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Kernel Modules that Lie About Their Licenses 587

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the why-can't-we-just-get-along dept.
jon787 writes "An email to LKML about the Linuxant's HSF Modem drivers lying to the kernel about their license has prompted some interesting replies. Lots of talk about how to effectively blacklist these kind of things; a patch is here. One of the more interesting is this one. Linus as always has his $0.02."
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Kernel Modules that Lie About Their Licenses

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:01PM (#8984950)
    Since /0 is the string-termination character, would it be possible to convince a court to see the decloration the way the kernel does, and therefore hold them to the GPL since they're the ones who declared it?
    • by Rhys (96510) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:08PM (#8985053) Homepage
      /0 is like a divide-by-zero error, actually.

      \0 is like a period.
    • Good Luck (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Royster (16042) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:21PM (#8985226) Homepage
      In a similar case, the maker of a game console had copyprotection code which had to be invoked before a game played. Someone who wrote a game, but didn't want to pay licensing fees, invoked the same code becuase it was the only way to get their game to run. They were sued under the Lanham Act. The plaintiffs claimed that their display of their trademark could make someone think that the console manufacturer was the source of the game causing consumer confusion.

      The court rightly ruled that the console designer caused the code to display the trademark and that they were responsible for any confusion that resulted.

      Putting MODULE_LICENSE("GPL\0... in their code could be viewed by the courts as using a method of operation to accomplish a module load. It is very unlikely that they would view it as a grant of a GP License to someone who received the code.
      • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rgmoore (133276) * <glandauer@charter.net> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:31PM (#8985346) Homepage

        The problem with the compatibility argument is that it's wrong. The primary purpose of the license string is to track whether the kernel has loaded a closed-source module. Many kernel hackers choose to ignore bug reports from systems that have loaded closed-source modules since there's a very good chance that the bug is in code that they can't access and fix. But failing to export a GPL compatible license string doesn't have any effect on the kernel's ability to load and run a module, so there's no compatibility reason to export a dishonest description of the module's license.

        • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Sloppy (14984) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:47PM (#8985582) Homepage Journal
          there's no compatibility reason to export a dishonest description of the module's license.
          Sure there is. Say you're the company that makes the winmodems (or whatever this hardware is). Your customer files a bug report for something totally unrelated to the modem driver code, say a filesystem bug. Hans Reiser decides he has better things to do that worry about whether or not some uninitialized pointer in the winmodem driver code happens to be corrupting disk buffers, so he files the report in /dev/null. (Now maybe that's a wise thing for him to do, but still, maybe it was also a real bug in the filesystem. Whatever.) The customer's problem doesn't get looked at. The customer gets unhappy. The customer finds out that it's because of your driver, that they're unhappy. They decide to not buy any more of your crappy undocumented winmodems. You pay a price in the market.

          Now I kind of like that justice, but that's because I happen to fucking hate winmodems even more than I hate closed drivers. It's still a pretty good reason, though, to have your driver lie to the kernel. Maybe, just maybe, you're sure your driver is ok, and don't want its closed-ness to get in the way of people getting bug reports for completely different parts of the kernel.

          • Re:Good Luck (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Otto (17870)
            You pay a price in the market.

            Agreed, in theory. But the solution they use here is worse, no? Because now, instead of unhappy users, you have ticked off kernel developers. And they have no reason to support you, your users, your business model, anything. They now start talking about blacklisting you and your drivers and your children from the kernel in any way whatsoever. So now, instead of having stuff that worked but didn't get free support, you have stuff that won't work because the community has deci
          • Re:Good Luck (Score:3, Informative)

            by AstroDrabb (534369) *
            While Linux kernel developers most likely will not handle a bug report because of a tainted module, they will if the bug is reproduceable without that module. If the bug is in the module, why in the world would someone who is not responsible and cannot get the source code try to fix it. For example, I am a programmerm, if I write an app that causes problems under MS windows, do you think MS will fix and debug it for me when they cannot get the source code? Now, if my application triggered a bug in MS Win
          • Re:Good Luck (Score:3, Insightful)

            by IIH (33751)
            Your customer files a bug report for something totally unrelated to the modem driver code, say a filesystem bug

            In which case, the bug should also manifest itself if the modem wasn't loaded, so why lie about the module licence?.

