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GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

Posted Oct 25, 2006 21:39 UTC (Wed) by gmaxwell (guest, #30048)
In reply to: GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper by mikov
Parent article: GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

> that many people use ndiswrapper, simply because they don't have a choice

From spending time giving free linux support to linux newbies on IRC I've found that the majority of people trying to use ndiswrapper today are trying to use hardware for which there currently exists free drivers (and in somecases, like Intel 2100, very good free drivers). The reason they are trying to use ndiswrapper is because when they googled for their hardware old mentions of ndiswrapper is what came up first. .. Worse, some distributions advocate ndiswrapper for drivers long after solid free drivers are available.

>- Buy another laptop (yeah, right)

Although most people don't realize it, almost all laptop's wireless cards are on mini-pci and are removable as a result. Linux compatible mini-pci cards can be purchased for fairly low prices, and cards are available with far better recieve sensitivity and higher transmit power than what probably shipped with their laptop. So while not an ideal solution, it isn't unreasonable to suggest that someone change their hardware.

>- Use Windows (yeah, right)
>- Patch the kernel to remove the restriction.

The best option is to use a free driver.

The next best option is to change to Linux supported hardware even ignoring that much of the better hardware is Linux supported, it will simply work better because you need not worry about bugs introduced by running a windows driver in an unintended enviroment.

Using ndiswrapper? ... well Why do you suggest people us Windows drivers after discarding out the option of using Windows itself? There are several nice VMs that Linux works well in, ... If the user is going to have propritary code in their kernel, why not go all the way?


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GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

Posted Oct 25, 2006 22:10 UTC (Wed) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

> From spending time giving free linux support to linux newbies on IRC I've found that the majority of people trying to use ndiswrapper today are trying to use hardware for which there currently exists free drivers

I didn't realize that, though personally I haven't had to use ndiswrapper yet.
I guess most people expect that if a free driver was available, it would be autodetected. From a user's perspective, downloading a free but beta driver from sourceforge (because it isn't included in the distribution) is probably worse than using ndiswrapper, which happens to be included in the distribution (and they already have the Windows driver because they are probably dual booting).

> Although most people don't realize it, almost all laptop's wireless cards are on mini-pci and are removable as a result.

I don't think this is a reasonable option, except for geeks and true enthusiasts. While I personally would do that, I wouldn't dare recommend it to anybody who asks me for help with their laptop. I especially wouldn't recommend it if their laptop happened to be working one hour ago, until they upgraded their kernel.
Seriously, this is out of the question. People would laugh at my face if I told them that they had to pay money and modify their laptop instead of deleting two lines from the kernel source.

Buying a new laptop so that it could be used for Linux is another thing. In that case buying an extra mini-pci card is also acceptable.

> The best option is to use a free driver

While that is true, not all people are using Linux with the idea of testing it and putting up with problems. If the free driver is in any way less functional than the NDIS one, they have zero incentive of using it.

The best option is for as many people as possible to use Linux (and to want to use it) and to have it as functional as possible. Then those people are more likely to buy Linux-compliant hardware next time.

> Using ndiswrapper? ... well Why do you suggest people us Windows drivers after discarding out the option of using Windows itself? There are several nice VMs that Linux works well in, ... If the user is going to have propritary code in their kernel, why not go all the way?

That is an excellent question. Why not run Linux in VMWare under Windows ? I really don't know how I could explain that to my wife for example (if she knew what VMWare was). Most laptops come with Windows anyway. Why not really ?

Cons:
- Less available memory ?
- Slower ?
- Less stable ???
- Worse battery life ??? (but is it really, considering that currently the battery life in Windows is noticeably better)

Pros:
- Better networking (my wireless does work better in Windows than Ubuntu)
- Longer battery life
- Convenient access to Windows applications in the few cases you do need them
- Much more controllable, easy to back and restore the entire image

How would you answer ?

GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

Posted Oct 25, 2006 22:44 UTC (Wed) by lutchann (✭ supporter ✭, #8872) [Link]

People would laugh at my face if I told them that they had to pay money and modify their laptop instead of deleting two lines from the kernel source.

OK, then all you have to do is help them patch and recompile the kernel every time they need to update, and everything will be fine. As many other posters have pointed out, there's nothing in the license that prevents you from doing this.

The best option is for as many people as possible to use Linux (and to want to use it) and to have it as functional as possible. Then those people are more likely to buy Linux-compliant hardware next time.

I'm not sure I follow your reasoning there. It seems more likely that if we compromise and allow them to install proprietary drivers today, they will expect us to compromise and allow them to install proprietary drivers next time.

GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

Posted Oct 26, 2006 12:01 UTC (Thu) by malor (guest, #2973) [Link]

They have the right to install proprietary drivers. You're supposed to be giving them freedom, not chaining them to free code.

GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

Posted Oct 26, 2006 19:57 UTC (Thu) by AJWM (guest, #15888) [Link]

> They have the right to install proprietary drivers.

True. What they don't have the right to is expect somebody else to help them do it, or make it easy for them to do it.

GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

Posted Oct 25, 2006 23:03 UTC (Wed) by gmaxwell (guest, #30048) [Link]

>> are trying to use hardware for which there currently exists free drivers

>I didn't realize that, though personally I haven't had to use ndiswrapper yet.
>I guess most people expect that if a free driver was available, it would be autodetected. From a user's perspective, downloading a free but beta driver from sourceforge (because it isn't included in the distribution) is probably worse than using ndiswrapper, which happens to be included in the distribution (and they already have the Windows driver because they are probably dual booting).

