"I write to you to inform you that I have decided to join Atheros as a full time employee, as a Software Engineer, to help them with their goals and mission to get every device of Atheros supported upstream in the Linux kernel."
"People who had problems with unsupported Atheros devices (single chip variants found in recent laptops, macbooks, etc.) should get the latest code from CVS and test it..." OpenBSD Reyk Floeter announced regarding recent improvements to his reverse engineered HAL adding support for 11b mode. He noted that the new code wasn't without fault yet, adding, "hacked and tested in the Melbourne Museum during the AUUG 2007..." Reyk explained the changes in his commit message:
"The newer single chip Atheros wireless chipsets like the AR5424, AR2423 etc. are mostly compatible to the AR5212 but use a different algorithm to set the 2GHz RF channel, that's why they didn't work in OpenBSD. I figured out that the channels were set with an offset, setting channel 11 in the driver caused the hardware to set channel 5 etc. Because I didn't figure out the pattern to fix the algoritm yet, I fixed it in a workaroundish way by defining a small 'table' with offsets for the 11b channels to get the right results. For example, if we want to set channel 11 (2462MHz), we add an offset of -30MHz, and feed the result (2432MHz ^= channel 5) into the unmodified AR5212/AR5112 RF setup function.
"Long description for a commit message, but it needed some time to figure it out. It is still not perfect, needs some more work, and it doesn't work in all cases; but it allows to use newer chipsets in 11b mode restricted to 1 or to 2Mbit/s. 11a mode seems to work without problems so far."
"Incorporating the MadWifi project as non-profit entity is on our to-do-list since months, and I really would like to see it happen soon now," Michael Renzmann announced on the Madwifi development mailing list. He explained, "[the] main motivation for setting up a non-profit organisation is to be able to handle monetary donations from users in a clean way. So far, we are a bunch of interested and only loosely organised developers working on the driver." He went on to add, "we see a rising amount of users asking how they can donate money to support the ongoing development of MadWifi and ath5k. The money could be used for covering costs for our server, for setting up a small testbed installation, for providing developers with Atheros-based cards, and so on." He then noted that given the two options of either forming their own non-profit or joining a non-profit umbrella, they are choosing to pursue the latter.
Michael continued, "As far as I know, SFC and SPI are the only non-profit umbrellas that exist for open-source projects - or at least these are the two 'famous' ones." He went on to offer some comparisons between the 'Software Freedom Conservancy' (SFC) and 'Software in the Public Interest' (SPI), as well as listing some projects that are members of each. He noted the SFC's association with the SFLC and suggested, "I currently tend to vote for incorporating as non-profit by joining the SPI, and at the same time join the SFLC as client." Michael concluded by asking for feedback.
"Based on the new guidelines posted by the SFLC on 'Maintaining Permissive-Licensed Files in a GPL-Licensed Project: Guidelines for Developers', specifically section 5, we are introducing a new tag for use with patches which deal with files licensed under permissive licenses (BSD, ISC) on Linux wireless in our larger GPL project, the Linux kernel," explained Luis Rodriguez in an email titled, "new 'Changes-licensed-under' tag introduced for Linux-wireless". The web pages linked in the email appear to be an official response by the SFLC regarding the recent BSD vs. GPL licensing controversy surrounding the Atheros wireless device driver. Luis continued:
"Although some developers have a practice of implying their patches for a permissive licensed file abides by the respective permissive license of the file being patched, and although some changes are obviously not copyrightable, we would like to 'err on the side of caution', take the advice from SFLC, and introduce Changes-licensed-under in order to help the BSD family reap benefits of our contributions to permissive licensed files."
There were only a few brief replies to Luis' email. Stephen Hemminger suggested a simpler solution, "no, please don't [go] down this legal rat hole. It would cause bullshit like people submitting dual licensed patches to the scheduler or GPL only patches to the ath5k or ACPI code. Instead, add a section to
Documentation/SubmittingPatches that clearly states that all changes to a file are licensed under the same license as the original file." Krzysztof Halasa pointed out that this was already the case, quoting a line from the Developer's Certificate of Origin contained in the
SubmittingPatches file which says, "the contribution was created in whole or in part by me and I have the right to submit it under the open source license indicated in the file".
