[nycbug-talk] OpenBSD and blobs

Jeff Quast af.dingo at gmail.com
Thu Dec 14 09:24:22 EST 2006

On 10/17/06, Miles Nordin <carton at ivy.net> wrote:
> >>>>> "njt" == N J Thomas <njt at ayvali.org> writes:
>   njt> All in all, their position is quite reasonable and it's
>   njt> disheartening to see Linux and FreeBSD devs take such a
>   njt> nonchalant attitude towards the problem.
> The atheros blob is a particular harmful case of this.  the ath_hal
> shipped in FreeBSD, Linux, and NetBSD is built by Sam Leffler who has
> signed an NDA with Atheros.  I suspect that Atheros considers Sam
> ``tainted'' by the sight of their code and probably insisted in their
> NDA that he give up his right to work on the OpenBSD driver, which is
> blob-free.  He's therefore glad to build a blob for anything you want
> if it will convince you to avoid Reyk's open HAL.
> Unfortunately the builds of the HAL Sam does are quite crappy and
> prone to regressions.  Since there is no way for anyone but Sam to
> separate bugfix changes to the HAL from experimental-feature changes
> to the HAL, he has turned the free software community into his
> playground of captive beta testers.  We cannot do our own release
> engineering---we can only accept whatever piece-of-crap blob he chucks
> at us and beta-test it for the benefit of his employer.
> Wireless has become all but unuseable on free operating systems thanks
> to a couple arcane decisions by a very small number of people.  We
> really need a permanent way out of this disaster.

Sorry for chiming in so late, but for the non-openbsd users who are
interested in this topic, two presentations were since published by
the openbsd team,

jsg's http://www.openbsd.org/papers/opencon06-drivers
deraadt's http://www.openbsd.org/papers/opencon06-docs

On your note of wireless becoming unusable on free operating systems,

Any OS can use any piece of any of these drivers. An open source GPL
licensed wireless driver is like a "look but don't touch" driver for
every non-linux OS out there. Obfuscated code written under an NDA is
even worse. "Thanks for nothing" comes to mind.

The windows driver wraps, binary blobs, and drivers under NDA out
there and the users who accept them are an absolute shame to the cause
of the open source community. The attitude of "I just want it to work"
is short sighted, selfish, and harmful.

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