Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Wireless Networking Operating Systems Software BSD Hardware

GPL Code Found In OpenBSD Wireless Driver 671

NormalVisual writes "The mailing lists were buzzing recently when Michael Buesch, one of the maintainers for the GPL'd bc43xx Broadcom wireless chip driver project, called the OpenBSD folks to task for apparently including code without permission from his project in the OpenBSD bcw project, which aims to provide functionality with Broadcom wireless chips under that OS. It seems that the problem has been resolved for now with the BSD driver author totally giving up on the project and Theo De Raadt taking the position that Buesch's posts on the subject were 'inhuman.'" More commentary from the BSD community is over at
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

GPL Code Found In OpenBSD Wireless Driver

Comments Filter:
  • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @01:53PM (#18647869)
    His position is completely rational for those of us who have worked with Broadcom. Even their closed source stuff is often junk and requires tremendous effort to work around, with poor support and impossible management. Even after signing NDAs and GETTING chip specs or sample code, you're still left out in the dark.

    Anything that manages to get out in the free world needs to stay there, and any reasonable person will do his best to ensure it does. Further, using the GPL as a weapon against Broadcom, forcing them to open up their specs is really to the collective advantage of everyone.
  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Saturday April 07, 2007 @01:53PM (#18647877) Homepage Journal
    Theo is a real sharp programmer, and an eloquent writer when he wants to be. I met him once. I went to shake his hand. I swear, he did not notice. This left me to think that when Theo commits social gaffes, it is not his fault and he can't help himself. We all have our lacks, issues, and strengths.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:03PM (#18647985)
    You are also, apparently, advocating being an asshole to anyone who "steals" code instead of trying to be nice and say "uhh, dudes, you fucked up. get it out".

    Eh? He offered to licence at least parts of it to BSD (it would make no sense to licence it all, since then it'd not be GPL protected any more). Why is offering to licence code, to someone who stole it without asking in the first place, being an asshole, but saying "you fucked up, get it out" is cool?

    The BSD guy's first response shows what an asshat he was - explicity saying that he stole it with the intention of then rewriting it bit by bit to circumvent the copyright. Nice clean room implementation eh? Not that he'd got as far as the bit by bit cirumvention - he'd only progressed as far as the blatant stealing.
  • As the World Turns (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:09PM (#18648043)
    I have read all the threads on the OBSD lists.

    Without question, the Linux developer did not need to cc the whole word when first making his inquiry -- he should have contacted them in private. I would also suspect that the BSD developer was just using the Linux code as a drop-in replacement for the time being until he rewrote it with a BSD license. I do not believe the BSD developer was trying to steal anything or take credit for something he did not develop. He made a mistake, for sure, but I do not believe there was any ill will on his part.

    However, the biggest story in all of this is just how freaking childish Theo is. I cannot for the life of me figure this guy out. He kills his own cause and make OBSD look like a playground for schoolyard bullies. Imagine how much better he and OBSD would have looked if they had responded to the initial mailing list post with something like: "Hey, we would have appreciated it if you had contacted us privately. In any event, we are quite confident there was no intent to take GPL code in violation of the license. However, we will discuss this, decide the appropriate remedy, and respond to you privately. Thank you for bringing this to our attention."

    Matter solved, no drama. But Theo has to open his big fat mouth. Theo: it's called taking the high road, even if you didn't start it. Try it sometime.

    Besides, Theo himself cross-posts to other lists all the time to incite flame wars. Just look at last month's FreeBSD-advocacy list -- he cross posted during a thread about the use of his dear Puffy on an anti-blob poster. Pot, meet kettle.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:31PM (#18648273)
    bcm43xx is quite usable in modern kernels, it's come a long way from the first versions and has near windows driver speeds under good conditions.

    I'd give it a try again. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:34PM (#18648297)
    Rubbish! The BSD lot accepted known GPL code and hoped no one would notice. The person lifted the code from the most public GPL project there is, and tried passing it off as their own. Now how many other times have BSD people done this?

    Theo carried on like a silly little child that dropped their favorite teddybear, rather that saying "whoops, how can we resolve this?".

    It's a BSD mailing list in question, hardly anyone uses OpenBSD, and a damn sight fewer bother with their mailing lists. Get real here, public my fat hairy arse!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:36PM (#18648315)
    Did you read the thread? Did you even read the email you link to? You conveniently omit that if there is one person who "comes across as a bit of an asshole", it isn't Michael (hint, his name starts with a T). It was a mistake to do this public (although, I can understand it, I do not think he realized that this would be picked up by newssites, etc. Although arguably, that could have been avoided if Theo had not been so flaming, Marcus response was quite reasonable and the issue would have been quickly solved).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:36PM (#18648317)
    Reputation and respect are insanely important to most developers and being accused in public of stealing someone's stuff is damaging.

    Then keep said stuff the hell out of your public repository if you don't want problems.

    Theo is responding with an appropriate amount of emotion if you ask me.

    It was an appropriate amount of emotion for a pre-schooler, not for a 38 year old professional software engineer.

    He just lost a developer over what was a mistake because some egotistical coder went public with something that out of respect should have been addressed privately first.

    No, Theo lost a project because said developer wanted to be a drama queen and say, "fine, I'm taking my toys and going home!" instead of accepting Buesch's gracious offer of help and licensing for part of the code. I think he got his feelings hurt because Buesch called him on the issue publicly, and IMHO that's just too bad for him.

