[Make-wifi-fast] some comments from elsewhere on the lockdown

Dave Taht dave.taht at gmail.com
Thu Sep 24 15:49:21 EDT 2015

a commenter that I will keep anonymous wrote:

Regarding the FCC firmware lockdown issue, I’m sure you’re aware that
baseband firmware in cellphones has been subject to similar
restrictions for some time. In fact, the FCC effectively mandates that
baseband functionality is implemented on a whole separate subsystem
with its own CPU to make it easier to isolate and protect. Also, the
cellphone system is designed so that a misbehaving node can be easily
identified and blocked from the network, making it useless and
removing most of the incentive to find ways around regulatory
restrictions. Wi-Fi devices have none of these protections.

I believe this new attention to Wi-Fi devices is a consequence of many factors:

The precedent from cellphone baseband firmware control; regulators are
easily inspired by success stories in related areas
The substantial increase in flexibility offered by SDR implementations
Technical ignorance, for example of the difference between OS,
protocol, and UI firmware and baseband firmware
The expansion of allowed capabilities in Wi-Fi hardware (from 5.8 GHz
ISM to the U-NII bands, increases in transmit power allowances, etc.)
The improved spectrum utilization of newer Wi-Fi modulation schemes
Inconsistencies among international regulations for spectrum allocation
Spectrum sharing between Wi-Fi and life safety applications
The relative lack of attention to (and sometimes, the deliberate
flouting of) regulatory constraints in open-source firmware
The increased availability of open-source firmware for higher-power
and narrow-beam Wi-Fi devices (not just the WRT-54G :-)

And probably more I can’t think of off the top of my head, but which
regulators are obsessing over every day.

Although I agree with the spirit of your FCC email draft letter, it
does not address most of these factors, so it’s likely to be seen as
missing the point by regulators. If you want to reach these people,
you have to talk about the things they’re thinking about.

What you ought to be pushing for instead is that Wi-Fi devices be
partitioned the same way cellphones are, defining a baseband section
that can be locked down so that the device can’t operate in ways that
are prohibited by the relevant local regulations, so that the OS,
protocol, and UI code on the device can be relatively more open for
the kinds of optimizations and improvements we all want to see.

It’s possible that the partition could be in software alone, or in
some combination of hardware and software, that doesn’t require a
cellphone-style independent baseband processor, which would add a lot
of cost to Wi-Fi devices. For example, the device vendor could put
baseband-related firmware into a trusted and _truly minimal_ binary
module that the OS has to go through to select the desired frequency,
power, and modulation scheme, even for open-source solutions. That
doesn’t mean the source code for the binary module can’t be published,
or even that there can’t be a mandate to publish it.

I’m sure that doesn’t sound like a great solution to you, but making
it easy for end users to configure commercial devices to transmit at
maximum power on unauthorized frequencies using very dense modulation
schemes doesn’t sound like a great solution to regulators, and the
difference between you and the regulators is that they are more
determined and, frankly, better armed. It will do you no good to
constrain the range of the solutions you’ll accept so that it doesn’t
overlap with the solutions they will accept.

.               png

On Sep 21, 2015, at 5:10 AM, Dave Taht <dmt at millcomputing.com> wrote:


Huh. I have been interested in mesh networking for a couple of years
now, and curious about Battlemesh, but I had no idea I knew someone
who was active in it.

Are there any other reports online from this year or last year? The
website doesn't seem to serve any purpose beyond announcing the event.

As you can tell I am way, way behind on my email. I've mostly been
chasihg funding for my main project, make-wifi-fast for over a year
now - I added in the mill and the "cake switch chip" to that overall
list as I tried to climb the financial ladders. My funding at google
dried up suddenly (due to the re-org), and I was forced to chase other
avenues. I think i got a grant from comcast coming in, but it is for
1/10th the total I needed for make-wifi-fast... and it is hung up in
legal, and in the fact the work has to mostly happen in europe.

So I've moved to europe, trying to find bases in bristol, england,
berlin, and sweden. That's taken a while (I dropped out of the mill
process in may or so due to the sudden google silences, and the lack
of compiler - and I view mill's biggest problem is funding, so it
seems like just combining my own quest with yours the right thing)

I was very involved in the early days of wireless networking but
dropped out by 2002 or so, much to my now, later regret. The only devs
left that understand it at more than one level all go to battlemesh,
so I've been there twice. I still find it quite discouraging how few
grok the minstrel algorithm, or what is wrong with packet aggregation.
A billion+ users that all think wifi "just works", and "always
sucked"... :( I gave a talk on the latter as well at at this

anyway the videos and results from this battlemesh are all now online.
I am pushing on all fronts, but being a manager was a bit wearying so
I took time out to do some recording at a place called theconvent.net
for the past 2 weeks. Haven't played the piano so much in 5 years!

Youtube videos:


blog post: https://wlan-si.net/en/blog/2015/09/08/battlemesh-v8-and-its-many-stories/

The test results were dismal, as expected. Finally knocking a few
heads to use abusive network tests like what toke and I developed were
hopefully an eye-opener, and a lot more people grok what
make-wifi-fast is really about, and how to do it.


one very positive outcome of the fcc talk was a level of net outrage
and organisation over some new fcc rules I have not seen before. My
letter to the fcc, in progress, with vint cerf and other
co-signers is up for review at:


A similar letter has to go to the eu, as they just passed similar rules.

as much as I would like to be working on the mill, it seems politics,
finance, and organisation are in more need of my attentions right now.
but I will keep plugging y'all at every opportunity.

But, but... as I said, I just took a few weeks off and am picking up
the pieces and trying to figure out what to focus on, at the moment.

If you wish a faster response to my email, please use dave.taht at gmail.com

Dave Täht
Do you want faster, better, wifi? https://www.patreon.com/dtaht

More information about the Make-wifi-fast mailing list