the code anyway. The only way you can make a "similar" program/driver legally is that whoever is doing the coding is ignorant of the contents of the original piece.

If Microsoft took Apache, then viewed the source and then rewrote it to replace IIS without a clean room method and used their own license, the open source community would go nuts. This is no different. Just because you LIKE the people who are writting the code, that doesn't make it legal or right.

Re:I can't see this working (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289881)

If Microsoft took Apache, then viewed the source and then rewrote it to replace IIS without a clean room method and used their own license, the open source community would go nuts. This is no different. Just because you LIKE the people who are writting the code, that doesn't make it legal or right.

But if they view the source code to figure out how the HTTP works, and then write their IIS replacement, is that really a violation of the GPL? Wouldn't that pretty much mean that viewing any GPL code makes it impossible to write closed source software, i.e. if I have hacked around the Quake 2 source, I am now unable to make a closed source OpenGL engine? That sounds strange, and I must have misunderstood.

Re:I can't see this working (2, Interesting)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290145)

If MS did NOT cleanroom their implimentation, then yes, they would be open to lawsuits. With a cleanroom system, ONE groups will look at the code, and how it works, describe it to a 2nd group who hasn't seen the code but will write the 'new' code based on what the 1st group learned. That way the group coding has never seen the original sourcecode and not likely to be able to violate any copyright law when writing. Patent law is another issue.

You CAN view source code and write your own version of the software, but if any code matches (and because some functions WILL match, out of the fact that there is sometimes only one logical way to do a task) then you get to explain to the judge how "Yes, I looked at the code, but I didn't copy it. No, really.". This is why most places will cleanroom software instead.

Re:I can't see this working (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290179)

His example is slightly flawed verbage-wise, but you got the gist of what he was saying.

The answer is different, though. It's not a violation of GPL, it's a violation of copyright. You were given no rights to peek into the application and use the logic within for another non-GPL purpose. The GPL is the only thing granting you rights to that code and it's structure/logic. Technically, you can't 'violate' the GPL. You violate copyright laws. The GPL is just legal permission to use the work in certain ways.

So this really has nothing to do with the GPL... That's a red herring.

Look at it this way: If you peek at the Windows source, then write something like WINE... Would MS sue you? Yes, because you violated their copyrights. It doesn't matter what license MS used to allow you to look at the source, there was no permission given to use that knowledge to create a competing product.

That's why this needs a clean room. You could have 2 teams do this. 1 would pick apart Apache and write details specs on what it does, and the other uses those specs to create a product. This guarantees no code contamination and has been proven completely legal. (I think it's also nearly useless at this point for software... It's too massively complicated to cleanroom things when you could just write it from scratch in the same amount of time and have a unique (and hopefully better) product just by having some idea what the application does and how it could be better.

Re:I can't see this working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289923)

I think that would legally be called a "derovative product"

Funny, I couldn't find any dictionary definition for the word "derovative", so I somehow doubt it.

And if you meant derivative, then it's pretty evident that you're not a lawyer.

Here's what my dictionary says about derivative works:

a work that is based on, or modifies, one or more preexisting works. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to prepare or authorize the preparation of a derivative work based on the copyrighted work. If a derivative work, considered as a whole, represents an original work of authorship, it may be separately copyrightable. However, the copyright covers only original portions of the derivative work.


Clean rooming is making something new that works like something old. Using the existing code to make code that works on a different platform is not the same.

No, the clean room technique is merely absolute proof that you didn't violate copyright. Not doing a clean room implementation doesn't automatically mean that you did.

The only way you can make a "similar" program/driver legally is that whoever is doing the coding is ignorant of the contents of the original piece.

Complete bullshit.

If Microsoft took Apache, then viewed the source and then rewrote it to replace IIS without a clean room method and used their own license, the open source community would go nuts.

Some people might, if they ever saw it (just as a matter of curiosity, how do you know that MS didn't do that?) However, just because some people might be upset that MS copied some functionality from an OSS project, doesn't mean that it would be legally wrong for them to do so. You're alleging that "X is illegal" by analogizing "some zealots don't like X, so therefore X is illegal", which is doesn't follow.

Before you comment on this further, you should do some reading about the abstraction, comparison, filtration test. A good place to start (but not finish - by any means) might be here. [groklaw.net]

Re:I can't see this working (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290107)

The purpose of clean rooming is actually just to prove that your product is not a derivative, not because looking at source code automatically taints anything you write afterwards.