  • by moikka ( 1085403 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @02:38PM (#18648339)
    It turned a spectacle only after Theo responded the way he did. The correct response would have been "Oops, you are right, there seems to be a problem. We'll sort it out". With this response there wouldn't have been any spectacle and everybody would have been fine afterwards. Michael could have made first contact by email but equally well what he did was within reason. If Michael would have started be creating an thread on /. that would have been out of line, but not this. After all Marcus did copy code into his own project stripping out the original copyright notice and distributed the result in violation of the copyright Is this not the real beef in here? >>> Nobody disputes that GPL code was committed to OpenBSD CVS. Theo tried to dispute this many times by trying to ridicule Michaels point by making strawmen about whitespaces and stuff. It is just that Theo was not succesful when he tried to dispute this.
  • by Eric S. Smith ( 162 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @03:28PM (#18648871) Homepage

    Michael Busch's whole argument [...] is BS. They have different motives here.

    What, it was all a viral GPL-pervert scheme to trick righteous BSD developers into copying their work?

    They just wanted to make a fuss.

    By offering to negotiate including their code in the BSD project?

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @03:47PM (#18649065)
    A more interesting question would be whether a certain type of work selects for Asperger's Syndrome or a similar disorder. Bram Cohen claims to have it, and in spite of the problems it has caused him says that it aids his concentration, his ability to focus on his work. Many great programmers I've known over the years (not all by any means, but a significant number) almost seem to lack social skills in direct proportion to their technical abilities. I'm not trying to infer cause and effect, but from a purely anecdotal perspective there does seem to be something at work here.
  • Re:Overreactions... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @06:28PM (#18650565) Homepage
    While it's probably more socially graceful to email Marcus directly, in this case I don't think it would have been productive. Marcus was aware of the GPL'd code, and had informed Theo of it. They both knew what was going on and decided it wasn't important. I haven't had the opportunity to deal with Theo directly (knock on wood!), but I've never seen Theo interact nicely with Linux or other GPL communities, and it seems like every one ends with some innuendo blackmail over OpenSSH. But perhaps I'm just drawn to controversy when I read the news. Theo's a guy who should know better. Of course, I don't think there's any way Buesch could have known that Theo was already aware of the problem.
  • by that this is not und ( 1026860 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @06:49PM (#18650745)
    It is Bruce Perens' fault that UID numbers are paraded here on Slashdot, leading to an elitist attitude about low UIDs. Back in the day there were people who had fun masquerading as Bruce Perens in some of the threads. It led to taglines saying 'I am the REAL Bruce Perens' and other adventures. Eventually it led to UIDs being explicitly displayed at the top of every comment header. Which was essentially a roll-back of the formerly more egalitarian tone on /. The reason it is Bruce Perens' fault is that he rolled in here and insisted on the ability to capitalize on his 'real name' to get some cred. Oh well. More important to some than to others.

    I am the Real Bruce Perens, by the way. Just kidding.
  • by leomekenkamp ( 566309 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @07:48PM (#18651165)

    An EULA is not legally binding because it is (illegally) forced on you after the sale of a product, restricting your legal rights. The GPL is not forced on you; if you choose to reject it, normal copyright kicks in. If you choose to accept the GPL you receive additional rights not normally given to you under normal copyright.

    The GPL has been out there for a great number of years. I hope your comment is based on little knowledge on the difference between EULAs and the GPL, and not on intentional putting down the GPL.

    And the RIAA is well known for representing record labels, not artists. Do not let orwellian naming schemes fool you.

  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @09:05PM (#18651541) Homepage Journal

    Really? I read him as being defensive of his contributors. Like a thinking, caring supervisor would. There's no question it could have been handled better. The very public airing of the violation was almost certainly intended to hurt rather than help. Theo made that point.

    Every time something like this comes up, I hear a lot of "Theo is an asshole", but then I read the messages involved and I fail to see the assholery. He seems to be smart, articulate and protective of his project--as I'd expect him to be. About 70% of this bruhaha is juvenile "Linux vs. BSD" cockfights.

  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Saturday April 07, 2007 @09:37PM (#18651771) Homepage Journal

    Having read the thread--was Michael's *very* public outing of the violation justified? Or would it have been solved easier and with less drama with a simple email to Marcus alone?

    'Cause that was Theo's point.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 07, 2007 @09:38PM (#18651777)
    Speaking as one of the ones who reverse engineered the driver: yes, we guessed a lot. However, the Broadcom code is terrible. I remember, at one point, the code was doing insertion sort of a list of structs. There were 128 of the structs and they were about 256 bytes each. They were moving around the *entire structs* when they were sorting, rather than keeping a list of pointers that they moved around. What's worse is that they were doing this under a spinlock! Yes, you read that right. They were running a O(n^2) sorting algorithm on 32KB of data under a spinlock.

    That's just one example. There were plenty of others.
  • by fruitbane ( 454488 ) on Sunday April 08, 2007 @11:32AM (#18655353)
    I think the original message calling out the code problem was not the most polite or discreet, but it was not a direct attack. It really was a rather straight-forward message. And Theo really took the wrong approach. He's being way over-defensive. When you work around legal licenses and issues resulting from those licenses you can't afford to be defensive and see a notice of problems at an attack. Theo's response, I think, has really harmed the BSD community. Rather than calling for a little patience and calm in dealing with the situation and asking for some time to sort thinks out he immediately raised his hackles and started growling.

    Is the BSD community getting a little too insular? Is that what's going on? Maybe they are insecure about the wide attention Linux gets and the restrictions GPLed code puts on their own work. At the same time, Theo's response was inappropriate. And while Marcus did pull the driver code, he likely didn't over the initial email. The resulting exchange probably had a greater role in pushing him out, and Theo was just as much a part of that as Michael.

    I'm not sure I'd ever want to contribute work to a project with a figurehead as negatively reactive as Theo.

Radioactive cats have 18 half-lives.