Netgear responds to open source criticism

From the ‘Bad PR’ files:

Open source can be a double edged source for those that aren’t careful to strictly adhere to the licensing terms.

Case in point is networking vendor Netgear. Last week Netgear announced its RangeMax Wireless-N Gigabit Router, calling it an open source Linux platform.

The problem is that according to critics, Netgear is not complying with the open source GPL license. It’s a claim that Netgear is now responding too.

For the record, I contacted Netgear on this issue on Oct 8th, they responded to me via email 26 hours later with a pointer to a newly posted message on the Netgear site. So, Netgear did not respond to my inquiry directly, though I tried (never a good sign and usually makes me wonder why they’re afraid to talk to press?).

PR gripes aside, this is what Netgear has now publicly posted on the issue of its alleged GPL violation.

“Concern has been raised on the presence of binary modules in the pre-loaded NETGEAR firmware,” Netgear’s Som Pal Choudhury wrote in an open letter. “The factory-loaded firmware by NETGEAR on the WNR3500L router is there for those customers who simply want to use the router “as-is” with the features provided by the NETGEAR firmware. It is no different from the millions of other NETGEAR Linux routers we sell in the market. We do offer the GPL code on our websites for all customers to download, review, and even to modify it: something many of our development partners have already done.”

The issue, as first raised by gpl-violations author Harald Welte is that Netgear’s
 Open Source router ships with binary-only kernel modules. Welte has noted that as such users can never update their Linux kernel to get the latest security fixes, but have to run vulnerable old kernel versions.

 “One would have hoped that Netgear did thoroughly study the Open Source market that they’re trying to address,” Welte wrote. “Apparently they either did not do that, or they chose to ignore the values/rules by which this community works, or they had somebody with limited understanding to advise them on this.”

Netgear disagrees.

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