ipw(4) and iwi(4): Intel's Pro Wireless firmware licensing
Constantine A. Murenin
mureninc at gmail.com
Thu Oct 5 19:31:17 PDT 2006
On 05/10/06, Chuck Swiger <cswiger at mac.com> wrote:
> On Oct 4, 2006, at 7:46 PM, Constantine A. Murenin wrote:
> > Why are none of the manual pages of FreeBSD say anything about why
> > Intel Wireless devices do not work by default?
> > http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/man.cgi?query=ipw
> > http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/man.cgi?query=iwi
> The manpages you've linked to explicitly state:
> This driver requires firmware to be loaded before it will
> work. You need
> to obtain ipwcontrol(8) from the IPW web page listed below to
> loading the firmware before ifconfig(8) will work.
> Is there some part of this which is unclear to you, Constantine?
Yes, Chuck, some part is indeed unclear to me, precisely the part that
explains why does one have to go into that much trouble to have a
> > If you are curious as to why things are the way they are, I suggest
> > that you check the problems that are described in the misc at openbsd.org
> > mailing list, and contact Intel people and say what you think about
> > their user-unfriendly policy in regards to Intel Pro Wireless
> > firmwares, which are REQUIRED to be loaded from the OS before the
> > device functions, i.e. the OS developers must be allowed to freely
> > distribute the firmware in order for the devices to work
> > out-of-the-box.
> There's no need to be curious about the matter; the Intel Pro
> Wireless adaptors, like many other brands of wireless adaptors, use a
> software-controlled radio which is capable of broadcasting at higher
> power levels and/or at frequencies outside of those allocated for
> 802.11 connectivity for specific regulatory domains. The US FCC,
> along with other regulatory agencies in Europe such as ETSI and
> elsewhere, require that end-users not have completely open access to
> these radios to prevent problems from deliberate misuse such as
> interference with other frequency bands.
Yes, regulatory bodies, of cause, table specific requirements that
must be satisfied by systems that utilise RF, i.e. the manufacturer
must make reasonable attempt to prevent users from using non-permitted
Not permitting the firmware to be redistributed has nothing to do with
the FCC, however.
> This isn't a matter of choice on Intel's part; if you want this
> situation to change, you're going to have to obtain changes in the
> radio-frequency laws and policies in the US and a number of other
> countries first.
No, firmware redistribution is ENTIRELY up to Intel. I want the
firmware to be available under a BSD or ISC licence, just as with
Ralink. Intel's firmware is already available, but under a different
licence. Where does the FCC say that Intel must distribute firmware
under a non-OSS-friendly licence?
> Again, is there some part of this that is unclear or which you fail
> to understand?
Yes, precicely, I don't understand why you think FCC requires Intel to
not release the firmware under a BSD-like licence.
> > For some recent information about Intel being an Open Source Fraud,
> > see http://marc.theaimsgroup.com/?l=openbsd-
> > misc&m=115960734026283&w=2.
> The firmware license for these devices has never been submitted to
> the OSI board for approval as an Open Source license, and I have
> never seen Intel claim that this license is an Open Source license.
> It might suit OpenBSD's advocacy purposes to deliberately
> misrepresent Intel's position, but doing so is unfair and is not
> especially helpful to the FreeBSD community, which does have somewhat
> decent relations with vendors like Intel, Lucent, Aironet, Broadcomm,
> and so forth.
> As to the point raised above, the firmware license actually does
> permit an individual user, including an OS developer, to copy and
> redistribute the software to others, so long as the recepient agrees
> to the license terms:
> "LICENSE. You may copy and use the Software, subject to these
> 1. This Software is licensed for use only in conjunction with Intel
> products. Use of the Software in conjunction with non-Intel
> products is not licensed hereunder.
So if I don't have an Intel Wireless in the system, is it still legal
to have the firmware in my system files?
> 2. You may not copy, modify, rent, sell, distribute or transfer any
> part of the
> Software except as provided in this Agreement, and you agree to
> unauthorized copying of the Software.
> 3. You may not reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble the Software.
What's exactly the purpose of this term, if reverse engineering is
permitted under many jurisdictions? Is it just to scare potentional
> 4. You may not sublicense the Software.
> 5. The Software may contain the software or other property of third
> [ ... ]
> You may transfer the Software only if a copy of this license
> accompanies the
> Software and the recipient agrees to be fully bound by these terms."
> If a project such as OpenBSD wishes to redistribute the software,
> then it would probably be considered an Independent Software Vendor,
> and again the firmware license grants permission to redistribute the
> Intel Pro Wireless software, under the following terms:
Chuck, if the licence is as good as you make it sound, would you tell
me why FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Debian GNU/Linux and a lot of other systems
do not include the firmware in the base system?
If you think downloading firmwares and accepting tonnes of EUAs is
completely normal, then why is fxp(4) firmware/microcode/whatever it's
called in fxp(4) is included in every OpenBSD and FreeBSD release?
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