If Microsoft took Apache, viewed the source, and then wrote, from scratch, a web server, would the Open Source community go nuts? No idea. The conspiracy theorists might, I guess. After all, some are still convinced that Windows is based upon VMS, because the guy who wrote the kernel once worked on VMS. The two operating systems are barely comparable, having only in common what modern operating systems generally do. Linux has far, far, more in common with the Unix kernel than the Windows kernel has in common with the VMS equivalent. But you're right, people will claim that copyright infringement has to have occurred because, like, the programs have the same function, and the guy saw both, so...

But here's the thing: If Microsoft took Apache, viewed the source, and then wrote, from scratch, a web browser, would the Open Source community go nuts? Definitely not. Yet both products are as likely as not to be "tainted" by the fact the authors looked at the source code for Apache.

The truth is that every time you look at source code, there's the possibility that someone will complain, at some point in the future, that you might have copied from them, regardless of what you work on. If we were to be 100% paranoid at this point, we couldn't get anything done or written at all. The reality is that we take a pragmatic view and "clean room" when we think someone might complain. Clean rooming is not about avoiding taint. All code written from scratch is equally tainted. Clean rooming is about avoiding copyright holders with a grudge from alleging specific instances of taint.

Re:I can't see this working (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16290143)

Looking at GPL code is legal, but the virality of the GPL taints anyone who does so.

You need to stop inventing your own clauses for the GPL.

- Looking at GPL code does not engage the GPL. The GPL is a copyright license, so something has to be copied before copyright becomes relevant.

- Writing new code after having read GPL code does not engage the GPL either, unless part of the GPL code has been copied into the new code.

The new code doesn't even need to be developed under clean room conditions, so long as there has been no overt nor covert copying.

And finally, using information contained in the GPL code when writing the new code is perfectly acceptable. "Copying" has absolutely nothing to do with "extracting information from" --- copyright law is perfectly clear on that.

Re:I can't see this working (5, Informative)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290029)

Can I interject here and point out that none of you are actually on-topic?

This discussion is not about device drivers, it's about the "blobs" that contain things like firmware and the distribution licenses that come with them.

For the most part, OpenBSD is doing pretty well creating device drivers. Indeed, it does better than Linux in many respects: OpenBSD's ipw3945 driver, for instance, is fully self contained and doesn't require the ugly hacks involving user-space daemons that the Linux version does. The author of the OpenBSD driver reverse engineered the Linux driver, and did so in a way that wouldn't taint anything (he hacked the driver to write information about what was being sent to what registers and when, recorded this information, and then wrote his driver. His driver is 99% based upon the actions of source code he's never seen.)

The issue isn't writing device drivers. Most of the devices Theo is complaining about already work under OpenBSD. However, the only way to obtain some critical components, such as the firmware, is to navigate to a website, agree to a license, and download them.

This especially a PITA if you're trying to get a network device to work. You can't access the network without the blob, and you can't obtain the blob unless your network is up. Not impossible to solve, but an added cause of frustration for anyone who's been in this situation.

Re:I can't see this working (2, Interesting)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289327)

The difference is that Linux is an open-source OS, windows is a closed source one. So, when someone argues that Intel doesn't support OSS, they can point to the fact that a good deal (most?) of their cards do -in fact- run on Linux.

It's not an argument "against theo", it's an argument against expecting Intel to give a shit about what is (in its' eyes) a fringe OS. From Intel's point of view, there simply isn't enough demand to justify changing what they're already doing -- particularly since they're already providing support for Linux.

Re:I can't see this working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289385)

The argument against binary blobs is just as valid for Linux as OpenBSD. The problem has always been one of auditing. It's just that security is OpenBSD's primary focus.

Another disadvantage of binary blobs is that with them Linux doesn't really support the hardware, so you can't expect the hardware to work on all platforms that Linux works on.

Then there's the issue of vendor support - we all know that nVidia would never ever drop support for older cards from their driver. Oh, wait. they did.

Re:I can't see this working (2, Insightful)

gwk (1004182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289499)

Sigh the driver does work in OpenBSD but not well. Damien who works on the IPW driver in OpenBSD but which IIRC is also used by Net, Free and OpenSolaris! has been trying to get documentation so he can write a proper OPEN SOURCE driver
i.e.
From: http://damien.bergamini.free.fr/ipw/ [bergamini.free.fr]
"I've started to work on a driver for Intel® PRO/Wireless 3945ABG network adapters, as found in recent Centrino(TM) laptops. Needless to say, this driver won't require any binary-only user-space daemon to operate, contrary to the Linux driver provided by Intel®. Such daemons that must execute as root and have complete access to the hardware are unacceptable for this project."

They are also asking people who use ANY OPEN SOURCE OPERATING SYSTEM to complain so perhaps intel will change their policy regarding firmware licensing, right now a few of the sell out commercial linux distros can distribute the firmware because they have signed restricitve agreements, however the terms are completly unacceptable to many.