            ... so he files the report in /dev/null.

            What companies are doing if they lie in the module licence is using the linux developers as 1st line support - someone looks at the problem in a so-called "clean" kernel, tracks it down to one bolted on "black box" and refer the user to the

        • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Informative)

          by Royster (16042) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:10PM (#8986691) Homepage
          The main purposes of the Module string are twofold:

          - to "taint" the kernel so that anyone posting an oops to the lkml will get ignored.

          - to deny certain interfaces marked as GPL-only to the module.
      • by nuggz (69912) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:34PM (#8985392) Homepage
        That would be true if such a declaration was required to function.
        However it isn't, you can load code with any license you wish, therefore this is not required for interoperability, and such a defense wouldn't be valid.
      • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Informative)

        by gmack (197796) <gmack@in n e rfire.net> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:35PM (#8985404) Homepage Journal
        Putting MODULE_LICENSE("GPL") is not requred to make the module load. All it does is enable access to a small amount of GPL only helpers and keep crash reports from flagging the system as "tainted".

      • Re:Good Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

        by julesh (229690) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:40PM (#8985479)
        Important differences between the case you cite and this one:

        1. That's a trademark, this is copyright. Very different.
        2. There is no real reason why they _have_ to have "GPL" at the start there. Their code will work without it, it will just cause a message to the effect that there are non-GPL drivers loaded to be displayed.
        3. In the case you site it _is_ the console's integral code that displays the trademark. In this case it is the module code in question that includes the text "GPL", followed by a string termination character, in a space reserved for the module's license.

        OTOH, I would note that the letters GPL do not in themselves constitue a license grant; they are merely an abbreviation that is usually used to refer to a specific license. In this case, however, they could just as easily stand for "Greg's Private License" (under which you don't get any rights whatsoever).
    • Thought experiment (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sloppy (14984) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:23PM (#8985256) Homepage Journal
      Just to play Gates' advocate... reverse the players and see if people still see the situation the same way.

      Suppose that Lexmark made a printer that looked for a certain string in a ROM on an ink cartridge. Let's say the string was "The manufacturer of this cartridge agrees to the terms of the ELL (Evil Lexmark License)." If the string is present, the printer works great; if the string is not present, the printer has undesirable behavior of some kind.

      Further suppose you want to make an ink cartridge for your Lexmark printer, and thus for the purposes of optimum interoperability, you imbed into the ROM: "The manufacturer of this cartridge agrees to the terms of the ELL (Evil Lexmark License).\0Just kidding. Of course I don't REALLY agree to the Evil Lexmark License, because after all, IT'S EVIL!! It even has \"Evil\" right there in the name, what more proof do you need?!? Sheesh, people!"

      Are you bound to the ELL?

      • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:42PM (#8985509) Journal
        Or suppose that a website doesn't work in Mozilla unless you have Mozilla identify itself as Internet Explorer.
        • by frost22 (115958) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @03:03PM (#8987410) Homepage
          ahem ... call me stupid - but isn't this exactly the other way round ? Internet Exporer claiming itself to be mozilla ?

          I seem to remember this from the early days of IE....
          • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @04:08PM (#8988580) Journal
            Yes, IE adoped Netscape's convention of using "Mozilla/..." user agent, and added the "... (compatible; IE4...)" or similar tag. Note that Mozilla was the development name for the closed source Netscape browser way back in the browser war years when Netscape was the most popular browser around and the current Mozilla browser wouldn't even be an idea for another four or five years. So the current open sourced Mozilla browser allows users to copy the IE convention of decribing itself as a version of Internet Explorer, compatible with closed source Netscape, and then tacks its own information onto the end.

