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Reverse Engineered 802.11b+ Drivers 272

orv writes "When Andreas Mohr found that his new wireless networking card wasn't supported under Linux rather than returning the card and getting himself a supported one, he decided to set up a project to write his own drivers instead - Companies such as D-Link had initially promised to release linux drivers for these cards but later backed down from that promise and announced that Linux would not be supported and that customers should not hold on to the cards in the hope of getting them working, as shown on their current FAQ. Texas Instruments, the makers of the chipsets upon which these 802.11b+ cards are based refused to release code or specifications for the cards, no doubt for similar reasons that were recently discussed here. The fact that the current alpha release is certainly as good, and in some areas better, than the binary drivers that escaped from one of the card manufactureres speaks volumes for the quality and determination of the team to create their own drivers."
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Reverse Engineered 802.11b+ Drivers

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  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:03AM (#6489533) Journal
    Proprietary hardware - laptops. Proprietary drivers fro WiFi that lock you to Windoze. And a proprietary Intel Centrino doublespeak.

    Is this what poor third-world countries yearn for? Should they leapfrog to disaster? I'm disappointed someone like Mr.Kofi Annan suggested this stuff to poor nations.

    • by sehryan ( 412731 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:31AM (#6489669)
      Do you honestly think that Mr. Kofi Annan knows the first thing about WiFi computing with laptops?

      People that high up don't think logistics, they think ideas, and let the people below them work out the details. I am sure he wasn't thinking "This is my way to get in the good graces of Bill Gates!!! Third World Countries...Windows 0wnz j00!!!" More than likely it was "It would be cool for all these countries to have wireless laptops" with absolutely 0 knowledge on the details of such an idea.
      • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @11:23AM (#6490667) Journal
        More than likely it was "It would be cool for all these countries to have wireless laptops" with absolutely 0 knowledge on the details of such an idea.

        I'm still a little dubious as to the actual value of laptops, much less with wireless support.

        Such things are very convenient, and certainly popular in offices, but I'm dubious that desktops don't provide much of the same benefit. Sure, some work may get done on the road, but some not (and the increasing availability of Internet access means that companies can decrease travel and save costs). Some work that might not have gotten done otherwise might get done at home, but honestly, most folks don't want to go home and then work more, and I think that most don't actually do that much at home (as an addition to work at work, not as a replacement). You can carry laptops to meetings, but honestly, about half the people where I work just use a notepad (partly because quick sketches are currently easier on paper). You usually aren't transcribing vast amounts of text, just jotting down names or some points to remember. So most of the benefits of laptops seem to be less big than one would thing.

        The downsides are significant. Laptops (with the notable exception of hard drives) tend to be less durable than desktops, and tend to get rougher treatment. This tends towards producing shorter lifespans. Laptops are a major target of theft, especially in the developing countries where they want to deploy these. Laptops are more expensive than desktops to produce, and manufacturers are still making higher profit margins on laptops. Most laptop manufacturers are big name (first world) companies, given the far greater engineering work required to put together a laptop. So it makes it harder to keep the funds spent *in* those developing countries when making purchases.

        Wireless networking is cute, but it costs a *lot* to deploy the thing all over as opposed to just the offices and conference rooms where you'd put wired Ethernet. If you just slap it in those two places, wired can be more expensive, but installation of wires can be done by local contractors, which keeps funds in country and produces jobs. Most people that I see doing actual work on their laptops tend to work in either meeting rooms or their offices. Usually, this translates to just meaning that they don't have to plug in a cable. Somewhat convenient, but possibly (especially given security and performance issues) not cost-effective. Wireless is still a bit of a luxury item.

        This wireless laptop initiative seems more based around what a laptop *company* would like to see happening than what's best for developing countries, IMHO.
      • Yet Mr. Annan claims the right to mandate (yes, mandate) that 'all these countries' get 'wireless laptops', without any concern for the causality involved - someone has to engineer, build and then donate them to the UN. Why not just recommend that the 3rd world countries get 'AIDS medicine' or 'enough food to live on' or 'a decent wage'? It's all groundless pie-in-the-sky, unattached wishing anyway. Here's a suggestion for the Third World:
        Stop overbreeding.
        Stop killing each other.
        Stop stealing from the p
    • Last I checked my Lucent chips were pretty much fully supported under Linux. It's mostly newer hardware chips that are not.

