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Broadcom Announces Open-Source 802.11n Driver!

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  • Broadcom Announces Open-Source 802.11n Driver!

    Phoronix: Broadcom Announces Open-Source 802.11n Driver!

    Broadcom wireless network adapters have long been notorious with Linux users since this hardware vendor has not provided any open-source Linux drivers or specifications for their chipsets, even though Broadcom ASICs are dominantly used within today's wireless adapters. There's long been community projects like bcm43xx and b43 to create Linux drivers and use extracted Windows firmware and such to make the 802.11 adapters work, but for Broadcom's new 802.11n chipsets they have made a radical turn and are releasing a fully open-source Linux driver!..

    http://www.phoronix.com/vr.php?view=ODU4Mg

  • #2
    Wait wait wait, DNF is being released, aand Broadcom opens up? "It's the end of the world as we know it..."

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    • #3
      Originally posted by whizse View Post
      Wait wait wait, DNF is being released, aand Broadcom opens up? "It's the end of the world as we know it..."
      See and you thought that 2012 doomsday prediction was all bs.

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      • #4
        Glad that wireless should virtually always be as plug-n-play as wired has been on Linux from now on no doubt. It already had great support, so that should hopefully finish the job for the most part. Glad Broadcom finally woke up.

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        • #5
          Hopefully they expand this to support their 802.11g parts. Or at least contribute to the b43 driver.

          It's been a while since I last tested b43 but I had some problems with it on my bcm4312.

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          • #6
            Broadcom has become somewhat friendlier in recent years. Take a look at their "crystalhd" products: the provide driver source for those also.

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            • #7
              Are we suure that Broadcom is including the firmware in their driver?

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              • #8
                VIVA Broadcom

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                • #9
                  It will not be accepted to the Linux kernel without it.

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                  • #10
                    I thought intel wireless (iwl wifi) driver still requires firmware, which is proprietary, yet it is in kernel. I think right now Atheros driver is the only one that doesn't require any external firmware.

                    Nevertheless, it is great news that there is finally open source broadcom wireless drivers. b43 has been stable on the 80211b/g chips and used to work great on my old dell notebook (dell 1397). The new ones with 80211n (dell 1510n) is I guess still not supported by b43. Thankfully, they were supported by broadcom's proprietary driver (broadcom-sta), but it was a bit unstable and flaky to my liking.

                    However, I wonder without ap, encryption, led, rfkill, what does it really do except consuming power for tx/rx .

                    I think atheros linux wireless drivers (ath9k, ath5k) are the best. Not only do they require any extra firmware, it has been my most stable wireless experience on Linux.

                    Also, last but not the least, a lot of thanks to the b43 driver developers for their great effort over the last few years.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by aaaantoine View Post
                      Are we suure that Broadcom is including the firmware in their driver?
                      Depends entirely on how they've organized their cards architecture wise. If they load firmware into their cards on boot, it's a bit tricky as I believe it's a legal nightmare to archive. You see, the FCC don't like people being able to freely control a radio device (it has something to do with the fact that most frequencies are commercial or military etc. and also regulations regarding power). Now the FCC has in-fact said that open source in itself isn't the problem, but it still have to be certified somehow, and a part of that is showing it's not trivial to tamper with the firmware or in any other way having unauthorized changes to the frequency, power or similar parameters making the card illegal (i.e. transmitting to much power and/or at an frequency you aren't allow to transmit on).

                      Now the really easy way to avoid this is to have to firmware always loaded into the card, i.e. no need to load any firmware on boot. Also I would guess physically locking the card to the specific frequency band and power-levels allowed by the FCC and similar organizations, would be sufficient, but I am by no means any expert on this, so it's mostly speculations on my part.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by AHSauge View Post
                        Depends entirely on how they've organized their cards architecture wise. If they load firmware into their cards on boot, it's a bit tricky as I believe it's a legal nightmare to archive. You see, the FCC don't like people being able to freely control a radio device (it has something to do with the fact that most frequencies are commercial or military etc. and also regulations regarding power). Now the FCC has in-fact said that open source in itself isn't the problem, but it still have to be certified somehow, and a part of that is showing it's not trivial to tamper with the firmware or in any other way having unauthorized changes to the frequency, power or similar parameters making the card illegal (i.e. transmitting to much power and/or at an frequency you aren't allow to transmit on).

                        Now the really easy way to avoid this is to have to firmware always loaded into the card, i.e. no need to load any firmware on boot. Also I would guess physically locking the card to the specific frequency band and power-levels allowed by the FCC and similar organizations, would be sufficient, but I am by no means any expert on this, so it's mostly speculations on my part.
                        It would indeed be better that way from a driver developer's point of view as they would not have to write code to load and initialize the firmware. All that the driver should do ideally is pass initialization parameters to the card to set it up.

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                        • #13
                          Another company acknowledges the relevance of Linux. I don't care that they're ridiculously late to the game; the mere fact that they're doing this just adds fuel to the open source movement.

                          Today has been a good day.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DeepDayze View Post
                            It would indeed be better that way from a driver developer's point of view as they would not have to write code to load and initialize the firmware. All that the driver should do ideally is pass initialization parameters to the card to set it up.
                            Absolutely! Unfortunately there seems to be few companies doing it that way, creating a bit of a legal hassle in terms of distributing open source firmware for WLAN-chipsets. I know Atheros seems to be doing it (always having firmware on the card), and Intersil did it for the Prism-chipsets, but that division was sold to Conexant. Other than that, I don't know of anyone else. I know for sure Intel isn't, they even site the FCC as for why the don't have open source firmware, and Broadcom definitely didn't do it in the older BCM43xx-chips. Also there seems to be some chipsets from Texas Instruments that require firmware on boot. What the rest does, I don't know.

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                            • #15
                              It doesn't matter if it requires firmware or not... just that the firmware is licensed in a way that allows it to be freely distributed.

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