            For example, here's one sample of a possible Netscape 2 user agent string:

            Mozilla/2.02 [fr] (WinNT; I)

            Then Microsoft developed Internet Explorer. IE versions shared similar user agent strings, but this is one for IE4.0:

            Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.0; Windows 95)

            Now, most open source browsers allow you to copy Internet Explorer and have a user agent such as:

            Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows XP) Gecko/whatever

            So we have Mozilla/Firefox/etc. which copied Internet Explorer which copied (closed source) Netscape. Clear as mud!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:13PM (#8985941)
        > If the string is present, the printer works
        > great; if the string is not present, the printer
        > has undesirable behavior of some kind.

        But there is where you analogy breaks down. If all the printer did was log in it's memory somewhere that a non-lexmark ink cart had been used so they could void your warranty for any printhead damage there would be no objection. But printers refuse to print without the secret knock and linux will load a module without the GPL tag.
      • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:14PM (#8985966) Journal
        So, the shoe is on the other foot. And copyright can be twisted to advantage the user (GPL). That doesn't mean every license is a good license.

        The fact is, the kernel doesn't arbitarily malfunction when it's tainted. Instead, the taintedness is a great sign to tell the user that they really need to go to the original authors for help since no one else is able to properly debug their proper (and of course, two different modules from two different companies which each taint the kernel creates a problem which no single entity can resolve). Faking the string to not cause taintedness helps no one (in the short term it might help the company, but it might not in the long run; people might pay support money to get bugs fixed in one tainted module). Faking a string in a printer cartridge helps the user to get cheaper ink. It also helps create competition (always a good thing).

        Ironically, Lexmark's cases against various clone ink cartridge makers might decide the result of this same type of deception. Faking a string to make some program behave the way you want might be unhelpful and possibly unethical (by misleading users into believing they're using only GPLed code or wasting developers time on problems they can't solve thanks to code they can't see), but it's hard to see how it could be made illegal. Now getting such companies for false advertising...
      • by spitzak (4019)
        This is not the same, because the string is not needed for the module to work. It can say anything it wants.

        This is more like the manufacturer actually printing "official Lexmark ink cartridge" on the cartridge.

        Imagine if the printer failed and the user sent it to Lexmark for it to be fixed. Would Lexmark really be out of line if they claimed that the user broke it by putting in that unapproved cartridge?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:03PM (#8984968)
    You make it sound like he's just a figurehead now. I would expect him to say something, and I would expect slashdot to not trivialize it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:03PM (#8984975)
    The site's not loading.
  • Squashing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jargoone (166102) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:04PM (#8984993)
    Anyway, I suspect that rather than blacklist bad people, I'd much preferto have the module tags be done as counted strings instead. It should be easy enough to do by just having the macro prepend a sizeof(xxxx)" thing or something.

    Great idea, for this hack, anyway. Problem is, they'll come up with something else next time. I think this one really is up to the lawyers, unfortunately.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:04PM (#8984995)
    If the Kernel asks you if you think its gained wait or if its ass looks big in those drivers.
  • Get over it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:05PM (#8985004)
    Modules should not lie about their licenses. Fine.

    BUT... the linux kernel developers need to get over their fanaticism about open-source drivers. There are many reasons companies cannot or will not make their driver source public. For wireless cards, the FCC effectively prohibits it. For video cards and others, much of the value of the card is in fact in the driver and companies have a right to keep that under wraps.
    • Re:Get over it (Score:3, Interesting)

      by REBloomfield (550182)
      The issue is how the kernel treats binary only modules. If it loads one of these drivers, belieing it to be GPL, and your system gets b0rked, then I'll bet you'll be the first running screaming, with all the people with RedHat maintenance contracts closely behind...
    • Can't get over it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rotworm (649729) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:09PM (#8985061) Homepage Journal
      I don't believe that. Companies that make hardware shouldn't be so dogged about protecting their software. I buy a router/etc for the hardware, not for the companies excellent firmware. I don't see why companies should protect their firmware at all, if it's open source, more people will buy their hardware.
      • by REBloomfield (550182) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:11PM (#8985105)
        Actually, I buy hardware based on how well it does the job, how well it performs, how reliable it is. The firmware could be written in elbonian pictograms for all i care, and i would hope that most people buying IT hardware do the same thing.
      • by dave420 (699308)
        Without the firmware, that router of yours would cease working. Whether you know it or not, every purchase of hardware you buy for your computer is dependent HEAVILY on the firmware. It's the same with drivers, and owing to the fact it's easier and cheaper to change something in sofware than hardware, more and more will be done in drivers/firmware, which means this will get even more common.