Re:I can't see this working (4, Insightful)

QuadPro (16532) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289509)

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

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

Speaking of pulling things off (2, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289615)

As a user of Alyson Hannigan's film products, I demand that she must give me open access to her networking wetware. I represent thousands of nerd, all of whom want this access, and I am prepared to act as a gatekeeper and distributor, conditional only on being given first access rights. I expect this demand to have every bit as much success as Theo's.

Re:I can't see this working (2, Informative)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289703)

correct me if I'm wrong-- these cards already work in Linux.

IIRC they require a binary only blob that runs in userspace, and it's x86 only. Even if it was open source, I can understand why they'd want to do it in userspace given that the Linux driver ABI is such a moving target.

Re:I can't see this working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16290141)

That's incorrect, it's a kernel driver and the "binary blob" in question is the wireless chip firmware and has nothing to do with x86 or not. Besides, the ipw driver in question is already in the kernel sources so the ABI is a non-issue.

Sorry guys... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289275)

Intel just re-entered my supplier list because:
  1. The core duo is a good product
  2. They have open drivers for e100 and e1000 network hardware
  3. they employ Keith Packard and have a graphics card with open drivers.


How about OBSD just make it a policy and drop official support for intel RAID and wireless chipsets? That way the ball is firmwarely (sic) in Intels court; no tears and no drama... oh wait this is Theo we're talking about.

The problem, the answer, and the other problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289317)

The problem is that much of the smarts in these devices is actually implemented in the software driver, and so the driver is part of intels "value proposition" and to give that away whould be a big gift to the Chinese low-cost copycat manufacturers - otoh not that useful to users, who get the driver if they buy the device and don't need it otherwise.

The answer is for Intel to define a "dumb" driver that just drives the hardware and doesn't include any smarts. They can document this and open it up with impunity since it won't reveal enough for the copycats to use. The open source community can then implement their own version of the smarts under the open development model, which is exactly how they do all their oither software.

The other problem with the above is that by documenting the low-level interface, Intel would be sanctioning the open driver effort. And if the open driver is unreliable for example while in beta, it might look bad for Intel. They would need to manage customer expectation carefully.

In general I find devices that need substantial help from the CPU to be flaky and slow. In the long run I think we will come full circle and return to all devices having their own smarts internally and very simple standardised interfaces to the CPU just like the original IBM PC.

RSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289425)

The RSS for this story includes an AMD ad. Seems wrong to me.

OpenBSD and the UN (2, Funny)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289463)

do !

Or we'll call you really, really, really dirty names.

There, however, seems to be a small hole in the plan

As good a time as any to revisit UDI. (2, Insightful)

Burz (138833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289491)

From 1998, this article describes how Intel was eager to have Linux support UDI, the Uniform Driver Interface.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, but UDI seemed to get submerged.

The article URL (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289503)

http://lwn.net/1998/0924/ [lwn.net]

Sorry, I didn't quote the URL in the parent post (so slashdot removed it).

Open drivers are good for the manufacturer (1)

_eb0la_reston_ (930919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289521)

Sorry, I don't get it: OPEN drivers are good for manufacturers.

Their products get good support, and good drivers written by others; and they also get more sales without spending money in marketing (unless your product is a mess; if that's your case, you've got a different problem ;-).

Re:Open drivers are good for the manufacturer (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291399)

If the driver/specification reveals trade secrets about your hardware, it also gives your competition an edge. And it does so in order to target that 3% that doesn't use Windows or OS X (assuming the company write Apple drivers.)

Yes, all of your friends run Linux. In the real world, not that many people really do. The number gets reduced even more significantly when start discounting servers, which still need drivers, but a much smaller subset of them (no one sane runs a server over 802.11, and servers have no need for advanced graphics capabilities).

Re:Open drivers are good for the manufacturer (1)

_eb0la_reston_ (930919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291669)

Sancho, OpenBSD (as this is the case) is a great software for embedded systems / appliance hardware.

Selling stuff (all kind) to the embedded systems community (much bigger than the 3% non-windows consumer electronics you mention) is hard since they *must* have excellent hardware (=driver) suport.

You cannot get hardware running with confidence on embedded systems if you have to load a blob and cross your fingers hoping that blob/firmware code won't have (many) bugs inside you won't be able to fix, and the manufacturer won't fix for me since they have other people source code to blame... ... and *please* don't ask me to use XP Embedded, QNX, Neutrino, etc... embedded systems are expensive enough *just* running Net/OpenBSD.

