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Making Sense of the OLPC Proprietary Software Row

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Theo de Raadt, the leader of the OpenBSD project and a vociferous crusader for hardware (especially networking) documentation, recently went public with his concerns about the One Laptop Per Child project's choice to use a wireless networking chip from Marvell, a company with an unusually poor record of supporting free software operating systems, in the 2B1 laptop computer that it is developing. Marvell is unwilling to freely supply hardware documentation so that programmers can create device drivers that properly interface with its wireless chips, and beyond that, Marvell also refuses to allow OpenBSD and other free software operating systems to freely distribute firmware binaries that are necessary to use Marvell wireless devices. So why, then, was it chosen for the OLPC project, which claims to "support open source?" If de Raadt's email was the first you heard of the conflict, you're probably confused as to what's going on. Below are explanatory interviews with various people who were or are involved with this situation: Theo de Raadt, Richard Stallman, Jim Gettys, and Jonathan Corbet.

Understanding the OLPC project's choices

I exchanged several emails with OLPC's vice president of software, Jim Gettys -- who was also one of the original designers of the X11 windowing system and the W3C editor in charge of the HTTP 1.1 specification, among other achievements in the computer technology industry -- in an effort to figure out what the uproar was about and what was actually going on. Excerpts follow:

Full Interview.

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