      This is not surprising, as Linux hardware support always lags a little. The same experience can be had with motherboard chipsets...(this is not a flame, just current reality).
    • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @12:23PM (#6491161) Journal
      Well, although everyone's having a great time beating up on poor Kofi Annan, who's obviously not a techie and probably not really aware of the issues you're describing, let's take this in another direction.

      What if, and humor me here, Kofi Annan is a lot more savvy than he's letting on?

      Maybe Kofi said to himself, "Well, these laptops are light, and have great battery life, and they come with wireless gear... It's really only a matter of time before those Linux maniacs roll out a reverse-engineered set of drivers, so maybe I can buy into this tech bigtime, making it look like I'm US friendly and scoring some points with that nitwit Bush. Then, when the Linux drivers come out, everyone can switch over from the proprietary stuff and I have plenty of plausible deniability -- what? Me? Linux? Whatever do you mean?"

      Just a thought... Sometimes people are a lot sharper than they want you to think they are. ;)

  • DCMA Anyone? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cpn2000 ( 660758 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:04AM (#6489535)
    Am I the only one who's first thought was whether these noble hackers would be unfailrly targeted by the corporations using DCMA?
    • Re:DCMA Anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JessLeah ( 625838 )
      No, I felt the same way. Frankly, I am amazed that anyone has the chutzpah to do this sort of thing, much less open a public Web site about it. I'm still amazed at the very existence of in Hungary as it is. I'm stunned that the **AA fascists haven't sent a few thugs over to Hungary to work "justice", just like they did with Dmitry Sklyarov (spelling?)...
      • Actually, Skylarov was arrested when he came to the United States for a conference. The government didn't have to go over to his home country, because he had the misfortune (and perhaps lack of foresight) to set foot on US land where he could be arrested freely.
    • Re:DCMA Anyone? (Score:4, Informative)

      by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <<giles.jones> <at> <>> on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:35AM (#6489683)
      It'll probably happen, some stupid chip makers don't like details of registers in their products leaking out. They somehow think a competitor knowing the interface to one of their chips will help the competitor.
    • Re:DCMA Anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <[yoda] [at] []> on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:52AM (#6489766) Homepage Journal
      The DMCA only covers reverse engineering as it pertains to copyright circumvention.

      In any case there is a specific clause in the DMCA that allows for reverse engineering for the purpose of interoperability.

    • Re:DCMA Anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

      by radon28 ( 593565 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:58AM (#6489806)
      The DMCA isn't just a blanket law covering all instances of reverse engineering, regardless of the context. The DMCA covers reverse engineering in cases where it is being used for copyright circumvention, which driver hackers aren't trying to do. MOST Linux drivers have to be written this way. Don't get me wrong, the DMCA is still a pile of hot garbage. I just hate it when people are scared to do ANYTHING that might be useful because of the DMCA.
      • Re:DCMA Anyone? (Score:3, Informative)

        by arkanes ( 521690 )
        They'll claim that the firmware is copyrighted and that not releasing the specs is an access control mechanism, just like the people who're using the DMCA to sue about printer cartridges and garage door openers.
    • Re:DCMA Anyone? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JWW ( 79176 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:28AM (#6489952)
      So these companies would rather give people who bought their cards their money back, or would they rather they keep their cards _and_ broaden their market share?

      Of course, in this business climate, the corporations in question will probably shut these hackers down and forbid product returns. It truly is amazing what companies will do to their customers these days.
    • Re:DCMA Anyone? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Monopolist ( 178137 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:41AM (#6490045) Homepage
      IANAL, but I believe the DMCA explicitly *allows* reverse engineering when the goal is interoperability. Since the official FAQ for these cards says linux isn't supported, it seems to me the interoperability argument would hold.

  • Good For Them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SkArcher ( 676201 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:05AM (#6489539) Journal
    It is good to see a direct verifiable example of Open Source development with a higher standard of Quality Assurance than the corporate developers.