        If you can't find it in your heart to accept binary drivers, maybe computers aren't for you ;) j/k

        • Re:Can't get over it (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Rotworm (649729) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:19PM (#8985199) Homepage Journal
          Without the firmware, that router of yours would cease working.
          Give more credit than that.
          I realize they won't work, but firmware should not be a core component of a hardware company, they should work on their hardware first, and not consider firmware a company-breaking secret technology.
          For instance, open firmware makes this possible [techtv.com].
          • firmware should not be a core component of a hardware company

            Firmware can be valuable intellectual property just like any other hardware/software. If a company chooses to keep it closed, that is their decision. If you don't like it, don't buy that piece of hardware. Unfortunately, you'll probably find a small selection, at least today.

            If a company finds a drop in sales due to keeping closed source, they'll change their business model to be competitive. If on the other hand most people don't care,
        • ObDMCA reference (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gosand (234100) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:38PM (#8985449)
          It's the same with drivers, and owing to the fact it's easier and cheaper to change something in sofware than hardware, more and more will be done in drivers/firmware, which means this will get even more common.

          And with the DMCA firmly in place, it will be illegal to hack YOUR hardware.

          Jeez, I used to think I might be a little paranoid, but not any more...

      • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:26PM (#8985284)
        " I buy a router/etc for the hardware, not for the companies excellent firmware."

        The hell you say. A Cisco router is just a CPU and some RAM with a few IO ports thrown in. Its the IOS firmware and software that makes it do its thing.

      • by jridley (9305) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:32PM (#8985364)
        That's a ridiculous statement. The firmware IS the router. Without the firmware, the router is a few of off-the-shelf ethernet chips and a processor. The only difference between many different products is the firmware.

        When you buy a router, you're buying the function of routing. That's nearly 100% implemented in the firmware (for consumer-level routers, probably IS 100%). The hardware is just there to support the firmware's function.
    • Re:Get over it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lussarn (105276) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:12PM (#8985108)
      Linux is an open source system, you should be able to run a fully usable linux system using nothing but open source components.

      That is a hard requirement for Linux success, in the past, now, and in the future.

      For example if 3D desktops becomes the standard open source 3D driver will need to be developed, if the gfx companies don't like that we need to take our money someplace else.

      For the record I do run nvidia binary driver today.
      • Re:Get over it (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shippy (123643)
        Linux is an open source system, you should be able to run a fully usable linux system using nothing but open source components.

        And in a perfect world there would be no war or hunger.

        That is a hard requirement for Linux success, in the past, now, and in the future.

        No, that is a hard requirement that is going to further alienate the Linux community and make companies less likely to bother supporting their hardware on the platform. What this will result in is drivers made by the community that work,
    • Re:Get over it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by adamjaskie (310474)

      There is NOT a problem with binary only vs. open source modules. It is a problem with the company lying to the kernel, saying their module has a GPL liscense, when in fact it does not. There would be no problem if the liscense string had said:
      "GPL for files in the \"GPL\" directory; for others, only LICENSE file applies"
      instead, however, it says:
      "GPL\0for files in the \"GPL\" directory; for others, only LICENSE file applies"
      Notice the sneaky \0.

      • Excuse me, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:22PM (#8985237)
        It is a problem with the company lying to the kernel

        Yes, but the kernel is not a person, right? In fact lying to hardware/software is a well-accepted practice for interoperability, emulation and fair use. If we want it to be illegal, we might as well defend DMCA.
        • by JabberWokky (19442)
          In fact lying to hardware/software is a well-accepted practice for interoperability, emulation and fair use.

          That would make sense if this had anything to do with "interoperability, emulation and fair use". The kernel doesn't care what license it is; it will load a module under any license. This is strictly a user documentation string for the people who might have personal care about the license. You can put "This code 0wned by Darl", and it will load just fine.