Re:Open drivers are good for the manufacturer (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291815)

What embedded products are you referring to? I wasn't aware that OpenBSD was the basis for many.

As far as that goes, though, you can often license specs from hardware companies in these cases. You'll be forced to sign an NDA, meaning that you can't release the source or specs, but it would mean you can fix problems.

Intel 'Must'??? (-1, Flamebait)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289559)

Intel 'must' do whatever it thinks is best for it's business and shareholders, not what some pissante developers demand it to do.

RTFA, etc... (4, Informative)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289605)

There are two pieces of software here: the driver (which runs on the host), and firmware (which runs on the card). Theo wants freely redistributable firmware (which can be binary-only for all he cares), and documentation to write a free driver (which definitely must NOT be binary-only). Try not to get confused: He's not asking for free (as in freedom) firmware (though it would be nice), and he's not tolerating binary blobs that run on the host.

KernalTrap? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289639)

Kernaltrap? What the heck is that?
Did you find it in Googla?

Tasty kernels (1, Funny)

Orp (6583) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289657)

A new slashdot record - the *first word* of an article summary is misspelled! Congratulations!

Re:Tasty kernels (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290825)

You must be new here! Welcome!

Security (1)

AB3A (192265) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289699)

The danger of blobs is that they may contain a bug which could affect security. Worse, it might even contain spyware. Security being one of the chief concerns of the BSD crowd, why wouldn't TdR want to be upfront, honest, and open about what's in the blob?

Re:Security (2, Interesting)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291291)

Firmware blobs run only on the chips they are for. They don't run on the central CPU, and they don't run in kernal space, therefore, they aren't a security risk. Drivers blobs are an entirely different matter. Drivers blobs are a security risk and need to be open.

Security is not just one of the chief concerns of the BSD crowd, it is one of Theo's chief concerns. If he's not asking for open blobs, it's because they aren't a security concern.

Intel is being unreasonable (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289787)

OpenBSD want to distribute firmware along with the OS under an acceptable license. They are not asking for the source
code of the firmware. Intel are instractible here, so owners of Intel wireless devices needs to personally accept a license
before downloading the firmware. As an example: http://ipw2100.sourceforge.net/firmware.php [sourceforge.net]

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

Giving the appearance of beeing friendly to open source, while not beeing so, is the latest fad in business. Intel is an example
of this fad.

what a surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16289889)

Theo de Rat has issue with $VENDOR. In other news: sky blue, sun hot, rain wet.

Didn't he try this sort of crap with Sun and USIII a few years ago?

Theo.... (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 7 years ago | (#16289989)

Sadly, Theo's pissed off so many people that even if he asked nicly, companies would tell him to get bent just because of his history.

My server does love OpenBSD though.

First posT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16290247)

glass houses (-1, Flamebait)

oohshiny (998054) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290315)

If de Raadt is throwing around accusations like "open source fraud", I think de Raadt can be caulled an "open source fraud" with similar justification. After all, de Raadt wants us all to use a license for open source software that permits companies to take the source and make it proprietary.

So, Theo, stop the rhetoric. In particular as a proponent of the BSD license, you should take a laissez-faire attitude towards licenses.

Newsflash (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290347)

Most sufficiently large "OSS Friendly" companies are MSFT users at heart. They cling to the OSS side of things usually just to drum up business. That Intel does this [???, they do? my ipw2200 driver works fine without clickthroughs...] is no big surprise really.

Tom

Theo de blah (-1, Flamebait)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290413)

He never quits fucking whining does he?

What is he scared of, that one of his rants will piss Intel off and they will revoke OpenBSD's right to use the firmware blobs?
I think that's it.

Ha-Ha morons (1, Funny)

unity100 (970058) | more than 7 years ago | (#16290875)

Yea intel people, i mean YOU.

You are fighting AGAINST the people you know ?

And this "the people" is not "people" in like "some and the others" or a socialist, communist obscure concept of "people".

This is THE PEOPLE, like in the declaration of independence, like in french revolution, like in WE ALL.

WE are the people. You are fighting against us.

Please mention a few names of persons or organisations that have fought against the people and won, from any point in history.

Silence ? you got my point i believe.

Re:Ha-Ha morons (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 7 years ago | (#16291379)

"Please mention a few names of persons or organisations that have fought against the people and won, from any point in history.

Silence ? you got my point i believe."

You know, leaving a gap in the text there doesn't mean they can reply within it.

Intel's response (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16291245)

Intel: "OK, so you want to distribute our firmware with Linux. Which distros?"

Theo De Raadt: "No, actually it's for OpenBSD."

Intel: [long pause] "Oh." [click]

Re:Intel's response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16291329)

That about sums it up nicely.
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