    A psychological standard of quality on the part of the devs leads to a physical and coding standard of quality a cut above the rest.
    • It is good to see a direct verifiable example of Open Source development with a higher standard of Quality Assurance than the corporate developers.

      More likely there's no commerical demand for linux drivers so the corporate developers are told not to invest time in them. Open Source developers choose where to invest their time - corporates are told where.

      A psychological standard of quality on the part of the devs leads to a physical and coding standard of quality a cut above the rest.

      Huh? You're saying
      • More likely there's no commerical demand for linux drivers so the corporate developers are told not to invest time in them. Open Source developers choose where to invest their time - corporates are told where.

        That does make sense, but doesn't explain why they withhold specs. They do it because they think it gives them an edge over competition, which is simply wrong. I for one trust open-source drivers much more than regular ones, and would choose an open-specs chip over a closed one.

    • The Open Source developers are also more familiar with the rest of the kernel, and know how to use the library services it provides. They can also start from existing drivers which are mature and deal properly with the kernel. In this case, the advantage of Open Source is that half of your work is already done, whereas you'd have to start from scratch to write a proprietary driver.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:08AM (#6489553)
    I don't want to put the heroic work of these folks into a bad light, but from an evolutionary perspective, wouldn't it be better to avoid buying hardware if the vendor refuses to support Linux?
    • Maybe, but this way you're getting source instead of binary drivers and avoid dodgy support from companies who's priorities lay elsewhere.
    • On the other hand, from an evolutionary perspective, it would be nice if users didn't have to repurchase half of their hardware if they decide to use linux.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:27AM (#6489652)

      A free market is not a fixed set of producers with a bunch of passive consumers who either take it or leave it. If a certain product does almost everything a person wants and he has the expertise to fill in the gaps himself, then by all means he should do so. Just like the X-Box hacks or 3rd party Lexmark printer cartridge refills. Sure, some vendors may be supporting Linux already, but it's always nice to have more choices in case one of them changes their mind. Competition is good.

      Now if the card makers start using legal or technological measures to stop these open source efforts, then scream and boycott them.

    • by DaveHowe ( 51510 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:27AM (#6489655)
      The problem is - some of the unsupported cards using this chipset used to use a different (eg Orinoco or Prism) chipset and have not updated the name of the card so that you think you are buying a supported card (as listed in many howtos) but in fact are getting a newer model with no available linux driver.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:57AM (#6489795)
        [uh oh, we did make it to /. after all... ;)]

        Yep, that's a very bad thing indeed.

        So bad that we decided to dedicate a major part of the README file to it:


        --- AND FINALLY... ---

        Let me mention that we REALLY dislike the way very stupid hardware vendors
        name their cards containing DIFFERENT chipsets!!

        One of these vendors is SpeedStream/Siemens: a card that uses the same
        name "SS1021" is available in both Orinoco chip and ACX100 chip versions.

        Another one is D-Link: they have "DWL-650" and "DWL-650+".
        "DWL-650+" is simply an improved version of the "DWL-650", right?
        The standard versions use Prism2.5, whereas the "+" versions use ACX100
        chipset. Good luck in finding a (correct) driver!!
        And it's even WORSE: I just found out that there is some newer
        version of the "DWL-650" out that also contains the ACX100
        (it uses the same hardware as the "+" versions).
        This BRAINDEAD STUPIDITY in device naming easily entitles D-Link
        for the "Most Braindead Hardware Vendor 2003" award. And of course
        they were also talking about developing another Linux driver for some time,
        without any results (although I guess that's because they wanted to
        develop it, but were not allowed to, unfortunately, so it's understandable).

        IF you dare to release cards with a different incompatible chipset
        that doesn't even have proper driver support for a popular alternative OS,
        then AT LEAST change the card name in order to let people know and discern
        which hardware to avoid like the plague, for heaven's sake!
        This is such a [CENSORED], I could [OUCH, CENSORED!]...