          This is strictly a case of a manufacturer

    • There are too many potential liabilities that can come up further downstream from non-GPL code pretending to be GPL. While it would be easy enough for a home-geek or a guy who downloads and inventories all his own stuff to know that a given item is no big deal license-wise, developers wanting a clean box to work from may decide to go grabbing bits and parts that may not be OSS, and they (like any human being) may have forgotten (or if they grabbed the libs from a local network server, not even know) that it
    • Re:Get over it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MartinG (52587) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:22PM (#8985242) Homepage Journal
      For wireless cards, the FCC effectively prohibits it.

      No, the FCC says the card cannot do certain things. Putting these restrictions in the drivers of each individual OS is not a good plan. The restrictions belong in the firmware. This is a safer way to ensure FCC compliance at the same time as allowing open source drivers.

      The linux kernel developers need to get over their fanaticism about open-source drivers.

      Who the hell are you to tell the kernel developers what they should care about? The kernel is licensed and written the way it is because the developers want it like that. If 3rd parties aren't prepared to play along, then they don't have to release linux drivers. They can't have it both ways.
    • Re:Get over it (Score:5, Informative)

      by srwalter (39999) * on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:28PM (#8985309) Homepage Journal
      This isn't about fanaticism. This is about the overworked lkml guys not supporting binary drivers for the companies.

      The kernel will happily load any modules you tell it to, binary or not, licensed or not. The reason this tag exists is so the loading of a binary driver will "taint" your kernel. That way when you submit a bug report, the kernel developers know that you had a binary only module loaded.

      In that case, they'll ask you to reproduce the produce without the binary module loaded. If the problem doesn't happen, it's the vendor's problem, and not Linux's. And rightly so.

      What's wrong with this?
    • Re:Get over it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Unknown Lamer (78415)

      The Free Software movement was started my RMS because the spooler for the new Xerox printer installed at the AI Lab did not come with source code. It had a tendency to jam and not tell the user before he walked across the campus to retrieve his job. The old printer did this (IIRC) but RMS had the source and was able to notify the user (actually, all of the users with print jobs in the queue) so that the printer could be unjammed before a trip was wasted.

      Accepting non-free drivers is giving up your freedom

      • Re:Get over it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:39PM (#8986287)
        Accepting non-free drivers is giving up your freedom. ... If you wish to be a slave again please return to Windows or the Mac

        Freedom means diffrent things to different people, but for most of us, I suspect, freedom is not ultimately defined by anything so trivial as access to the source code for a video driver.

        I am freed from the whims of the developer

        Then we can safely assume you are a master coder whose word is law in GNU/Linux?

    • Re:Get over it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sir_cello (634395) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:44PM (#8985546)
      > For wireless cards, the FCC effectively prohibits it.

      To be clear, this is just as much a choice of the manufacturer who decides to put sufficient amount of the driver into software such that the device has to be certified as a "hardware and software" combination, not just "hardware" itself.

      I have participated in ETSI conformance testing: when you test the product against a known hardware and software combination, you are _held_ to that known hardware and software combination. If you alter the software (e.g. a new build), you need to recertify.

      This is entirely fair IMHO, otherwise a dodgy bug in the new version of the software causes RF splatter and destroys the spectrum.

      The issue here for the open source community is to either (a) convince the manufactures to put it all into hardware/firmware so that software is not part of the certification, or (b) separately certify the linux driver with the hardware.

    • Re:Get over it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MenTaLguY (5483) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @02:25PM (#8986843) Homepage
      This isn't fantacism, it's pragmatism.

      Regardless of why it was proposed, the reason Linus finally accepted the MODULE_LICENSE stuff was that everyone was wasting a LOT of time trying to track down bugs that ended up being caused caused by binary-only drivers.

      The effect of MODULE_LICENSE is mostly just to mark the kernel as "tainted" -- its internal state affected by code which isn't available for the kernel developers to consult when debugging.

      This shows up in crash dumps, so if someone posts dump of a crash in which binary drivers were involved, the kernel developers know upfront not to bother (the bug has "crossed the county line", so to speak).

      Linuxant's excuse is that the tainted message was too confusing for users (they don't appear to have any qualms about wasting kernel developer time).

