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Re: why NetBSD include binary/blob driver or firmware by default?

On Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 07:08:00PM -0600, David Young wrote:
> If one's purpose is to innovate in wireless networking, one may
> benefit by modifying WLAN firmware's source code, or by rewriting
> it from scratch.  Running one's own code on a microcontroller that
> is tightly coupled to the MAC and PHY creates innovation opportunities.

In my opinion this is should be considered to be the equivalent of
replacing the device ROM. Sure, it is nice to be able to do that. It
often doesn't make a lot of sense and if the purpose is to write a
device driver, it doesn't really matter. There are all kind of wonderful
situations that can be constructed for what this can be used, but as
long as the device producer did its job correctly, the gain is limited.
You shouldn't have to fix bugs in the firmware, it means you brought
crap. Contrary to the external interface, the inner workings of the
devices are normally not documented at all and a lot of operations can
be harmful in various ways.

> > Source code for the firmware images would often not be very
> > useful, as they require very special tools for processing.
> Sure.  But I think that oftentimes the processing tool is no more
> special than gcc.

Depends a lot on the hardware. It can be anything from normal PPC
assembly to FPGA programming.


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