        It's one thing to decide to not release Linux drivers and/or specs for a popular chipset (and frankly, we sort of have to respect such a decision, even though it hurts a lot), but it's an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT (and much worse!) thing to release cards with DIFFERENT chipsets using the SAME card name as older, well-supported chipsets.
        That's a capital crime which should by punished by revoking any and all hardware development rights and/or licenses of the relevant company ;)
        (heck, or maybe I should have removed that smiley after all, since it IS a very infuriating action after all ;)

        But I think I should stop now since I already wrote most of that in the README file paragraph pasted above ;)

        Anyway, let me also mention that I'm glad how well the development process of our driver is coming along. We are fixing many bugs (and implementing many improvements!) on a daily basis, and the team work is definitely great!

        Also, we had several users donate money and/or hardware (access points!) to the main developers,
        which is very astonishing to me, but that's not to say that I don't like that :)
        In fact the access point that has been donated to me arrived today :))

        Finally, let's hope that we might even attract proper driver and spec support by Texas Instruments, by showing that a really good driver IS possible.
        (admittedly we're still "a bit" far off from a perfect driver, but we're definitely working on it :)

        That's it. Have fun using our driver! :)

        Andreas Mohr
        • Darn, and I bought a dcf 650w for my handheld three days ago.. don't think I can return it citing bad product naming.. anyway.. it doesn't seem to work with pocket warrior.. better sell it on ebay :p
        • For the record, I don't believe that we need drivers from the manufacturers. Any driver will be tied to its architecture and limited. Even an open source driver, while useful, may be limited, especially if its not well documented.

          What we really need is open API's for the hardware, so that anyone can write their own driver instead of having to reverse engineer it by guessing what the hardware interface does.

          Just my 2c worth.

        • Yeah, we did make it to /.

          Just want to say - well done! Been on the list since I found the v0903 driver and before Ivor released his first driver. Well done - it works beautifully. Just shows the Linux community is a community after all. Thanks a lot!
        • Linksys is guilty of the same crime with their 100baseT cards. They actually have used five different chipsets in a card called the LNE100TX. You have to pull the card and look at photos of the chips on their web site to figure out what driver to use. The lengths these cock-gobblers will go to, to save from having too many SKUs ...
        • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @10:54AM (#6490461)
          > Another one is D-Link: they have "DWL-650" and "DWL-650+". "DWL-650+" is simply an improved version of the "DWL-650", right? WRONG! The standard versions use Prism2.5, whereas the "+" versions use ACX100 chipset. Good luck in finding a (correct) driver!! And it's even WORSE: I just found out that there is some newer version of the "DWL-650" out that also contains the ACX100 (it uses the same hardware as the "+" versions). This BRAINDEAD STUPIDITY in device naming easily entitles D-Link for the "Most Braindead Hardware Vendor 2003" award

          To phrase this in language that even suits can understand:

          This is poor businss practice, not just it's difficult for anyone deploying these devices to know what they've bought (because who gives a fuck once you've got their money, right?), but because it adds to your support costs because when half of your DWL-650 doesn't work, and the guy deploying them calls your support drones - even at $1.99/h in India - it's a waste of your money to have them spend 20 minutes figuring out whether it's a chipset/driver problem that makes the difference between the working and non-working units.

          Your current way of screwing the customer is cutting into your margins because it increases your support costs. Find a more profitable way of screwing the customer. I think you could screw them more profitably by using different product names on different products.

        • Maybe :) you ;) should :P use :-) a ;-P few ;-/ less :-/ smilies ;-)
        • Doesn't this (please?) violate some obscure FCC regulation or other? At the very least, these devices, even with the same "consumer name", should have different FCC ID numbers. Although there's apparently no requirement to put the FCC ID on the box (or even the device, from some I've seen).

          (Assorted paperwork for any RF or electronic device has to be filed with FCC. Looking at the FCC's online database of such can be helpful for reverse engineering -- although it seems to lag quite a bit behind what's
    • ...and wrote drivers for it, we wouldn't have much of a Linux today, now would we?
    • Easier said then done:

      - Recently purchased a Radeon 9700, on account that drivers for linux were listed on vendors webpage.
      - Two weeks later my order is there, I go to the website, no show...
      - I log in to slashdot to find out my vendor is dropping its references to, and aid of (if there ever was such a thing) to third party driver developers...