      Of course Linuxant's proprietary code which they can't let anyone see is pristine and perfect, and could never, ever be the cause of a bug...
  • Poor processes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscowar ... TBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:05PM (#8985007) Journal
    Part of every attempt to legislate (which the kernel's interrogation of drivers is) should include the question "how will people cheat, and how can we stop this". Otherwise this kind of game is inevitable.

    (And if the answer to the question is: "people will cheat and we can't stop them", then there is little point in playing legislator.)
  • by Richard_at_work (517087) * <richardpriceNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:07PM (#8985037)
    Interesting story, considering the gray area many consider binary modules to be. Linus has said that he considers binary modules to not be far enough removed from GPL code and thus infringing, but since binary modules have been around since very early on in the kernels development history without any enforcement of the GPL with regards to them, wouldnt that potentially count against the GPL applying to binary modules if someone did decide to take action? Doesnt the whole idea of kernel license strings interfere with this view as well? If modules are infringing if they arent GPL, then why would they need to tell the kernel that they arent under the GPL? Also, where in the Kernel license does it require you to be truthful to the kernel about your modules license? Nowhere, because it cant. The GPL will not allow you to put that limitation on use of the kernel. Again, it comes back to wondering about the legality of binary modules.

    Personally, I dont use linux and as such, this doesnt directly affect me. But still, it raises interesting questions about how far removed code has to be to be able to be licensed differently. The kernel module API is a publically available API, and Linus does not consider this to be far enough removed. So what is? Does the kernel have to adhere to the CPUs or Motherboards firmware license, because its using a publically available API just like kernel modules are?

    Interesting. Very interesting!
  • by News for nerds (448130) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:10PM (#8985085) Homepage
    All those C string functions are todays source of plague. Even though I'm not Miguel de Icaza it's obvious that we should move to something new.
  • But why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Erwos (553607) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:15PM (#8985147)
    Why did they even bother with this silly (if not cunning) trick in the first place? I mean, OK, no one loves the "kernel tainted" message, but at the end of the day, is it really that much of a deal that it needs to be circumvented?

    I think a more appropriate way of handling things would be have a message explaining _why_ the tainted message is coming up, and why they can't GPL the driver. Work with the system, not against it.

    -Erwos
  • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:17PM (#8985166) Journal
    Has anyone ever gotten the modem in the TiBook to work with that driver? I've struggled with it a number of times (using YDL) and everyone on the lists or IRC just said, "Yeah, didn't work for me, either."
  • My God! (Score:5, Funny)

    by WwWonka (545303) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:18PM (#8985185)
    ...lying to the kernel about their license

    Insubordination at its worst! Lying to the kernel!

    Private Function, get Corporal Punishement on the phone and have them admonished immediatley!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:20PM (#8985209)
    People are circumventing the almighty GPL! Is /. going to complain and be hypocritical by cheering on other circumventing techniques like PlayFair, DeCSS, and other DRM removers?

    If /. has no respect for other people's choice in licenses and cheers people ignoring the license, then it must also cheer on people breaking the license in Linux. You can't have it both ways.

    • by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:10PM (#8985914) Homepage Journal
      Is /. going to complain and be hypocritical by cheering on other circumventing techniques like PlayFair, DeCSS, and other DRM removers?

      There's no reason you need to do this. The kernel happily loads any license. They are lying for the sake of misleading users. There's nothing to circumvent. This is like Pizza Hut advertising that they are giving out Free Pizza, and then cutting off the edge of the coupon that says "$15 per pie charge". There is no technical reason for this; this is simply lying to the end users.

      --
      Evan

  • I know! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ignavusincognitus (750099) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:21PM (#8985220)
    Let's add cryptographic checks to the module loader. The vendors will need to have their modules signed if they want them to be loaded. Before signing, license terms will be verified. This way we can also guarantee that the modules do not affect stability.

    I'm sure this hans't been done [microsoft.com] before.