"We, the MadWifi team, announce our decision to move away from the binary-only HAL and change the focus of our future development towards ath5k, a completely free (as in freedom) driver which will eventually become an integral part of the Linux kernel," Michael Renzmann posted to the MadWifi development mailing list. The decision comes during continued debate surrounding what is and what is not allowed by the BSD license, and with no official statement yet from the SFLC. Much of the debate was due to an attempt to release BSD licensed files under the GPL, visible for example in the ath5k_hw.c source file which is still labeled as available "under the terms of the GNU General Public License" in the latest version of the file checked into the source repository linked from the MadWifi project page. It appears that actual development of the ath5k driver has been moved to Linville's git tree, where the license is now purely BSD, though debate remains as to what's required to be able to add additional copyrights to source code as have been added to the reverse engineered HAL code originally written by Reyk Floeter. In an earlier confrontation with Atheros, the work done by Reyk was determined to be free of copyright infringement:
"A driver for Atheros wireless cards is available in OpenBSD that talks directly to the hardware, based on reverse engineering efforts done by Reyk Floeter. Relevant parts of the driver have been ported to Linux by Nick Kossifidis to start OpenHAL, a free (as in freedom) replacement of the proprietary HAL. Claims that the OpenBSD driver (and thus also OpenHAL) contains stolen code slowed down the OpenHAL efforts but finally could be voided. The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), with the help of Atheros, performed a thorough code review and concluded "that OpenHAL does not infringe copyrights held by Atheros". In other words, the way is clear now for the inclusion of an OpenHAL-based driver into the Linux kernel."
"What is going on whenever someone changes code is that they make a 'derivative work'," began Theodore Ts'o. "Whether or not you can even make a derivative work, and under what terms the derivative work can be licensed, is strictly up to the license of the original. For example, the BSD license says: '
redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met....' Note the 'with or without modification'. This is what allows people to change BSD licensed code and redistribute said changes." Regarding code that is GPL'd, he added, "it is not a relicencing, per se, since the original version of the file is still available under the original copyright; it is only the derived work which is under the more restrictive copyright."
Disagreement continued as to whether or not the BSD license allows the addition of new copyrights on unmodified or minimally modified code. Another disagreement was over the continued existence of improperly licensed files in developer source code repository histories from when BSD licensed files had been changed to the GPL, a problem since fixed. Jeff Garzik explained:
"In a purely open development environment, even personal developer trees are made public. That's the way we _want_ development to occur. Out in public, with a full audit trail. Your implied ideal scenario is tantamount to guaranteeing that mistakes are never committed to a public repository anywhere. Mistakes will happen. Even legal mistakes. In public.
"What you are seeing is an example of mistakes that were caught in review, and corrected. That's how any scalable review process works... the developer reviews his own work. the team reviews the developer's work. the maintainer reviews the team's work. the next maintainer reviews. and so on, to the top."
As the Atheros driver issue continues to simmer on the OpenBSD -misc mailing list and the Linux Kernel mailing list, with debate continuing over when the license of source code can be altered or added to, Eben Moglen made a statement for the Software Freedom Law Center. He began by defending their own actions, "it might be useful to recall the first stage of this process, when OpenBSD developers were accused of misappropriating Atheros code, and SFLC investigated and proved that no such misappropriation had occurred? Wild accusations about our motives are even more silly than they are false." He went on to acknowledge, "we understand that attribution issues are critically important to free software developers; we are accustomed to the strong feelings that are involved in such situations. In the fifteen years I have spent giving free legal help to developers throughout the community, attribution disputes have been, always, the most emotionally charged." He added that the SFLC would be making no further statements until their work on this matter was complete, noting:
"Also, and again for the last time, let me state that SFLC's instructions from its clients are to establish all the facts concerning the development of the current relevant code (which means the painstaking reconstruction of several independent and overlapping lines of development, including forensic reconstruction through line-by-line code reviews where version control system information is not available), as well as to resolve all outstanding legal issues, and to make policy recommendations, if possible, that would result in all projects, under both GPL and ISC, having full access to all code on their preferred terms, on an *ongoing* basis, with full respect for everyone's legal rights. We continue to believe those policy goals are achievable in this situation. The required work has been made more arduous because some people have chosen not to cooperate in good faith. But we will complete the work as soon as we can, and we will, as Mr Garvik says, follow the community's practice of complete publication, so everyone can see all the evidence."