      Im inclined to ship the card back, but it really is nice for UR2 and upcoming HL2 in the Other OS, so I didnt.. (im weak)

      hugs /Dread
    • That's certainly one way of doing it. The other is the above: to do it for them as a wake-up call - if they see the basic work done, chances are they will maintain (or advise on maintenance of) their future card's Linux drivers themselves.

      I prefer this way, as the more code that is GPLed, the better IMHO.


    • by dubious9 ( 580994 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:50AM (#6489754) Journal
      A lot of people I know who use linux, still dual boot with windows mainly for games and work/school networks. Connection with the latter is posibile in many cases, but not as easy as booting into windows and following simple directions.

      In these cases people would buy stuff that worked for windows without checking if it worked for linux. By the time they know that linux wouldn't be supported, especially if they were mislead by the manufacturer for such support, the hardware in question was already in their hands.

      These hardware components probably were past their return time and they are stuck with them. Rather than go out and buy new ones that have solid linux support, this guy writes his own and shares it so that others in his situation wouldn't have another "windows app" keeping them from linux.

      If more people like this worked on hardware that had no solid linux drivers (whose numbers are dwindling steadily), linux becomes that much more of a "plug and play" system where everything "just works". Kudos to them.
    • Sure. How about a list of which exact cards to buy. I thought I was done, when the first linksys card I bought worked. The next card, which was the exact same product from the same shelf at the same store, had a completely different chipset.

      It was as if linksys found out their cards worked with linux and fixed that problem.

    • In the early days of linux, only Tseng ET-4000 and Trident 8900 were supported by XFree86. Many of the custom clock chips were officially undocumented by the card manufacturers, and could change even while the product name remained the same.

      Manufacturers like Matrox and Diamond were initially the most resistant to providing any kind of support for XFree86. As linux hackers reverse engineered and developed their own drivers and discussion board volume increased, Diamond and Matrox began to release their o
  • by ( 645325 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:11AM (#6489564)
    This'll probably be at least tangentally addressed later, but what chipsets actually work in Linux? Understand I don't know nuthin about WiFi, other than some vague idea that I should get an Orinco-based card.

    Only reason I'm asking is that the salesdrone at OfficeDepot didn't know what the integrated wireless on the Averatec [] 3150P was based on yesterday, and I'm not keen on paying an extra hundred bucks for the feature if it won't work in my OS of choice. Then again, I could save myself the dough and get the model w/o the integrated 802.11b, but still...

  • by LinuxGeek ( 6139 ) <djand DOT nc AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:11AM (#6489569)
    It seems that several manufacturers that were warming up to the Linux community have now reversed positions. Does anyone have contacts within companies like Dlink, Linksys or Netgear that can tell us why? Will Intel continue to shoot us a bird with the centrino too?

    It would be easier to understand if the companies had been a-holes all along. I hate to see the change as it is effecting the buying patterns I had become comfortable with.
    • Probably since they fear that they have little actual technology different from their competitors, and the code to the drivers is the only thing that makes them any different.

      That ant Linksys, et al are likely violating the GPL in their proprietary systems, and are afraid of getting called out on it if they released the source.

      Really, from another perspective, Open source can kibosh their business plans too: Tell me, how hard is it these days to build a tiny embedded router using linux(free), a low-end pe
      • by femto ( 459605 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:40AM (#6489709) Homepage
        Also, the hardware of most WLAN cards is able to act as both a client and an access point. Having full specs means anyone can turn any WLAN card into an access point. People will then stop buying overpriced access points.
        • $60 is overpriced for an Access Point/Cable Router/Switch? The other solution proposed is goign to cost at least as much and probably be more power hungary.
          • $60 is overpriced for an Access Point/Cable Router/Switch?

            Sure it is, when you consider the fact that you already have the equipment. Who does not have a PC mothballed? Also, that PC can give you much better control and flexibility. With a little effort you can have something like kerebos authentication and ssh only connectivity. Can you do that with some dinky little access point?