Some drivers (Intel is the perfect example) will not grant permission for third parties to distribute their firmware, so they can't be made to work automatically.

But yes, in some cases it's a free beta driver... yes, NDIS wrapper might be easier once (although you learn a bad habbit that will be unneeded later, you lose support, and you introduce weird bugs (which NDISwrappered drivers do .. It's not unfounded FUD that I'm spreading :))), but if you want to go for the easiest solution, we're back to "buy a system preloaded with the OS you want" as the easiest.

>I don't think this is a reasonable option, except for geeks and true enthusiasts. While I personally would do that, I wouldn't dare recommend it to anybody who asks me for help with their laptop. I especially wouldn't recommend it if their laptop happened to be working one hour ago, until they upgraded their kernel.

Upgrade the mini-pci card themselves? Perhaps not (although it is userservicable on most laptops)... but they could have it done. I think you over estimate the prospects of someone laughing about it, often in the windows world people have to pay for silly solutions. In any case, it's not as simple as "modify two lines" ... Ndiswrapper is a hack of a solution and I think most people can appricate "make it work with duct tape" vs "spend $50 and do it right".

> While that is true, not all people are using Linux with the idea of testing it and putting up with problems. If the free driver is in any way less functional than the NDIS one, they have zero incentive of using it.

In the case of the intel drivers the NDIS driver is less functional, yet people are using it. Generally the NDIS drivers have poor integration.

>The best option is for as many people as possible to use Linux (and to want to use it) and to have it as functional as possible. Then those people are more likely to buy Linux-compliant hardware next time.

Of course, if the drivers compromise the stability of their systems, they may not have any reason to continue to use Linux. Its a fine line.

>That is an excellent question. Why not run Linux in VMWare under Windows ? I really don't know how I could explain that to my wife for example (if she knew what VMWare was). Most laptops come with Windows anyway. Why not really ?

As you said, less memory.. somewhat lower performance.. You suffer all the bugs of Windows and linux. But to hear Microsoft advocates argue, the drivers are the weakest link in Windows stability... so perhaps you're no worse off with ndiswrapper than windows + vmware.

It's a personal decision and the answer depends on what hardware you have and why you are using Linux.

In my case, the hardware I use is usually much better supported in Linux (good luck finding windows vista drivers for random SCSI controllers, T1 interface boards, 900Mhz pre-802.11 radios, etc)... and none of the software that I'm interested in is Windows only. ::shrugs::

The reality is that once you've decided that running Free Software is a non-issue for you (by adding binary nvidia drivers, ndiswrapper, etc)... And that stability/supportability isn't an issue (by running ndiswrapper with drivers outside of their intended/tested enviroment)... You might as well run Linux in VM. Nothing wrong with that.

GPL-only symbols and ndiswrapper

Posted Oct 26, 2006 5:26 UTC (Thu) by jamesh (guest, #1159) [Link]

> Although most people don't realize it, almost all laptop's wireless cards
> are on mini-pci and are removable as a result. Linux compatible mini-pci
> cards can be purchased for fairly low prices, and cards are available with
> far better recieve sensitivity and higher transmit power than what
> probably shipped with their laptop. So while not an ideal solution, it
> isn't unreasonable to suggest that someone change their hardware.

Note that some laptop manufacturers will prevent a laptop from booting with a third party MiniPCI wireless card. The excuse being that the wireless device is made up of the MiniPCI card and the antenna in the lid, so they only allow complete wireless devices that they've received FCC approval for.

This behaviour has been seen in Thinkpad X40 laptops.

Wrong problem, wrong solution

Posted Oct 26, 2006 7:44 UTC (Thu) by lacostej (guest, #2760) [Link]

So basically developpers are trying to put a technical restriction to solve a communication problem. That won't work.

If users, why not add a littel daemon that detects ndiswrapper, reports the hardware used, query a DB and report a warning to the user saying that a better driver exists ?

Users don't know about alternatives ? Let them know the alternatives.

Wrong problem, wrong solution

Posted Oct 26, 2006 22:32 UTC (Thu) by k8to (subscriber, #15413) [Link]

You presume a single agent where there are many.

Such a daemon would really need to be set up by the distribution, who are in a better situation to drive users towards free drivers in the first place, by autoinstalling them. Such a further steps seems a nuisance to me.

"I just installed NDISwrapper after repeated crashes from the free driver, and this stupid popup is complaining that I should go back, what a joke!"

Maybe that wouldn't happen, but I do not like this style of solution.

The kernel developers are -- via technical means -- conveying to kernel-driver developers what they believe is a fair manner of use of their code by proprietary modules. This is completely reasonable. The debate is in the details of how they go about it.

Links for mini-PCI wireless cards with free drivers?

Posted Oct 26, 2006 16:09 UTC (Thu) by GreyWizard (guest, #1026) [Link]

Linux compatible mini-pci cards can be purchased for fairly low prices, and cards are available with far better recieve sensitivity and higher transmit power than what probably shipped with their laptop.

Could you provide links? This is an appealing prospect.

Why do you suggest people us Windows drivers after discarding out the option of using Windows itself?

Even speaking as someone who has returned hardware known to work ndiswrapper because a free driver was not available (we need to demonstrate to hardware vendors that poor support for free software operating systems means fewer sales), this objection seems unreasonable. A system running 95% free software less desirable than one running 100% free software, but if I can't return the hardware for a refund I'll take 95% over nothing.


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