Alcatel ships Linux USB ADSL driver

But files it under proprietary licence

USB ADSL modem maker Alcatel has shipped its long-promised Linux driver. However, the company seems to have misunderstood just what the phrase 'open source' actually means.

Alcatel's driver allows Linux fans to use the company's USB-based SpeedTouch ADSL modem. In the UK, BT Ignite bundles that modem with the home ADSL offering it sells through a variety of telcos, including BT's own broadband operation, BT Openworld.

The USB package costs £39.99 a month plus £150 for installation; the alternative is an Ethernet-connected modem, which will work with Linux, but that costs £99.99 a month plus £260 for installation.

After much petitioning from UK Linux users - 944 signatories and counting, according to petition founder Chris 'Linuxdude' Jones - and an offer to create Linux drivers on the company's behalf, Alcatel finally announced early February it would offer the software this month, along with a binary file containing the SpeedTouch's firmware.

And, indeed, that's what it has posted on its site. There's a binary file containing (we assume, since we haven't looked) the firmware and a separate tarball file containing the source code and makefile data. The code was written, we note, by Johan Verrept, the guy who originally approached Alcatel to write the driver for it.

The snag is that to get it all, you need to accept Alcatel's Developer Licence Agreement, which effectively removes the 'open' from 'open source'. Now clearly Alcatel wants to protect its proprietary data - in this case, the contents of the modem's firmware. However, you have to agree to the licensing terms even if you only want to look at Verrept's source code, which Alcatel promised would be open.

And while the DFA is clearly a generic licence - it doesn't explicitly define what is covered - it is headed "Speed Touch USB ADSL Linux driver application", which suggests that the driver is included in the proprietary licence.

Of course, there's nothing to stop anyone distributing or modifying the source code, and we doubt Alcatel's lawyers are going to go after anyone that does, but you'd have thought the company was smart enough to get it right in the first place. ®

Related Link

Alcatel's Linux drivers

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