NDISwrapper dodges another bullet
Posted Mar 6, 2008 14:38 UTC (Thu) by pr1268
Parent article: NDISwrapper dodges another bullet
> Quite frankly, my position on this has always been that the GPLv2 explicitly covers _derived_ works only, and that very obviously a Windows driver isn't a derived work of the kernel.
I have to agree with Linus' overall philosophy here wrt NDISWrapper. Wi-fi cards are the bone of contention amongst laptop users running Linux.
I can't even count how many times I've run across someone running a (fairly late-model) laptop with Linux and having to shoe-horn in Wi-fi capability on the built-in card with NDISWrapper (or other GPL-questionable methods).
(I even have a friend with a Lenovo T61 running Ubuntu - with an Intel Wi-fi card, two relatively Linux-friendly companies. But, neither of us could figure out how to get the WPA-specific features of the card to work with the university's encrypted Wi-fi network - and believe me, we spent days on this. He still is considering NDISWrapper, despite my urgings that he avoid doing so. And this is a guy who proudly sports a "Microsoft-Free" sticker on the lid of his laptop!)
I had someone else come ask me for help getting his laptop's Wi-fi card working, even though the sound card didn't work, the X display was set to a grotesquely low resolution (i.e. a 1920x1440 display running at 800x600), the sound card didn't work (not too sure whether that was a lack of Linux driver support or misconfiguration), some keyboard shortcut keys didn't work (probably not configured yet), and the thumbprint reader didn't work. Now bear in mind that every last piece of built-in hardware on this gentleman's laptop did work in Windows, and he took great pains to remind me of that while I was attempting to ascertain the best strategy of getting the Wi-fi working, but he was still willing to give Linux a try.
I get the impression that the kernel developers were/are attempting to quietly kill support for non-GPL driver/BLOB support in the kernel. I can imagine a future where, assuming this happens, then a whole counterculture sprouts up - that of Linux users of moderate skill who use outdated versions of the kernel and equally outdated versions of "driver-enabling" software (e.g., NDISWrapper) with vulnerabilities possibly lurking about, just to ensure everything Just Works™. Or, for those willing to give Linux a try, they discover just how horribly "crippled" everything becomes when switching from Windows (or Mac OS) to Linux because they've got the latest hardware devices and no driver support, and they swear off Linux forever.
I really do appreciate the evangelism RMS and the FSF have done over the years, and I am also truly grateful for the hard work the kernel developers have done to ensure Linux users don't feel "left behind" wrt hardware support (Greg K-H's open letter to IHVs a few months ago comes to mind). And, I think that the Linux community needs to continue applying this pressure on IHVs to ensure continued hardware driver support.
But, "slamming the door shut" (either clandestinely or overtly) on many users' lone ability to use their computers without caving in to the demands of one single company (and its chair-throwing CEO) just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. I understand that there are those among the kernel devs with intense philosophical beliefs about GPL adherence, but summarily "pulling the plug" without discussion is extreme, IMHO.
I can understand why some of the "tips" on the Ubuntu forums actively encourage NDISWrapper - (1) it's essentially a guaranteed solution (even if it is, as Linus said above, a distasteful one), and (2) it's a method that can be mass-marketed easily to novice Linux users.
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