|FROM ||Rick Moen
|SUBJECT ||Re: [Hangout-NYLXS] free wifi router choices at good prices
|From hangout-bounces-at-nylxs.com Tue Oct 27 20:23:53 2015
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Date: Tue, 27 Oct 2015 16:57:46 -0700
From: Rick Moen
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Subject: Re: [Hangout-NYLXS] free wifi router choices at good prices
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Quoting Ruben Safir (ruben-at-mrbrklyn.com), who is citing someone else,
> Introducing the first and only commercially available 100% free
> software wireless router with Respect Your Freedom certification. The
> router ships with the most up-to-date free software embedded GNU/Linux
> distribution today: LibreCMC.
> LibreCMC was built from the Linux-libre kernel and a stripped down
> version of OpenWRT without the non-free bits. LibreCMC is the modern
> free software distribution designed for todays routers.
It's important to know for context what is being referred to by the term
'non-free bits'. This means several binary-only firmware BLOBs for
particular wireless chipset, and two Broadcom utilities (nas and wl)
specific to peculiar Broadcom chips to assist 802.xx authentication and
to set wireless driver parameters, respectively.
FSF went on a tear about firmware BLOBs (Binary Large OBjects) starting
(IIRC) in the late 1990s. I remember this well, because I was relying
on a trusty ol' PCMCIA 802.11b card using a Lucent Orinoco chipset.
Orinoco-based wireless card, like all ethernet cards of the same era,
had embedded firmware ROMs -- physical ROMs -- holding the code to
initialise the card. And, important for my point: This limited amount
of low-level code to initialise the card was binary-only and
proprietary, and nobody including FSF appeared especially concerned
about that fact.
Some bean-counter at some place like Broadcom had a sudden brainstorm:
'Hey, we can save 10 cents a unit on future cards by _omitting_ the ROM
chip and instead providing the same code as part of the proprietary
driver we write for Microsoft, and have the driver IPL the card exactly
the way the ROM currently does.'
And _this_, this substitution of firmware as BLOB for the exact same
firmware in a physical ROM -- this thing, FSF went on a tear about, and
is the main reason why FSF certifies only a couple of odd little distros
you've never heard of as 'respecting your freedom'.
I keep wondering why FSF didn't deplore the lack of freedom in my Lucent
card. Move the goalposts much?
FWIW, I have at home an old Linksys WRT54G v.3, based on a 200MHz
Broadcom 4712 SoC with 4MB flash storage and 16MB of RAM. It's loaded
with ridiculously outdated circa-2009 'trunk' cvs-checkout code of the
then-cutting-edge 8.09.1 (I think) 'kamikaze' branch of OpenWRT.
And the _reason_ I made a point out of seeking out and compiling from
source code that entire distro is that OpenWRT had stubbornly worked
through reverse-engineering of the Broadcom 4712 SoC, becoming the first
router distro to be able to support that chip without antique 2.4
kernels and cruddy old binary BLOBs from Broadcom. Thus, I have faith
in OpenWRT's leadership and good judgement, and I'd rather support them
than a distro (LibreCMC) whose apparent only notion of leadership is to
strip things out.
That's not to call ThinkPenguin's offer a bad deal. On the contrary,
it's an attractive one. But the first thing I'd do, if ordering one, is
to blow away LibreCMC and install my own installation of OpenWRT.
> What is the USB to TTL
Reference is to the page's offer of a 'USB to TTL Serial Cable Adapter'.
That's talking about one of these, to get the equivalent of serial
console (via its USB port) on a router that has otherwise no console
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