  • by eltoyoboyo (750015) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:25PM (#8985279) Journal
    Linus' 2 cents undoubtedly cost the hoster of his message [theaimsgroup.com] more than that in /.ed bandwidth.
  • by zulux (112259) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:26PM (#8985290) Homepage Journal
    Here's why:

    If Office 2003 started asking the Win32 API - areYouReallyMicrosoftWindows(). Then MS Windows would return true...

    What would Wine get to return?

    • by Otto (17870) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:54PM (#8985669) Homepage Journal
      If Office 2003 started asking the Win32 API - areYouReallyMicrosoftWindows(). Then MS Windows would return true...

      What would Wine get to return?


      Wine would get to return true as well, if answering true was essential to get the software to work.

      Take the case of the gameboy (I think). One of the checks the thing did when loading a game was to look for the Nintendo logo in the header of the game. If it wasn't there, it wouldn't run it. Someone else put the logo in their games to get it to run, Nintendo sued for trademark infringement. Nintendo lost, because they had made it absolutely necessary to include that logo in order for third parties to achieve interoperability with the product. Instead of preventing third parties from developing games (which was what they wanted), they lost control of their trademark to some degree. Not good.

      However, this case is different. You don't need to lie to the kernel about your license to achieve interoperability. It'll load the module regardless of what you put in the license string. The only thing the license string does is to signal to the kernel developers that non-free modules are loaded into the kernel. It's been "tainted", and then they can choose to not support problems with tainted kernels.

      This isn't lying to the kernel so much as it is lying to the kernel developers.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:30PM (#8985337) Homepage Journal
    The licensing constraints on modules makes you lie about the license your module is under. Consider this:

    I prefer to develop my modules under the revised BSD license, so that others can port them to the BSDs without running into licensing issues. However, Linux will mark the kernel as tainted when a BSD-licensed module is inserted. So I mark them as Dual GPL/BSD, so that they can be loaded without complaints, although I really don't want to release them under GPL, as that would pose a risk that others add code under GPL that could then not be used in the BSDs.

    Ok, that may sound confusing as I typed it in a hurry, but you can make sense of it if you try.
    • I prefer to develop my modules under the revised BSD license, so that others can port them to the BSDs without running into licensing issues. However, Linux will mark the kernel as tainted when a BSD-licensed module is inserted. So I mark them as Dual GPL/BSD, so that they can be loaded without complaints, although I really don't want to release them under GPL, as that would pose a risk that others add code under GPL that could then not be used in the BSDs.

      They could do so anyway. BSD-licensed code can b
  • The free version of the driver is limited to 14k, even with a 56k modem, so why would you bother?

    From the license [linuxant.com]:

    7. Performance. V.92 modems are designed to be capable of receiving data at up to 56Kbps with compatible phone line and server equipment, and transmitting data at up to 31.2Kbps. V.90 modems are designed to be capable of receiving data at up to 56 Kbps from a compatible service provider and transmitting data at up to about 28.8 Kbps. Public networks currently limit download speeds to about 53Kbps.
    The free version of the drivers is limited to 14.4Kbps. Actual speeds vary and are often less than the maximum possible.

    I mean, even RFC 1149 (TCP/IP over Carrier Pigeon) would be better :-)

    This is crippleware.

  • Request the source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Captain Rotundo (165816) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @12:39PM (#8985459) Homepage
    Since the module reports that it is GPL, why doesn't every one start asking for the source code. Maybe they will be annoyed enough to fix the software (assuming they claim typo or some such) maybe they actually want to GPL the whole thing? :)
  • Why do i care? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:00PM (#8985750) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, why do I care about this at all?

    I have a kernel. I have a device. With out said driver the kernel is useless to me.

    So the driver is closed and propitiatory, as long as it works with my kernel why should I care. ( all religious OSS arguments aside.. I'm taking for a *real* reason )

    The alternative seems to be no driver, and the kernel becomes a useless lump of code. We cant demand that companies that produce hardware support anything they don't want too, be happy they at least give us closed drivers... 5 years ago they didnt even do that, unless it was for a Microsoft kernel.
    • Re:Why do i care? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dinivin (444905) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:34PM (#8986235)
      The problem is that it doesn't always work with your kernel. If the binary driver causes a problem with the kernel, the kernel developers have no way of tracking down the bug since they don't have access to that code. That is the point of having binary modules taint the kernel. How would you like to receive bug reports for someone elses software and not realize that it's someone elses bug?