      • Don't bother with the CF reader. CF is IDE compatible, so you just need to do a bit of soldering to make an adapter. If you look at these [] closely enough you can even see how to do it without having to read the specs :)
      • Don't forget about engineering costs (yeah, constant value, but if you're trying to take on the big boys, you're going to start out a lot smaller) and the fact that you're going to need some support circuitry.
      • Nothing worth mod'ing one way or the other so I might as well post.

        D-Link is a pretty clueless company; we have a DL614+ accesspoint/router. Originaly was connected to a WinME machine that had internet connection sharing enabled and a directPC satelite connection to the internet; this was difficult to set up, completely unsupported by all of the involved parties and after a couple days of changing settings, googling, and digging about the microsoft knowlege base worked quite well.

        After about six months of
    • Could it be the bad press that SCO has caused?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:14AM (#6489588)
    1. Discover your hardware is not supported by Linux
    2. Write your own driver
    3. ????
    4. Still never get laid
  • Official support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by danormsby ( 529805 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:19AM (#6489619) Homepage
    I can see why a company will not want to provide multi-OS support officially, as if Linux changed they don't want the liability of having to support the changes. But, if someone in that company was already half written a driver, even if it is buggy as hell, surely they should give this away to the user community as a starting point rather than forcing people to reverse engineer their own solutions.
    • Taking advantage (Score:5, Insightful)

      by orv ( 398342 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:35AM (#6489687) Homepage
      This is particularly galling when you read about manufactureres who are actually reaping the benfits of open source development in their own products link [] but then refuse to support linux using customers.
    • Of course, it's not like microsoft ever changes it's APIs.

      I have run into plenty of hardware (and software) that doesn't work correctly in a newer version of windows. It wouldn't be much harder for a company to say "compatible with: ... Linux (2.4.19-2.4.24)." One would know that it would work within those kernals, and it might work with others, but no promises.

  • Hell yeah ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) < minus distro> on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:20AM (#6489623) Homepage Journal
    Seems wireless cards are just about as bastardized as the soundcards of yesterday. I remember when you either had a Sound Blaster audio card or you didn't have sound. There were maybe at best 7 well supported cards. Sound in the 2.0.x kernel series was horrible.

    So what happened OSS (free and not free) and ALSA happened. Bunch of people go together and said "To hell with the manufacturers not helping us, we'll make it work anyways". It was with this pressure that companies like "Aureal" (who about 3 months after releasing their first linux driver went under) to release drivers. Now you see sound support almost everywhere with linux and it's uncommom to not have sound. Another example of course would be "winmodems", modems actually designed to only run in windows running just fine in linux. It's always just a matter of time.

    The community is strong, but you'll see real grassroots efforts take shape especially when developers are told "no". Wireless AP/Routers are in the sub $60 range and you can get a wireless card for around $20, it's now not just a rich kid toy, but a common mans networking solution. Expect more things to come of wireless support and expect that companies will take notice. Too bad it's not that easy to just start writing kernel mods for hardware support. There's a reason only a select few hack the kernel (it's really not easy), and well if you ever run into a developer, thank them, they put a whole lot of work into something and don't always get the credit they deserve.

    • "To hell with the manufacturers not helping us, we'll make it work anyways"

      So where are the drivers for Turtle Beach Santa Cruz or Echo Layla?
  • How was it done? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brejc8 ( 223089 ) * on Monday July 21, 2003 @08:28AM (#6489658) Homepage Journal
    It doesnt say on the pages how he reverse engineered it.
    It would be nice to have a system which emulates a whole machine (ala vmware but open) and then open some ports from the emolation to the real hardware. This way Windows assumes its running on a real machine but you have full snooping on the interface with the hardware.
    It wouldnt take too long to write a simple x86 emulator for KMD []. And a nice tool to decide what areas whould be feed straight through to the real hardware would make it much easier to make drivers for other win only devices. It would also be useful to test the linux drivers but you can allready run linux in user mode.
    • by orv ( 398342 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:12AM (#6489879) Homepage
      Basically most work was done by disassembling a linux binary module for the chipset that leaked from one of the manufacturers.
      Additionally the behaviour of the card and correct initialisation process was determined by analysing the ARM disassembly of the firmware and watching the traffic that goes between the access point board and its embedded PCcard.
      • Yikes, I wonder what the legalities of this are? It's entirely possible that the makers of the driver or firmware could attempt to sue the developers for, say, copyright infringement (after all, there are good reasons why Compaq isolated it's pack of developers when reverse-engineering the IBM BIOS) or something along those lines (after all, how many pieces of software come with (possibly invalid) clauses which attempt to make reverse engineering illegal).
  • I'm stuck with two Linksys cards, the 54g PCMCIA card and a WMP-11 rev 2.7 PCI card, that are both based on the Broadcom chipset. I'd like to help out an existing project on this, but I can't find one anywhere, and I fully expect Hell to call me to tell me to turn the heat back on before I get drivers from Broadcom or Linksys.

