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Re: [gNewSense-users] Intel's excuse for non-free WiFi binary firmware

From: Sam Geeraerts
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] Intel's excuse for non-free WiFi binary firmware
Date: Thu, 15 May 2008 19:28:47 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla-Thunderbird (X11/20080420)

Peter Lutz wrote:
I was reading through Intel's License FAQ for their wireless drivers, here's
what it says:

Each of the wireless adapters requires a corresponding microcode or firmware
image to be loaded in order to function. The microcode for the ipw3945
driver (ieee80211 based) also requires the use of a user space regulatory
daemon. All of those binaries are distributed as binaries under a
proprietary, free to redistribute (but not modify), license.

Their excuse for not allowing modification of these firmware images is this:

To operate a radio device, the hardware/firmware combination needs to be FCC
(and equivalent in other countries) certified; this excludes end user
modification which would void the certification.

I was curious, does anyone know if this is actually true? Do all WiFi
drivers have this restriction, or are there ways around it that Intel is not
mentioning? Will this prevent gNewsense from ever having ANY WiFi drivers,
if they all use non-modifiable firmware?


I attended an OpenMoko talk at FOSDEM 2007 and they said that their GSM stack is not open because FCC don't allow it. The reason is that it's either illegal or unsafe (I forgot which one) to broadcast radio waves with more power. People are protected from doing this (either accidentally or on purpose) by not being able to change the strength of the signal.

I don't know how valid that argument is. I'd think that there wouldn't be a problem if you make the hardware so that it can't go beyond a certain strength. It seems to me that that's also the only way to make sure it stays within the limits.

As far as I know, the WiFi cards that work with libre software have their firmware in ROM, so everything's in hardware.

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