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Re: DFSG violations: non-free but no contrib

David Given wrote:
> One potential reason is that in most jurisdictions you are legally *not
> allowed* to use custom wifi firmware. Consider that most wifi systems
> are software radios and that the software is entirely capable of
> exceeding all regulators' transmissions strength limits or subverting
> the carefully tuned frequency-hopping algorithms, etc. And of course,
> it's the *hardware vendors* who'll be liable if someone does subvert
> their wifi card to do this --- they'll be violating their FCC (or other)
> license --- so there'll be pretty hefty signature validation to ensure
> that only official firmware can be used.
Enough with the "liability" argument.

IMHO this is FUD well spread by companies that didn't want their IP
"exposed". Atheros cards don't have any firmware; you can transmit in
whatever frequency you want to with ath5k/ath9k -- ath9k is distributed
by Atheros themselves while ath5k is nowdays endorsed by them.

There are companies within the EU (possibly within the U.S. as well)
that gained access to those bits (namely, the Atheros HAL) via NDA and
distributed modified binaries that lifted any software limitations

The most famous one that I know of is MikroTik; they sell a
"superchannel" upgrade that allows you to tune Atheros cards to
2.3-2.5GHz and 4.9-6.1GHz.
IOW, frequencies that are illegal to use without a license in most parts
of the world.

I highly doubt that MikroTik would do that (or Atheros would let them)
if they had a risk of getting sued for liability in case one of their
thousand customers violated the local or EU/federal laws.

> So having the source doesn't actually gain you anything --- you would
> neither be able nor allowed to do anything with it, apart from printing
> it on T-shirts.
That assumes that you want to operate only on unlicensed/ISM bands.

You can always *buy* a license from the local regulating authority to
transmit to other frequencies, in order to avoid interference by
unlicensed stations (and yes, I know people that have done this).

> (Incidentally, this is one reason why mobile phone handset vendors are
> so paranoid about reflashing phones. A phone with a maliciously
> programmed GSM stack would turn into a rather efficient cellphone jammer.)
That's also false. You can easily jam cellphones using equipment bought
from your local radio shop.
There are even (perfectly legal) commercial products that do exactly that.


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