    Anybody know of any projects out there for the Broadcom chipset?
  • Intel Centrino (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wulffi ( 176311 )
    My Dell D800 was delivered with an Intel Pro/Wireless 2100 Mini-pci card.

    I can't find a driver, so I wondered if anybody knew of efforts to write one.

    Another solution would be if somebody could recommend an alternative card for my D800..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:27AM (#6489948)
    I didn't see this posted anywhere, but if you read a little more about the topic, you would have found the probable reason for why the manufacturers aren't releasing drivers. It ISN'T some MS scheme to screw linux users. The manufactureres are affraid that releasing drivers will get them in trouble with the US government. Apparantley the card can be reconfigured to transmit on military/police/other "forbidden" frequencies. The manufacturers don't want to have to deal with the repercussions of releasing such a "weapon". Pretty stupid really, considering theres already an effort out there, with some success I hear, at reverse engineering the windoze driver, in order to reconfigure the transmit frequency.
    • Ok, I'm blowing karma on a comment made by an AC, so sue me. :)
    • I would love to see the ability to change the frequency of 802.11b cards. as a ham radio operator, I can use other radio bands beond the 2400 - 2483.5mhz ISM band, like 2300-2310mhz and 2390-2400mhz

      the only issue would be that 802.11b is about 15mhz wide. if this could be re-tuned, we could use the gear in areas where we wouldn't have to deal with normal interfearance.
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2003 @09:35AM (#6490010)
    Did anyone notice that D-Link's FAQ now provides a link to the SF project at the bottom? Well, it's better than another asinine lawsuit!
    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by orv ( 398342 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @10:25AM (#6490268) Homepage
      Yeah that FAQ has changed a few times. I think there's a history of its comments on seattle wireless somewhere, rummage, rummage, here [].

      Initially they said a linux driver would be released december 2002.
      In december that date was changed to Q1 2003.
      At the end of december they then said there were no plans for a linux driver and customers should not 'hold onto cards in the hope of drivers' being written.

      Then they added a link to the leaked binary drivers

      Then they added a link to the oss drivers

      Wonder what they'll change it to next?

  • I tried to post this story about 2 months ago. No dice. Those of us marooned with this chipset had to resort to filing complaints with the BBB in order to get TI to pay attention.

    Oh well. Thats the last A) D-Link and B) TI chipset-based product I'll buy. If I buy something that says [b]on the box[/b] that it's supported in Linux, get it home, unwrap it, install it, boot up, and THEN discover it's more like:

    This card is supported in Linux!*

    * = No. ..Then I have better companies/places to spend my money.
  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @10:11AM (#6490165) Homepage

    In a way, this reminds me of CSS vs DeCSS. It started out as an innocent effort by someone to just be able to play the CSS encoded media they had legally bought and paid for ... no theft would have been involved. But, by having created the necessary software, and now it's in source form, others can do with it as they please, and many would please to steal. Had the big media businesses simply made a binary distributed player, that scenario would not have taken place, and maybe CSS might never have been cracked because of the lack of need to do so.

    While WiFi hardware isn't the same scenario, there are some similarities. Had the manufacturers produced a binary-only driver module that could be loaded into the Linux kernel (and supported it properly, something essential when you release something in binary-only form), there would be virtually no need for anyone to go create a source form version. Only those wanting to actually hack on the card might. But with the binary drivers not being released, that forces the open source community, which has way more intellectual resources than companies like Texas Instruments, to create their own drivers, and it is open source.