      Dinivin
    • Re:Why do i care? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spinkham (56603)
      The point is the Linux developers are in general pretty pragmatic about this. You can have binary modules in the kernel, but they don't want a bug report from you if you do. It's basically a "do this at your own risk" type of thing.
      What happened here is a binary only module pulled a sneaky trick to say that it isn't a binary only module, and the debug information no longer tells the developers that the kernel was running with code they don't have the sources to debug, hence wastes their time trying to fi
    • Re:Why do i care? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dasunt (249686)

      Seriously, why do I care about this at all?

      The alternative seems to be no driver, and the kernel becomes a useless lump of code. We cant demand that companies that produce hardware support anything they don't want too, be happy they at least give us closed drivers... 5 years ago they didnt even do that, unless it was for a Microsoft kernel.

      Some of us would rather support open drivers than closed drivers. When I buy hardware, I try to buy hardware with open drivers. Why? Because it directly affect

    • Re:Why do i care? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Senjutsu (614542) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:58PM (#8986544)
      The only reasons you should care are

      A)By faking a GPL license to avoid "tainting" the kernel, the company has made your life more difficult. Problems you have with the kernel won't be supported by developers unless you can recreate the problem without any closed-source modules loaded(otherwise the bug is likely in code they can't fix). Since the module is not marked by the kernel as closed source, unless you remember it is months or years down the road, you may forget that you need to unload it.

      B)It wastes time the developers could otherwise be using to improve the kernel. Given a kernel dump that claims to be untainted, they could end up spending days hunting down a bug only to discover that it ultimately lies in a module they can't find source for. If the tainting mechanism had been allowed to work properly, the developer would have asked for a resubmission of the bug without any closed-source modules loaded, to ensure the bug is fixable by them, saving themself days of wasted effort.

      What you, and a lot of other people seem to not be understanding is that, if this company hadn't faked the "GPL" line, the modules would still have loaded and worked perfectly. The developers aren't trying to keep closed source drivers from running (far from it), they just want to mark a kernel so that if there's a problem with it, they can save time by having a way to immediately identify whether they are capable of debugging it or not. That benefits everyone.
  • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:15PM (#8985979)
    These people wanted $15 for a Linux driver, with no guarantees of free upgrades in the event of a kernel update.

    I just went and bought a serial port external modem for $13 (shipped). Works like a charm.
  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @01:19PM (#8986038) Homepage Journal
    Linuxant responds [theaimsgroup.com] and explains why they did what they did. It was mostly to supress multiple messages when loading multi module drivers rather than some sort of circumvention.

    On the otherhand I think everyone's eyes are open to possible malicious use of this and simular tricks.
    • Frankly, I still don't see why they should have bothered. Anyone who's gotten over the bar enough to know how to load and use their drivers should have read in their documentation that the many repetitive warnings were benign. They say:

      Actually, we also have no desire nor purpose to prevent tainting. The purpose of the workaround is to avoid repetitive warning messages generated when multiple modules belonging to a single logical "driver" are loaded (even when a module is only probed but not used due t

  • by Performer Guy (69820) on Tuesday April 27, 2004 @06:41PM (#8990588)

    FWIW IMHO the string ends at the \0 I don't care what garbage in memory exists after this, this is not a subtle issue or grey area, \0 ends the string, subsequent information is irrelevant.

    But back to my subject, blacklisting is a bit heavy handed. Hmm... we have a company that provides drivers for Linux, yup they're proprietary winmodem drivers but they're there. To *suppress warnings* they have unfortunately chosen to prematurely end their string with a \0, that's really nasty and foolish but blacklisting them as a company from installing kernel modules is way frikin OTT.

    How does this help joe public get his winmodem working?
    How does this encourage any corporation from releasing proprietary drivers for in Linux? (Which are better than no drivers IMHO)

    There are other drivers (particularly audio and graphics) that use proprietary code implemented by private companies and these are used every day by many thousands of Linux users.

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