"Reyk and I have decided to show something from the private handling of this Atheros copyright violation issue," OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt began in a posting to the OpenBSD -misc mailing list referring to the recent relicensing of OpenBSD's BSD licensed Atheros driver under the GPL. He noted, "it has been like pulling teeth since (most) Linux wireless guys and the SFLC do not wish to admit fault. I think that the Linux wireless guys should really think hard about this problem, how they look, and the legal risks they place upon the future of their source code bodies." He stressed that the theory that BSD code can simply be relicensed to the GPL without making significant changes to the code is false, adding, "in their zeal to get the code under their own license, some of these Linux wireless developers have broken copyright law repeatedly. But to even get to the point where they broke copyright law, they had to bypass a whole series of ethical considerations too." Theo went on to explain:
"I believe these people have received bogus advice from Eben Moglen regarding how copyright law actually works in a global setting. Perhaps the internationally based developers should rethink their approach of taking advice from a US-based lawyer who apparently knows nothing about the Berne Convention. Furthermore, those developers are getting advice freely from ex-FSF people who have formed an agency with an agenda. Some have suggested that the SFLC was formed to avoid smearing the FSF with dirt whenever the SFLC does something risky. Don't get trampled; there could be penalties besides looking unethical and guilty. Be really cautious, especially with things like this coming to mess with our communities."
Author of OpenBSD's hardware driver layer for wireless Atheros devices, Reyk Floeter, sent a query to the Linux Kernel mailing list regarding the recent licensing debate surrounding the Linux "ath5k" driver, "I'm still trying to get an idea about the facts and the latest state of the incidence that violated the copyright of my code, because I just returned from vacation." He continued:
"I'm very disappointed about this and I hope that it was a mistake, because it is very unfair and malicious against me and the OpenBSD community. I invested a lot of time to write the code and to make it work with as many chipsets as possible. And during the last years, the OpenBSD community helped to test and to improve the driver. I always liked the idea to port it to other operating systems, but now somebody harmed these efforts by violating the license."
Reyk explained that he has cooperated with developers porting his free Atheros driver from OpenBSD to other operating systems, "because it is a clear sign against hardware companies attacking the free software 'community' by releasing binary-only driver objects instead of free code or hardware documentation." He explained that he had worked with the developers who ported his driver to Linux as "OpenHAL", "we exchanged ideas, bug fixes, and small code snippets. They sent me some bug reports and I also looked at their changes and reported some functional problems. This was possible because they kept the license in place." Finally he expressed concern that this would no longer be possible if the license was changed, "somebody wants to cancel any options to cooperate by locking me out with a prepended GPL and an invalid copyright on top of it."
OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt highlighted a recent commit to the NetBSD source tree saying, "if anyone had any doubt that our insistence on freedom was important, just read this." The referenced commit message describes an effort to work around issues with a blob that is included with NetBSD, something strongly avoided by the OpenBSD project. The commit message states:
"The Atheros HAL on MIPS uses %s7 as a general purpose register, but the rest of the kernel uses it to store the value of curlwp. Sam won't recompile the HAL for us (fair enough), and we can't modify the HAL to use another register because doing so could put us in breach of the license (v. crappy). So, do a save/set/restore on %s7 in KernIntr() and in the stubs that the HAL uses to call back into the kernel.
"Please note that diffs are not public domain; they are subject to the copyright notices on the relevant files."
The OpenBSD project has long been associated with security. Indeed, thanks to proactively and regularly auditing its code, the project's web site is able to boast "only one remote hole in the default install, in more than 8 years," and another page states "our aspiration is to be NUMBER ONE in the industry for security (if we are not already there)." However, security is not the only focus of OpenBSD, as reflected in the project's slogan which reads, "Free, Functional and Secure." All three of these words are strongly backed by OpenBSD developers.
If you speak with OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt for any length of time, you will quickly realize just how important freedom is to the project. For example, freedom was the driving force behind the now ubiquitous OpenSSH, developed within the OpenBSD project. It has also lead to the development of OpenNTPD, OpenCVS, and the widely used pf Packet filter [story]. In recognition of these many contributions, Theo recently received the 2004 Free Software Award from the Free Software Foundation. The freedom that the OpenBSD team works so hard for comes without any strings, patents, or conditions, distributed under the BSD license.
Currently, the OpenBSD project is focusing on wireless networking technology, working to convince hardware manufacturers to make the firmware for their wireless cards freely distributable. It sounds simple enough, but the effort has taken much persistence and perseverance. Many of today's corporations require the signing of non-disclosure agreements and other legal red tape prior to making firmware or documentation available, requirements that don't measure up to OpenBSD's standards for freedom.