    What they feared most, and what motivated their misguided decisions, will now serve to bring about exactly what they did not want, which is hackers reprogramming the cards to operate off-frequency, or use wider channels (maybe I can get 50 Mbps out of this thing while trashing the UHF band of my neighbor's TV), and FCC pressure to make chips without software frequency/modulation agility (and thus increasing the costs due to the need to do hardware programming and design in specific market commitments for each manufacturing production run).

  • The Itex Apollo 3 PCI ADSL chipset. They released [] binary only drivers for the 2.4.16 kernel: and then went bust []. Very frustrating for those of us looking for a cheap PCI based broadband solution.

    Iv'e done some preliminary poking around with my copy of the binaries and it seems that ITEx were pretty sloppy with the binaries [] and left a lot of symbol table in that wasn't needed, thus making reverese engineering via objdump et al pretty easy.

    I don't have time to work on this myself, but I'm willing to kick o
  • Voting with $ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Merk ( 25521 ) on Monday July 21, 2003 @12:08PM (#6491078) Homepage

    I recently moved into a house with an odd design which made connecting remote computers to the central router difficult using wires. My (iBook) laptop had no problems because it was able to go wireless, so I decided to go with a wireless solution for my Linux desktop. I had no idea what I was getting into.

    I figured the easiest solution would be a USB based device, so I looked around and found a table of USB 802.11b driver support under Linux []. At first, I went to a local store and bought a device that the table said was supported. I got it home and ugh, it barely worked. Under Linux the driver was awful. To see if it was maybe the card itself I tried it under Windows. It barely worked there, hanging the machine when I tried a throughput test.

    So I sent that back and ordered an SMC card which was supposed to have vendor-supplied drivers. I got it home, plugged it in, and tried to install the drivers. No luck. It turns out they were binary-only drivers for specific old RedHat kernels. So I emailed SMC for support. A week later someone got back to me to say that my issue had been escalated. A week after that I got a tar file in the mail. It turns out what I received was simply a forked and slightly modified version of the code on a Sourceforge project []. But, surprise, surprise, it didn't work either.

    More investigations led me to an alternate driver []. Using the mailing list associated with this project, thanks to Joerg Albert I was able to determine that my device has a hardware configuration which is apparently very rare and needs special firmware. Once I got that, after about 3 weeks of effort, I had working 802.11b access under Linux.

    At the end of this I'm annoyed with SMC. I am glad that they acknowledge that Linux exists, on the other hand, they were completely useless when it came to actually supporting their product.

    In the end I guess I voted well with my dollars, supporting a company that provided minimal efforts to support Linux rather than one that refuses to even admit it exists. But I also provided $$ to a company that is deceptive about their hardware being truly supported under Linux. It was also pretty annoying that to get the thing to work required taking some random firmware file (in the form of a C header file with a massive data array) and randomly trying it to see if it would work.

    It's sad when voting with your dollars is like other kinds of voting, where you vote against somebody because they're worse than the person you're voting for.

    What's more frightening is that in a month or so I'm scheduled to find a way to get a mini-PCI 802.11b card working for an embedded Linux system running on an ARM processor. If getting a system with a fairly standard connector was this difficult on a desktop machine, I'm dreading trying to get a card with an obscure interface working on non-i386 CPU. Wish me luck.

  • I have in mind to set up a simple wireless network in my home. I don't need speed, but in spending many hours searching for the known-good cards that are listed on the several sites specializing in Linux wireless I've discovered thet the manufacturers and vendors are only dealing in their latest models at the moment - most all of which are 802.11b+ or g and not supported under Linux. The standard geek shopping sites like and don't have anything in 802.11 for Linux. Sites that specialize
  • What kinds of tools are out there for taking binary Linux or Windows drivers and turning them into source code?

    Of course, a simple assembler/disassembler combo will do and allow simple modifications, but it won't result in anything very readable and would make it hard to adapt a Windows driver to Linux kernel APIs.

    Something that goes from binary to structured C code and that has support for program flow analysis and renaming identifiers globally would seem like it would be useful for this sort of thing.
  • Does anybody know of linux drivers for ANY card that supports 808.11g?

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.