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ACX100 Firmware Licensing
- To: misc_(_at_)_openbsd_(_dot_)_org
- Subject: ACX100 Firmware Licensing
- From: Ryan McBride <mcbride_(_at_)_openbsd_(_dot_)_org>
- Date: Tue, 26 Oct 2004 16:33:49 +0000
- Reply-to: mcbride_(_at_)_openbsd_(_dot_)_org
We'd like to support the Texas Instruments ACX100 802.11b wireless
chipset (DLink DWL-520+, DWL-650+, and others), but we can't include a
working driver without the firmware binary blob, which is available but
has a restrictive license. We have tried to contact TI, through all the
channels available to us. They have not even replied to our mail.
We are simply trying to have a frank discussion with the right people,
and noone inside TI thus far is helping us find the right people.
Perhaps you -- as consumers -- can convince them to talk to us?
Any other contacts you might have at TI would also be helpful.
Bill Carney <bcarney_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> +1 707 521 3069
Mr Taketo Fukui <fukui_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> 81-3-4331-2060
Dr John T Coffey <coffey_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> +1 707 284 2224
Mr Srikanth Gummadi <sgummadi_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> +1 707 284 2209
Dr Srinath Hosur <hosur_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> (214) 480-4432
Dr Jie Liang <jliang_(_at_)_iee_(_dot_)_org> (214) 480-4105
Mr Joe Mueller <mueller_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> 858 646 3358
Mr Lior Ophir <lior_(_dot_)_ophir_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> (972) 9 970-6542
Dr Stephen Pope <spp_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> (510) 841-8315
Mr Yoram Solomon <yoram_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com> (408) 965-2196
Tim Riker <tim_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
DuVal, Mary" <m-duval_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Anand Dabak <dabak_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
"Anand G. Dabak" <dabak_(_at_)_hc_(_dot_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Tim Schmidl <schmidl_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Sean Coffey <coffey_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Srikanth Gummadi <sgummadi_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Srinath Hosur <hosur_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Muhammad Ikram <mzi_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Joseph Mueller <mueller_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Lior Ophir <lior_(_dot_)_ophir_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Stephen Pope <spp_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Ian Sherlock <isherlock_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Manoneet Singh <msingh_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Richar Williams <richard_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
Hirohisa Yamaguchi <h-yamaguchi4_(_at_)_ti_(_dot_)_com>
----- Forwarded message from Ryan McBride <mcbride_(_at_)_openbsd_(_dot_)_org> -----
From: Ryan McBride <mcbride_(_at_)_openbsd_(_dot_)_org>
Subject: ACX100 Firmware Licensing
Since I do not know which one of you to contact, I am contacting all
of you in the hopes that someone can redirect me to the responsible
party who can help me.
I am contacting on behalf of the open source operating system called
OpenBSD, but the message applies to all of the other open source
operating systems (Linux, the other BSD's, etc).
In open source operating systems the support for some 802.11 devices,
drivers such as TIs ACX100 chip, is lagging because the vendors are
taking rather restrictive approaches regarding their technology.
We have begun working on a driver for this chip, but it will be crippled
in our operating system due to the absence of a freely available
Our policy is as follows: We will include a firmware from a vendor if it
is freely redistributable. It can be a binary blob of data. It must be
copyrighted, of course, but that is in the interest of the vendor.
Our user community is very compatibility driven in their purchasing
decisions; they seek out the components that are stable and well
supported, and it is not the ACX100 varients that they will select.
Even if a free driver exists, they will avoid these cards since the
firmware is not included in the operating system, so you are selling
fewer cards than you could. I don't know if the open source operating
systems are rising as much some of the press leads us to believe, but if
they are, you can no longer afford to turn your back on a fickle and
technically savvy community.
In the past, vendors have gotten by because there were no options, but
now that some have begun opening up with freely licensed firmware and
usable technical documentation, open source users have a choice, and
they will be chosing the best supported cards, ie those from vendors who
cooperate with the open source projects.
There is another threat to your business model of remaining closed.
Some vendors like RealTek and Ralink have come out with fully documented
chipsets. Even Intel's Centrino-associated chipsets are now fully
documented, and Cisco's remain documented. And of course we fully
support the old Lucent, Prism, and Symbol devices.
Texas Instruments can avoid getting sidelined in the open source market,
by working with us to release the firmware in a way we can use it.
Other companies that have met with the same firmware choices?
Qlogic ISP scsi/fiberchannel PCI cards
3com Ethernet cards that do IPSEC offloading
Intel 100mbit card firmware upgrades for bugs
NCR for their scsi products
There are about 20 other smaller companies on the list too.
This is a copyright notice from a Qlogic SCSI card firmware:
* Copyright (C) 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Qlogic, Inc.
* All rights reserved.
* Redistribution and use in source and binary forms are permitted provided
* that the following conditions are met:
* 1. Redistribution of source code must retain the above copyright
* notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
* 2. Redistribution in binary form must reproduce the above copyright
* notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the
* documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
* 3. The name of the author may not be used to endorse or promote products
* derived from this software without specific prior written permission
* THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE AUTHOR ``AS IS'' AND ANY EXPRESS OR
* IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES
* OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED.
* IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHOR BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT,
* INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT
* NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE,
* DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY
* THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT
* (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF
* THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.
Four years ago the open source community told Qlogic that they had to
make their firmware free, or the driver would be deleted from the
various operating systems. They resisted us. The driver was deleted
from a couple of operating systems. A few days later they contacted
us again to make the firmware free, and the driver was re-added. We
told our users what was going on, and told them who to talk to.
Five years ago, Adaptec was refusing to give us documentation for
their scsi cards. We worked persistantly to build up communication
with Adaptec and were shunned. So we gave a list of contacts (much
like the cc: list you see above to our user community). Our users
contacted 40 email addresses at Adaptec. A few days later Adaptec
mailed us 2 of every cards they made, along with 2 copies of the
manuals for every chipset they made. And we wrote support for all
their devices, and they have sold thousands and thousands of cards as
After Qlogic and Adaptec started giving documentation to, all the other
vendors stepped into line very quickly.
The same thing happened with Ethernet chipsets after Taiwanese companies
started making DEC Tulip semi-clones. The market for secrets fell
apart, price and the customer rule now.
We hope to see TI release a set of ACX100 firmware images with
a copyright notice as shown above. We can talk about it. We know how
to craft a copyright notice that will be in your interests, and also
will be sufficient for the full range of Open Source project requirements.
Otherwise vendors who have opened their firmware and/or documentation,
are going to eat into your business, or seen another way, you will lose
a business opportunity.
In a few days I will be giving the list of contact information to our
user community -- please consider them your customers, your potential
customers, or your lost customers.
If I am not convincing enough, perhaps they can be.
Ryan McBride, OpenBSD Project
----- End forwarded message -----
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