Subject: Re: binary-only code is evil
To: NetBSD-current Users's Discussion List <>
From: Alan Barrett <>
List: current-users
Date: 10/01/2006 11:17:45
On Sat, 30 Sep 2006, Chapman Flack wrote:
> How would you approach, for example, the Atheros HAL? We understand
> the vendor's obligations to the FCC.

I don't think we do understand the vendor's obligations to the FCC.
We might understand what the vendor claims are their obligations, but
that's not the same thing.

Some other views, found by searching the NetBSD list archives for "FCC

tech-kern in late August 2003, subject "Binary only drivers in sys?":

    David Young posts a reference to the FCC "SDR" rules (for software-
    defined radios), and argues that the the vendor has a choice of
    rules, and could choose a rule set other than the "SDR" rules.

tech-net in early November 2004, subject "slashdot on 'OpenBSD Activism
Shows Drivers Can Be Freed'":

    <>: A more
    detailed message from David Young, claiming that no WiFi radios at
    all have been certified under the SDR rules, and Atheros is using
    the rules as an excuse.

    <>: Paul
    Shupak posts several references to FCC documents telling
    manufacturers that they must promise things like "software and/or
    drivers will not be provided to allow operation [outside what the
    FCC allows]".

    <>: Ken
    Hornstein replies:  The FCC _didn't_ say "You can't tell anyone how
    to program this hardware to transmit in that band"

    <>: David
    Young says "the FCC's aim is to prevent illegal operation that is
    casual or inadvertent."

There's also the argument that, independent of the vendor's requirements
or wishes, if the necessary interfaces can be reverse engineered, then
nothing stops open source software from using the no-longer-secret
knowledge.  OpenBSD has an open source driver Atheros HAL.

--apb (Alan Barrett)