If recently found this article titled, The Battle for Wireless Network Drivers by Jem Matzan, on the state of wireless support on the part of manufacturers towards Free (GPL’d or BSD’d) operating systems.
It describes the process of reverse engineering and the difficulties involved with the development of firmware, lobbying for documentation and/or the freedom to redistribute firmware, and source code. It also describes the insistence of some manufacturers on license agreements (such as NDAs [non-disclosure agreements]).
In an unexpected fashion, the article ultimately identifies a lack of communication between developers contributing to the lack of wireless support, with “Even if one of the above companies wanted to provide the appropriate materials to create free drivers and firmware, how would they know whom to contact?”. I think this is an unbalanced view. As I’ve written before elsewhere, how hard is it for a manufacturer to simply post documentation, source code, or API information on a publicly accessible server? I suppose that this move would be seen as potentially giving away company secrets to competitors but what’s keeping Free wireless hackers to share their insight with proprietary competitors anyway? Or have company coders infiltrate Free support groups to gain access to competitor’s products (even before products hit the market in some cases).
My point is that there are no infrastructural reasons for which a wireless card manufacturers should not participate in wireless Free support as they don’t have to go through the trouble to find or even decide on the right target people to receive their documentation. What’s more, they can do this publicly on servers –as I’ve already written above– and do so on their terms. Let the Free support community worry about finding the documentation. I gather they would do this themselves and very speedily.
Other than than above information, the article serves as a (albeit imperfect) list on who’s supporting wireless so that you can decide on which company to spend your hard earned cash. I know I do.
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