OpenBSD Journal

Intel also needs convincing on firmware licensing.

Contributed by grey on from the vendors need to meet consumer DEMANDS dept.

OpenBSD imported the BSD-licensed ipw & iwi drivers for Intel wireless chipsets last week. However, just like TI, drivers aren't enough - these chipsets require binary firmware to operate, which is not currently available under a license acceptable for open source use. Theo has written more about this issue on misc@ here and here.

On a postive note, many vendors understand consumer demands already. I have been told that just yesterday Zydas wireless firmware became free and I'm sure that they will enjoy the benefits of this support.

Update: It also can't hurt to sign this petition. But please write and phone the contacts supplied as well.

We encourage all of our readers to take some time to make use of these contacts at both Intel and TI. Pass the word along to friends acquaintences or colleagues who use open source software as well, as these issues affect those using linux distros or BSD trees equally. Below is a list of contact information for individuals at Intel:
Mr Boyd Bangerter (503) 264-7773
Mr Eric Jacobsen (480) 554-6078
Mr Ducan Kitchin +1 503 264 2727
Mr Uriel Lemberger +972 (4) 8655701
Dr Ali Sadri (858) 385-4571
Dr Adrian Stephens +44 1223 763457
Dr Chin C Tsien +1 858 385 4317
Dr Jesse Walker +1 503 712 1849

(Comments are closed)

  1. By tony ( on

    "Companies who don't respect their customers do not deserve respect in kind." I believe that might be my new signature... way to go Theo.

  2. By Asenchi ( on


    This was posted to misc@. Just wanted to keep everyone up to date.

    1. By grey ( on

      Thanks, also corrected Dr Adrian Stephens' address.

  3. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    I don't understand why hardware manufacturers put such encumbered licenses on their firmware which prevents it from being (re)distributed. I mean, if the firmware is already on the cd for free why can't it be included in an OS like OpenBSD? What's the reason here? I mean it's firmware that is essential for the hardware to function and not an office suite or some other commercial application that is supposed to make some money for a company (in this case i could understand why it's closed source). But what money can i make or save with a binary firmware? If i were a hardware vendor my interests should be that there is enough information available to the general public so that anyone could make a fully fledged driver for whatever OS desired shouldn't it´? I would only get a broader market without doing any work for it (the driver would be developed not by the company so no additional resources to pay). So actually it's a win-win situation for the company isn't it? Or what could be a bad point for a hardware company to publish the detailed information that is required to build a custom driver? What's so important about an interface to a binary firmware so that it has to be kept secret? Is it the fear of potential flaws in the hardware or implementation that could be uncovered? I don't get it.

    Recently i had an idea that it might be better to unload the work for driver development to the operating system developer's so that the company would just provide the minimum information necessary to build the driver (and/or firmware) and that the actual implementation work would be done by the people who know best how to write the driver for their particular OS so it could be written efficiently and optimized for it. The hardware vendor's would save the money and the customers would get the best and optimized support for their hardware on any OS that they would use.

    This is not only about the respect for the customers but for technology as a whole i think.

    Would that be a great idea or what do you think about it?

    1. By James ( on

      I think that manufacturers are unwilling to open up their expensively developed intellectual property in case it gives the competition a hint on how to do it better and thus lose their perceived edge.

      You and I both know this is utter tripe as an excuse but you can also see how PHB's would see it that way


      1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        But the developers seem to only be looking for permission to distribute the binary firmware, they're not looking for the source.

        Atleast, that's what I've gathered out of all of this.

        1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

          Yes, sure but they also want at least a documented interface for the binary firmware (in the next step) so that they can build a driver that can communicate with it and to fully unleash the potential of the hardware in a stable driver.
          At least that is what i learned from the prevous TI thread. :-)

      2. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        > I think that manufacturers are unwilling to open up their expensively
        > developed intellectual property in case it gives the competition a
        > hint on how to do it better and thus lose their perceived edge.

        But exactly that would freshen competition between the manufacturers to strive for better products and also a big win for the customers.

        Certainly, i also know that this is just as well a reason for nondisclosure. ;-)

      3. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        Sorry if I mis-understand, but who said they have to 'open up' their intellectual property? Isn't it just requesting the rights to (re)distribute what's already closed source (note: no one's asking for the source) as a blob file, such as what's already being distributed on their MS Windows driver CD's. I don't see much difference there, except that OpenBSD is basically asking for the rights to (re)distribute the 'binary' firmware code in their OS, as a native/stock driver in the OS - this is including other BSD's, Linux and other OSS OS's too. I just think Intel doesn't understand that and some people might be mis-communicating this in email, not clearly enough to them.

        $0.02 (tax included)

        1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

          as theo said, it's more a problem of actually getting dialogue with a decision maker. Dealing with anyone else is a complete waste of time.

  4. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    I guess you missed one ;-)

    1. By grey ( on

      Thanks, I've added it. If anyone has more just let me know (it would also be a good idea to add these on misc@)

  5. By gwyllion ( on

    Progress is being made with Intel and other vendors (Atmel and Conexant). Read these 2 post on misc by Theo:
    Licensing mails being sent to vendors
    Atmel Firmware

    A summary.

    Handled: Symbol, Zydas, Atmel
    Terms being discussed and worked on: Conexant/Intersil Prism GT (FullMAC), Intel
    No response yet from vendor: TI
    Will be handled in another creative way: Atheros
    Hardware entirely closed: Broadcom (Airport Extreme)


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