Archive for October, 2006

ZD1211 driver news

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Despite not mentioning it here for a while, Ulrich Kunitz and myself have been driving forward with our ZD1211 USB-WLAN driver rewrite.

For a start, the driver is included in the recently released Linux 2.6.18 kernel, which has resulted in a drastic increase in the number of users. If you’re looking for a handy way to add wireless connectivity to a computer now and then, these devices are ideal: cheap, small, reliable, in-kernel driver, redistributable firmware.

A more functional driver can be found in the 2.6.19-rc development tree. New features include:

  • LED support – the light goes blinky blink during network usage.
  • Support for devices based on the AL7230B RF (i.e. ZD1211-based devices which support 802.11a). We don’t support 802.11a connectivity just yet, but you can now use these devices to connect to b/g networks.
  • Out-of-the-box support for driverless devices (not even the vendor driver supports this!).
  • More accurate signal strength/quality statistics.
  • Many more device ID’s added thanks to people testing the driver with their hardware.

Coming for 2.6.20: ERP handling (to play nicer when 802.11b clients are in sight), hardware decryption, and more! Many thanks to ZyDAtheros for their continued support.

Post-it notes and adhesive tape

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

Monday was a very eventful day at work. I started my co-op placement at a small-but-mature startup company less than 2 months ago, and yesterday morning we are herded into a meeting where it is announced that we have been acquired by 3M. The buyout is especially interesting given that Brontes is still a pre-sales company.

3M is an amazing organisation, notably in terms of their scope. You name it, they make it. Post-it notes, dental products, pharmaceuticals, scotch tape, chemicals, health care products, etc. It’s really exciting as we’ll now have a huge amount of global resources to tap into. I’m really happy that I get to experience this while on my placement year.

More details here.

More export control material

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Donnie Berkholz pointed out that the Xorg project previously had to overcome some issues with export control vs cryptographic code. I haven’t had a chance to chew on it yet, but there seems to be some good info here:

I’m at the GNOME Summit this weekend, and today I met Jim in person. We talked briefly on the topic which was useful. After going through the above info I’m going to contact the Software Freedom Law Center based on his advice.

Fingerprinting legal issues update

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Thanks for the responses to my plea for help up to this point. I’ve also contacted a few people who I’m waiting for responses from.

I’ve been told that most of NFIS2 will become a downloadable open source project soon, which is encouraging. However, this project will NOT include the fingerprint matching algorithm, instead it will only include the analysis tools. This implies that scope of the export control issues is limited only to the actual matching and identification part, and leaves me with exactly the same problem.

I’ve also been informed that NFIS2 distribution is subject to ECCN 3D980. Basically, if your export can be classified under the ECCN, you need a license before you can export it (at least this my is interpretation, which may be wrong). Such licenses aren’t exactly open-source compatible.

Previously I was only looking under category 4 (Computers) but apparently they also put software under category 3 (Electronics). Here’s the text of 3D980:

“Software” specially designed for the “development”, “production”, or “use” of items controlled by 3A980 and 3A981.

3A980 is unrelated, but 3A981 says:

Polygraphs (except biomedical recorders designed for use in medical facilities for monitoring biological and neurophysical responses); fingerprint analyzers, cameras and equipment, n.e.s.; automated fingerprint and identification retrieval systems, n.e.s.; psychological stress analysis equipment; electronic monitoring restraint devices; and specially designed parts and accessories, n.e.s.

Opinions or thoughts on the interpretation of this new info are much appreciated.

NFIS2 works!

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

Despite the earlier legal concerns about libdpfp (which still stand), I went ahead and requested a NFIS2 CD and integrated it into libdpfp locally.

The good news: it works brilliantly. Minutiae detection and comparison completes instantaneously and the results appear to be accurate and reliable. In other words, if I scan my finger twice it says its the same finger, and if I scan two different fingers it says they are different. I’m now in a position to follow up my larger plans of producing a generic fingerprinting library for a range of hardware, except…

The bad news: I’m not going to distribute any more work on libdpfp until I have found legal advice which tells me it’s OK to do so. I’m now at the position where I have a load of code I can throw at lawyers and say “this is exactly what I want to distribute”, so this is where the hunt begins.

If anyone has suggestions for people I might contact (even non-legal types who might be able to pass me on to someone), or has experience seeking advice in this kind of area, please contact me. I’m aware that such advice will probably cost money, although I don’t have any idea how much. Raising funds to cover costs might be a possibility.

In summary I’m looking for someone who understands (or can figure out how to interpret) US export control laws. I guess I also require a tech type who understands the concepts of software distribution to some degree. Any guidance appreciated!